A record number of Harvey Mudd College alumni and friends returned to campus for three days of getting reacquainted with classmates and the college during Alumni Weekend May 1-3, 2009.
More than 500 persons attended the events spanning Friday, Saturday and Sunday, exceeding the record-breaking attendance in 2008 by more than 100. Notably, young alumni attendance was up by more than 25 percent. There were reunion events for class years ending in four or nine.
In her address on Saturday, President Klawe noted that these are challenging times for the college as it deals with the impact of the global financial downturn. She noted the endowment’s value is down 27 percent and that the college’s annual budget of $40 million relies on the endowment for 25 percent of its funding. Klawe discussed ways the college plans to deal with the $7 million to $8 million shortfall that is anticipated over the next three years, assuming the economy begins its anticipated recovery in 2011.
Part of that plan, Klawe noted, is to postpone planned renovations of South Dorm (Marks Hall) and Kingston Hall. Additionally, there will be a substantial reduction in merit awards to incoming classes. Because of the exceptional students being admitted to HMC, the Harvey S. Mudd Award has grown and will be given to approximately 50 percent of the class of 2013. When it was begun, it was offered to about 25 percent of the incoming class.
“Where there is a turn in the road, you gain speed coming out of the turn,” Klawe said optimistically. “Despite the economic downturn, this will be our best fund-raising year ever.” She gave credit to trustees and alumni, who had a huge impact on this record performance. While the average gift amount is down slightly, participation in the Alumni Fundd is up 15 percent this year.
“It proves what I say, ‘It’s a good time to be small and excellent,’” Klawe said. “Mudders are known for excellence in meeting challenges.” She noted that a gift to HMC has a much greater impact than one given to the college’s larger competitors like Stanford or MIT. The message wasn’t lost on alumni as 36 of them made gifts to the Annual Fund over the weekend, totally more than $5,000. The class of ’74 leads the way with 63 percent participation thus far this year, with the class of ’69 close behind at 54 percent.
Klawe outlined many of the new initiatives on campus and how they are meeting the goals of the strategic vision, “HMC 2020: Envisioning the Future,” which was outlined in 2006. Notably, the new curriculum is designed to be fully implemented in fall 2010 and plans are underway to build a new teaching and learning building. Diversity continues to be a major theme and this year’s incoming class reflects a good trend: between 35 and 40 percent of the class will be female and more than 60 percent will come from outside Calif.
At the awards ceremony Saturday evening, four alumni were recognized with Outstanding Alumni Awards: Robert De Pietro ’69, Walter Foley ’69 (pictured at left with his family), Frederick Sontag ’64 and Bruce Worster ’64. Additionally, Lifetime Recognition Awards were given to trustees Malcolm Lewis ’67, Mike Shanahan and Ken Jonsson, and the Alumni Association Board of Governors (AABoG) honored former Office of College Advancement staff member Letty Totah with the Order of the Wart for her service to alumni.
De Pietro, Foley, Sontag and Worster also participated in a panel discussion Friday as part of “Connections 2.0,” the theme for Alumni College. It was moderated by AABOG member and chair of the Selections Committee Jerome Jackson ’76. They were preceded by a session titled “Networking and Harvey Mudd College” that featured panelists Jonathan Hsu ’01, Brandon Duncan ’00, Jay Trautman ’01, Carl Kukkonen ’95 and Olivier Chaine ’95. It was moderated by AABoG member and chair of the Networking Committee Jason Frederickson ’99.
The two sessions with alumni whose graduation years were three-to-four decades apart highlighted the generational divide created by technology. The younger alumni described how applications like Facebook (Hsu’s employer) and LinkedIn (Duncan’s employer) can facilitate networking. During the question and answer session, Foley expressed his skepticism: “Why is this important?” he asked.
In the session that followed, Foley and his alumni cohort described their careers paths and how they remain connected to the college. They also expressed a preference for traditional styles of networking and a concern that the art of dealing with people face-to-face is being lost to technology. All of the panelists agreed they share a common desire to help HMC alumni succeed.