When asked where they are going to college in the fall, most incoming freshmen choose one of two answers; "a school in Boston" or "mumble, mumble." They might be proud and excited as hell to be coming to the Big H for four years but they would prefer to not let on to those who aren't. But it is only a matter of time before they start wearing Harvard ties to work and begin lunching daily at the Harvard Club. Being an alum--especially a Harvard alum--is different.
No group of alumni is as celebrated, for the stature of its members and the money they donate--as well as for the extensive network for keeping them in touch.
Working out of a small wooden yellow house at the southern end of Harvard Yard, Harvard Alumni Association keeps track of the 220,000 university alums through exhaustive mailing lists. If you make it six weeks at Harvard, your name goes into those files and you are guaranteed continuous mailings until you die--unless you specifically tell the University to stop or change your address and don't tell them.
The alumni process begins in your senior year when elected representatives organize pre-commencement events as well as a class gift. The development office does not solicit contributions from undergraduates before then, but it does offer your father and mother an opportunity to give to the Parent Fund. The most notable gift to the University from parents who had no other tie to Harvard was from Mr. and Mrs. Widener who put up a library in memory of their son, Harry Elkins '06 who drowned when the Titanic sank.
After commencement, you might think you are through with Harvard, but Harvard has just started with you. You will begin to get mailing announcing alumni events in Cambridge or locally, from either the Alumni Association, your class representative, or the local Harvard Club (which can be anything from the ornate, distinguished edition in New York to a mailing list in Iowa.) In addition to sponsoring events, the clubs play a very important role in recruiting and interviewing potential students.
Right after you graduate, expect a call from your class agent, asking for money. Don't feel too guilty if you politely refuse, though, because the alumni office says it understands that recent grads are just beginning their careers and might not have as much money to part with, according to Robert A. Rosenberg, development office official. Five years out of school, however, the big push begins with a class reunion. This serves to bring students back to Cambridge, reminding them that they will soon be the older influential alumni they've heard so much about. From then on reunions occur every five years. The 25th is usually the biggest--a four day extravaganza where everyone enjoys the revelry and reminiscing--especially the development office. This year's event cost the University $600,000 but brought in more than $6 million from thankful members of the Class of '58. The next major milestones are at 35 and 50. Even after you reach your golden anniversary, don't count on Harvard losing track of you. Alumni records are so complete that they keep up to date a list of the 15 oldest living College grads. According to officials. Charles W. Stark '03, whose son this year came back for his Harvard 50th, recently inherited the title. Erskine Wood '01 relinquished his top spot two weeks ago when he passed away.