• Community Connection
• Join the Club
• Alumnae Angels

• Regional Clubs
• Special-Interest Clubs

• Kellogg Graduate School of Management
• School of Law
• Medical School

• Oxford: Challenges and Charm

• 'Indie'Jazz Soul
• In All Fairness
• Field Goal
• Two Worlds, Una Familia















Alumnae Angels
Without fanfare the Alumnae of Northwestern raise much-needed funds for the University and offer blue-ribbon adult education courses.

Alumnae members, from left, Ginny Grant Blair (S48), Helen Sullivan Knight (GS36) and Mary Whiteside Schuette (WCAS60) take an active role in many University organizations and events. Here, they attend the John Evans Club's recent anniversary dinner.

photo by Jim Ziv

It’s a Tuesday morning in the John Evans Alumni Center, and 30 members of the Alumnae of Northwestern are chatting, just about to start their monthly meeting. As one might expect, the conversation among these long-time friends partly hovers over family and similar topics but occasionally drifts into serious assessments of this or that University professor or the fine points of their expertise. And these women know whereof they speak.

Largely through their Continuing Education Program, taught by faculty, the Alumnae of Northwestern have raised a remarkable $2.5 million since 1931 for a variety of University causes (before that time the group was largely a social organization). Additional funds come from the Alumnae’s Waa-Mu Patron Project.

The continuing education courses, established in 1968 in the group’s 52nd year, allow it to disburse an average of $100,000 a year for scholarships and other monetary awards. At the same time the series provides a much-appreciated educational service to alumni and to the entire Chicago community. All this from an organization that counts 55 active and 20 associate members in its ranks.

Ironically those who established continuing education actually created it for themselves. "Very frankly, the fact that many of us were young mothers who wanted to continue our academic stimulation was the original inspiration," explains Cindy Pinkerton (WCAS60), one of the founders of the continuing education program. "This just seemed like a logical place to start a program to do that."

The effort initially drew about 100 enrollees but now attracts more than 1,700 every year. And since continuing education’s creation, more than 200 professors have contributed their time as lecturers in the fall, winter and spring. Four courses are offered each quarter and meet once a week on Tuesday or Thursday in Norris University Center. The classes are advertised on the Alumnae Web site, which can be reached through the education links at www.alumni.northwestern.edu. Topics range from astronomy to investment strategies to Greek mythology, all for a reasonable tuition price.

"Our students are people who want their minds and visions of the world expanded," says Karla Stone (WCAS68), an Alumnae board member. "They come to the programs just like Northwestern students go to classes. Many have assigned reading, many take notes, many ask deep, intelligent questions."

Continuing education is organized entirely by volunteers and the board returns all profits to the University. "It’s the volunteer muscle that makes it such a financial success for the University," Pinkerton says.

Virginia Rosenberg (WCAS50), current president of the Alumnae board, is particularly proud of the Alumnae-sponsored graduate fellowships, which essentially fund the last year of academic work for selected doctoral candidates who are women.

Another educational opportunity the Alumnae board provides is the annual NU-Day held on the Evanston campus in October. The daylong program of six lectures taught by Northwestern professors, alumni and administrators is open to anyone in the Chicago area.

At last fall’s NU-Day, participants chose from such lecture topics as child advocacy in East Africa, bringing war criminals to justice, and Chinese-American relations, followed by lunch and a performance by students in the Music Theatre Program. NU-Day also marks the presentation of the annual Alumnae Award, given in 2001 to Barbara Gaines (S68), artistic director and founder of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Northwestern, summer 2001).

While the Alumnae have donated more than $1.2 million in scholarships, gifts and grants over the last seven decades, they expanded their horizons in 2001 by creating two new awards to benefit professors and students.

The Senior Award for Volunteer Service, a $2,000 honor that recognizes a woman in her senior year for dedication to service, aims to encourage student volunteerism. The first award was presented last May to Meaghen Foley (SESP01), who established work sites, recruited campus volunteers and lobbied for funding to revitalize a dormant Habitat for Humanity program.

The board also raised $500,000 by 2000 — a year ahead of schedule — to create the endowed Alumnae of Northwestern University Teaching Professorship. The first recipient of the three-year chair is Paul Arntson, professor of communication studies and founding director of the National High School Institute’s Leadership Program. The Alumnae in particular cited Arntson for his commitment to the Undergraduate Leadership Program, which emphasizes leadership through teamwork. "The professorship has been a dream for a lot of the members," Rosenberg says. "It grew out of an academic enrichment initiative in which we offered fellowships, but those teaching fellowships have now all been directed into the professorship."

Many of the endowment’s funds came from the Waa-Mu Patron Project. Every year the Alumnae sell choice seats to the musical review to nearly 900 alumni who donate to the board’s scholarship programs. This project contributes financially to the school and strengthens ties between alumni and the University.

In addition to the large monetary and educational contributions that the alumnae provide the University, the group also serves Northwestern in less ambitious but nonetheless appreciated ways. The partial renovation of the John Evans Alumni Center — new furniture in the sunroom and French doors in the main parlor entry — are some examples.

Beyond helping build the University in a physical sense, the Alumnae see themselves as bridge builders to everyone with a Northwestern connection — students, faculty members and the public. "We are ambassadors of a sort," Stone says. "We enjoy working with each other and making something happen. It’s a really creative process."

— Rebecca Zeifman (J04)