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Why Some College Alumni Organization Thrive?

Updated on March 5, 2020
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Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


College Alumni organizations are abound. Some are thriving while others flounder. Why is that? I have some personal perspective on the reason and how to make the system better.

- March 2020


I have been a member of the Asian Alumni board for the past several years. I have volunteered my time and energy and donated money to help. My goal was to help restore our college to its glory days. It has been an uphill battle. The school and the environment has changed drastically from my days attending the school some 40 plus years ago. The school has suffered financial hardships. However, from my perspective, it is not the lack of funds that is holding it back. The problem is apathy.

After years of mediocre performance, cutbacks, downsizing, and neglect, the school is a mere shell of the former great public institution of higher learning.

It is more of an attitude that we are second team, not expected to do well, and less equipped. The glory of our past is long forgotten. It is hard to put our finger on the cause. However, I do believe the open enrollment policy of the 1970s has set the school up on this course of slow decline.

To reverse course is not easy. But, we need to understand the decline in order to reverse it. What was the main driving force?

What Makes a Great College?

Getting back to the old days of CCNY, when it was free tuition, the college was competitive on many levels along with the other great schools. How was that possible? What made us great?

The long history going back to 1847 when it was created as the Free Academy.

The many graduates who have achieved success in their chosen fields.

The athletic achievements of our many athletes, some of whom went on to compete in the Olympics.

The captains of industry such as Andy Grove who started Intel Corp.

The civil servants who went on to become mayors and legislators and generals such as Colin Powell.

The many engineers and architects who went on to build our city.

The many talented artists who went on to acting, directing, and writing and composing great works.

The thousands of graduates who went on to graduate school and received Master degrees and PhDs.

The Nobel prize winners and olympic medalists.

The answer is the people - The great professors, coaches and administrators who over the years build an institution that is City College. We were given this precious opportunity and we took it and excelled. That is the City College I remembered.

The Alumni Association

The alumni association is what perpetuates this culture. The believe in the institution and its purpose. To guide it and lead it to bigger and better future. Funding is a part of this effort. Without the funds to sustain it, any organization will falter. However, funding by itself, is not sufficient. We can have a large donation to the college and yet still not produce the results. The missing key ingredient is pride. Our students and graduates needs to feel proud to be part of this institution. It is the only reason for us to be connected and return to it.

How do we generate this pride? The easiest and most direct is through athletics. We all wants to win. What is better than winning in sports? It is exiting to watch. It is fun to participate. It is exercise. It is building mind and body with training and discipline and hard work.

I think, in the mind of some administrators, when push comes to shove, athletics was treated as second class. A luxury rather than a need. That is a mistake. Athletics and academics goes hand in hand. One builds on top of the other. Our founders recognized this. That is why our curriculum in the distant past, included mandatory athletic courses. It is a way to introduce the students to new ideas and principles no less than the study of arts and music and philosophy. In order to be a well rounded, educated person, we need all the training of mind and body.

It is through athletics, that we can gain pride in our school. Even if we can't participate, we can take pride in our fellow students, attend games, and cheer them on. It is also through athletic participating, regardless of sports, that we learn about life and how the world works. There is strong correlation between athletic performance and academic performance. One enhances the other.

My Thesis...The

It is my believe that our down turn started with the cancelling of Athletic programs at CCNY. The fact that Physical Education classes were removed from our curriculum. This lead to the downsizing of the Athletic department. The downgrade of coaches to part time positions. The elimination of some Varsity teams and the dismantling of Lewisohn stadium without a comparable replacement. This slow decline of athletics, created the decline in athletic participation and continuity. What used to be a natural path for student athletes like myself, was no longer in play.

The most critical loss was the expert coaching staff. Let's be realistic. If a coach is made part time, and lost his benefits, how many can afford to live in the NYC area and support their families?

Without the quality coaching, our team suffered. This is not just reflected in CCNY but all of CUNY schools.

If we restore the PE classes, and hire full time coaches, this will go a long way to restore our athletic program. In the long term, it will improve our team performance, which will lead to more interest and participation of the student population and then in due time lead to a more engaged alumni community.


The Alumni Association is an important aspect of college. It is a necessary organization to keep the spirit of the school alive. We all want to be proud of our alma mater. There is no better way to help the school than joining and volunteering. Our students and staff will all benefit from a thriving alumni organization.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jack Lee


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