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Early alumni meetings were crowded business-like affairs, appropriate to an organization formed with advocacy in mind.
100 years of alumni advocacy: from toilet soap to regent selection
From toilet soap to regent selection
From M, spring 2004
When the University of Minnesota Alumni Association celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 30, it also marked 100 years of advocating for the University. Shortly after its founding as the General Alumni Association, it's first effort was to free the University's internal budget from state control. Every disbursement--from the largest building contracts to toilet soap--had to be funneled through the Board of Control, a state watchdog agency instituted by the Minnesota Legislature in 1901. Members of the University community and its alumni decided that the only way to limit the interference of the Board of Control was through political advocacy. Henry Nachtrieb, animal biology professor and 1882 University graduate, addressing an overflow crowd of 350 at a meeting called to create the campuswide alumni organization on January 30, 1904. "We are not a political organization," he said, "but if it becomes necessary for us to go into politics to keep the University out of politics, we shall go into politics." The new association's first resolution pledged to restore fiscal control to the board of regents. Alumni lobbied undecided legislators and queried gubernatorial candidates on their views. By spring of 1905 the Board of Control had met its demise. The urgency of its advocacy issues have waxed and waned, but the association has remained determined to make the University the best it can be. Over the decades, the UMAA has led the charge on the same kinds of issues that faced the early association. UMAA staff and volunteers have helped depoliticize regent selection and make it a more open process, they rebuilt a grassroots lobbying campaign and helped the U make its case to the legislature. Now it is tackling the building of a new stadium. The following time line is a snapshot of the UMAA's 100 years of advocacy.