College Starts Year Groups Initiative
Year Groups the Harvard Experience
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Over the next few months the College plans to establish year group committees for all post-1945 matriculation years. The aim is, for each year, to have a small group of Old Members who will take the lead in helping the College to strengthen its links with their contemporaries.
There are three aspects to the work. The first is to obtain more and better information on members of the year group: Keble has almost 7,000 'live' Old Members, but has lost contact with a fifth of them, and its information on those it is in touch with is, as often as not, sketchy and out of date. The second is to give year groups the opportunity to organise events which best appeal to their members: Gaudies are splendid occasions, but they only come round once every seven or eight years, so the College has drawn up a menu of other events, from smaller dinners and receptions to discotheques and barbecues, which it can offer to year group organisers. And the third aspect is fundraising: year groups will give the College a framework within which future campaigns can be conducted.
The idea comes from the United States, where many
alumni organisations have been built on a year group basis. Indeed, it was at the
urging of Old Members who had experienced the US approach that the
College decided to adopt it. One such Old Member, Andrew Arends ('80, PPE
and subsequently graduate school at Harvard) describes the impact of
year groups at his other alma mater
Looks familiar? Harvard's Tanner Memorial Hall, opened in the same year (1878) as Keble Hall. If only our endowments were as similar as our buildings!
In the 15 or so years since I left Keble, I've received just a handful of fundraising requests. Since I left Harvard 10 years ago, I've received so many that they have their own filing cabinet. Facts like these help to explain why Harvard University, with a gross endowment of over $11bn (£6.6bn) has an endowment per student of over $600,000 (£366,000) well over ten times the figure for Keble. Last year alone, the Harvard endowment fund distributed some $500mn to the university departments, accounting for 30% of the university's total income.
This firepower enables Harvard to be a centre of excellence able to attract some of the best academics and scholars from around the world. It also enables it to provide substantial financial aid to those academically qualified students whose background and income would not normally allow them to afford a Harvard education, as well as providing excellent accommodation, library and other facilities.
But what is intriguing about the Harvard endowment is that the major growth has taken place over the past 20 years. Faced with cuts in government research grants in the late 1970s, American universities set off to replace those funds and more with an on-going series of campaigns and appeals that tapped into the goodwill of their alumni.
The interior of Harvard's Memorial Hall. Originally built as a memorial to Harvard's Civil War casualties, this was recently renovated by a gift from the foundation established by Walter Annenberg former Ambassador to the UK.
Harvard does this by trying to develop the concept of a 'community' of its alumni: Year group co-ordinators communicate with other members of their class on a semi-annual basis; class reunions occur every five years and are centred around a programme of activities and meetings designed to build closer ties between the alumni and the university. The alumni have responded most recently helping to raise $1.8bn over four years in the latest five year campaign. What is even more remarkable is that students pay substantial fees to attend Harvard and yet still feel able to give generously after they have left.
The parallels with the American experience are clear. Keble now is faced with sharp government cutbacks and must seek to replace those funds, finding those resources to ensure that it can sustain the highest possible quality in education and research and continue to provide access to all academically qualified students. We alumni are an important part of that process helping to build that community that links Keble past and present and, where we can, providing financial support to preserve the best that the College offered us in the past and will continue to offer to generations in the future.
If you would like to know more about Keble's plans for year groups, or
would be willing to help with the running of your year group, please contact
Roger Boden or Isla Smith in the Development Office. (Tel 01865 272786; Fax
01865 272735; email firstname.lastname@example.org
copyright © 1998 Keble College, Oxford OX1 3PG