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A crowd of alumni at a business-like meeting of yesteryear.

Early alumni meetings were crowded business-like affairs, appropriate to an organization formed with advocacy in mind.

100 years of alumni advocacy: from toilet soap to regent selection

From toilet soap to regent selection

From M, spring 2004

When the University of Minnesota Alumni Association celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 30, it also marked 100 years of advocating for the University. Shortly after its founding as the General Alumni Association, it's first effort was to free the University's internal budget from state control. Every disbursement--from the largest building contracts to toilet soap--had to be funneled through the Board of Control, a state watchdog agency instituted by the Minnesota Legislature in 1901. Members of the University community and its alumni decided that the only way to limit the interference of the Board of Control was through political advocacy. Henry Nachtrieb, animal biology professor and 1882 University graduate, addressing an overflow crowd of 350 at a meeting called to create the campuswide alumni organization on January 30, 1904. "We are not a political organization," he said, "but if it becomes necessary for us to go into politics to keep the University out of politics, we shall go into politics." The new association's first resolution pledged to restore fiscal control to the board of regents. Alumni lobbied undecided legislators and queried gubernatorial candidates on their views. By spring of 1905 the Board of Control had met its demise. The urgency of its advocacy issues have waxed and waned, but the association has remained determined to make the University the best it can be. Over the decades, the UMAA has led the charge on the same kinds of issues that faced the early association. UMAA staff and volunteers have helped depoliticize regent selection and make it a more open process, they rebuilt a grassroots lobbying campaign and helped the U make its case to the legislature. Now it is tackling the building of a new stadium. The following time line is a snapshot of the UMAA's 100 years of advocacy.


General Alumni Association is formed, in part, to help limit state government interference in the day-to-day operation of the University.


After being asked by the University to desist in its advocacy efforts at the state Capitol, the association passes a resolution that alumni "must maintain their independence and their right to express themselves fully, freely, and directly. ... If our association is to mean anything in the life of the University, it must stand for what its members feel to be right regardless of all else."


Alumni organize a fund drive that results in the building of Memorial Stadium and Northrop Memorial Auditorium entirely with donations.


Alumni rally to help defeat a bill that would outlaw the teaching of evolution at the University and throughout the state.


Alumni director Ed Haislet ('31) defends the right of the University to face the question of communism on campus "in the spirit of the University itself . . . in the climate of intellectual freedom."


U President Malcolm Moos appoints 10 alumni representatives to five University Senate and Assembly committees.


An alumni association task force is created to help minimize politics in appointments to the Board of Regents. In 1988, the Minnesota Legislature created the independent Regent Candidate Advisory Council.


In the "249" campaign, thousands of alumni volunteers contact legislators on behalf of the University's $249 million bonding request. The successful campaign started a renaissance with the renovation of many classic University buildings and construction of select new science facilities.


The association pledges $1 million to an effort to build a new on-campus football stadium and $500,000 for scholarships, an amount matched by the University. The Legislative Network, run cooperatively by the alumni association and the University, delivers some 6,500 signatures to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty asking him to support the University's capital request. For more on how the UMAA makes a difference on campus today, see The UMAA makes a difference today. For a full history of the alumni association on the Twin Cities campus, see

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