History of Alumnae Relations
The College of St. Catherine opened in 1905. Women completed shorter educational programs in the next few years but the first two women to complete bachelor’s degree programs graduated in 1913. In 1917, with fewer than 25 total graduates, Sister Antonia McHugh, at that time dean of the College, called a meeting of four graduates “to form ways to keep in contact with college friends, recruit new students and raise money for a scholarship fund through buying defense bonds.” Sound familiar?
The Alumnae Association, throughout the years, has been volunteer-directed. Volunteers have generated ideas and programs, taken risks and pushed forward toward goals in spite of perceived obstacles.
In the 1940s, alumnae focused on social activities. We sponsored balls and dances; we sponsored a concert of Father Flanagan’s Boys Choir at the St. Paul Auditorium to a sold-out crowd.
Students gather in the Alumnae Board Room with Sr. Ste. Helene Guthrie, dean of the College, 1931.
Over the years, several functions initiated by the Alumnae Association have become departments of the College.
In 1952, the Alumnae Association began a formal Annual Fund. In 1975 and 1976, the fund achieved record percentages of alumnae donating — and met Bush Foundation challenge goals in both years. Alumnae Association volunteers conducted successful Phonorama campaigns beginning in 1970. In 1985 the Annual Fund moved to the College Development Office, which had previously focused its efforts on capital fundraising.
Alumnae volunteers orchestrated Fontbonne Fairs to raise money to build St. Joseph Hall. After completion of the building, the Alumnae Office in St. Joseph Hall operated the bulk mail facility for the entire College, processing, bundling and sending out all bulk mailings from a room across the hall from the main office. The College mail department began processing its bulk mail in 1973.
The Alumnae Association offered swimming lessons to children each summer in Fontbonne Hall pool. The swimming program became a function of the physical education department in the 1970s.
The Alumnae News served as a channel of communication to alumnae in the 1920s. This publication later became SCAN. Reformatted in 1986, SCAN is now a publication of the University, directed by the Office of Marketing and Communications with the cooperation of the Office of Alumnae Relations.
Since the 1940s, the Alumnae Association has been operating regional clubs or chapters in areas with clusters of graduates. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Alumnae Association initiated continuing education programs on topics of current interest. One of these programs, which has continued to the present, is Conversation with Books.
Three students attend the "Cake Walk" concession at the 1954 Fontbonne Fair.
In 1979 we initiated the St. Catherine Alumnae Award program to highlight the accomplishments of St. Catherine graduates.
With the 1986 partnership of the College of St. Catherine and St. Mary’s Junior College, Minneapolis, alumnae began to work with graduates of the associate degree programs — blending the reunions of the St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s diploma nurses and extending the circulation of SCAN to all graduates.
The Alumnae Association continues to facilitate ways for St. Catherine graduates to keep in contact through networking services, regular reunions and chapter gatherings. Alumnae assist in recruiting students through referral cards and personal contacts; alumnae “keep in touch” by sending personal news to SCAN and through reunion channels.
Alumnae responded to the University’s Annual Fund appeals by giving impressive amounts of money to the unprecedented $80 million Leadership in Mind capital campaign (which concluded in 2005).
On June 1, 2009, the College of St. Catherine became St. Catherine University. In December 2009, the Association became St. Catherine University Alumnae Association and, in 2010, it evolved into the Office of Alumnae Relations. (Learn more about this in “Come Home to St. Catherine.”)
The Office of Alumnae Relations, located on the fourth floor of Derham Hall, currently serves more than 37,000 graduates. The first St. Catherine University Alumnae Council — a new opportunity for alumnae engagement — was held in September 2011.