Our History

Alumni Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

From the very beginning, graduates of the University of Michigan have wanted to stay connected to their esteemed alma mater and each other. Upon its first commencement, on Aug. 6, 1845, a graduating class of 11 immediately formed a Society of the Alumni, whose goal was to invite an orator and poet for the next annual meeting.

Through the rest of the 1800s, the alumni body continued to grow and stay active, although usually in an unstructured way. In 1868, the first regional alumni meeting took place in Chicago, followed by others in San Francisco and Japan.

By 1892, there were 11,449 alumni of the University of Michigan, with individual alumni societies for graduates of LSA, law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and homeopathic medicine. Feeling disjointed, representatives from these six societies met in the old chapel in University Hall on June 30, 1897, and voted to consolidate into one unified alumni organization. That vote founded the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

Less than one month later, alumni leaders made certain that the newly created Alumni Association was officially recognized as an independent, nonprofit corporation, organized under the laws of Michigan. Before the year was over, the Alumni Association purchased Michigan Alumnus, the magazine started three years earlier by Alvick Pearson, a member of the class of 1894. In 1897, the Alumni Association hired a full-time, salaried administrator, becoming the first alumni organization in the world to do so.

The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan continued to be a pioneer and forerunner of alumni organizations. As one of the first alumni associations to organize a travel program, many of the trips taken over the past 50 years had never been done before. Early trips included taking 50 people to Western Europe in the summer of 1963, a Rose Bowl tour the following year in which 800 people traveled by air, and an around-the-world, three-month cruise in 1966 with 120 people.

The Alumni Association was also one of the first alumni organizations to begin a camping program for alumni. In August 1961, two one-week sessions for Alumni Association members and their families were offered at the University’s Biological Station on Douglas Lake in northern Michigan. In the fall of 1962, the Association purchased a permanent location for what is Camp Michigania, about 45 miles away. The beloved camp has become a summer tradition for thousands of alumni who meet together on the shores of Walloon Lake and pass on this unique Michigan experience to later generations.

Fast forward to today and the Alumni Association thrives, remaining at the top of the industry with over 100,000 members strong who are making an impact around the world. And with a staff of 70+, over 1,000 volunteers, and 100+ alumni clubs and groups around the world, we continue to work diligently to keep alumni connected to one another, foster their success, and stay engaged with the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor.

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