Established in 1917, the University of Michigan Alumnae Council (UMAC) comprises eight active clubs local to the state: Ann Arbor—Waterman, Ann Arbor—Sink, Birmingham, Flint, Lansing, Saginaw, the Detroit Association of University of Michigan Women, and the Grand Rapids Federation of University of Michigan Alumnae. Also included are many unaffiliated members, local and abroad.
“It’s clear that many issues that affect women are still present and need addressing at the University and in our society as a whole,” says UMAC treasurer Roberta Zald, ’78. “Sexual abuse, diversity, and equality issues all need more attention and action.”
UMAC chair Betty Bishop, ’72, agrees. “I have been involved with the Alumnae Council in various roles for at least 10 years. I have had the chance to connect with many alumnae from Michigan and elsewhere, learning about their varied experiences while at the University and later in their lives. I am excited to see the Alumnae Council become more diverse and responsive to the needs of women students and alumnae.”
“I was on the ‘two years and out’ plan when I attended U-M,” recalls Sondra Loucks Wilson, ’83, UMAC’s nominating chair. “As a transfer student, I had no idea of what the University had to offer. My ongoing work with the Grand Rapids Federation and the UMAC lets me provide the information and support to incoming women students and alumnae that I wish I had received.”
The UMAC has raised nearly $4 million to endow 33 scholarships awarded annually. The local clubs award additional annual scholarships.
A Rich History
Highlighting decades of commitment to positive impact, the UMAC includes the following among its accomplishments.
In 1921, the Council kicked off a $1 million fundraising campaign to support the construction of the Michigan League, which was built and dedicated eight years later.
In 1945, the UMAC took the next step in its long-standing affordable housing advocacy mission by establishing Henderson House. The co-operative, community residence near Ann Arbor’s Central Campus continues to serve as a residence for undergrad and graduate students. The UMAC’s Spirit of 1917 Annual Giving Campaign is currently raising funds for improvements to the Henderson House structure.
In the 1960s, the UMAC spearheaded efforts to promote access to a U-M degree, leading to the establishment of the Center for the Continuing Education of Women (CEW+) in 1964.
“This is not a static organization; we’ve learned to adapt to the times and rise to the occasion,” says Loucks Wilson. “When the pandemic came into play, we moved our biannual meetings to virtual. That automatically provided access to alumnae from across the country and around the world. I expect to see this virtual connectivity continue and expand in the coming years.”
One way this expansion is already manifesting is with the Alumni Association’s Diversity Dialogue Series. March’s virtual event, “Reversing the She-cession,” was presented in partnership with the UMAC and CEW+. It featured alumnae experts discussing how to re-enter the workforce after a career gap or break due to COVID or other reasons.