Table of Contents
- 1960- Forming the First College Alumni Association
- 1970- Struggles to Stay Together
- 1980- Establishing an Official Alumni Office
- 1990- Celebrating Achievements
- 2000- Striving to Stay Connected
On November 11, 1960, five people from the Hamilton Institute of Technology formed the first college alumni association. With the help of faculty advisor, Mr. Sam Mitminger, it formally invited a member from the then Student Association Council to attend meetings and a constitution was struck, but nothing remains of this first endeavour.
In 1970, with the creation of the new Mohawk College, the graduates of the former HIT struggled to retain close ties with their alma mater and the association was reformed. Its first president was Al Arnold, a graduate and faculty of the earlier Hamilton Institute of Technology. Mr. Arnold and his committee were the original supporters of the first student center, and that famous spot, the Arnold Centre was named in his honour after his death in 1971. But without the support of the college infrastructure, this fledgling association disbanded in 1976 . Without a true alumni association, the faculty program chairman became responsible for information on their various alumni. With the hiring of Cal Haddad in 1978 as Chair of the new Student Activities Department, the college attempted to create a means to keep track of the growing number of alumni , but it proved to be next to impossible. The graduate base was growing by the thousands each year - what was needed was a dedicated office, designed for the purpose.
Meanwhile, the Student's Representative Council had passed a report to the Student Union Corporation (SUC) as early as 1979 urging it to form an official college alumni department. Dr. Mitminger, who was President of the college in 1980, had suggested that the SUC establish a new alumni association and assist with the start-up funding. In 1981, Cal Haddad, now Dean of Students, submitted a memo to Keith McIntyre, then acting President and ex-officio chairman of the SUC, in further support of the SRC initiative. His investigations had shown that other colleges, like Mohawk, were beginning the process of investigating official alumni offices rather than performing the duties as part of another department.
"Thanks to the efforts of 18 dedicated volunteers, representing all sectors of the Mohawk College community, the groundwork upon which a vibrant, effective Alumni Association can be built …"
- Mohawk College Alumni Association Ad Hoc Committee
Final Draft, February 1984
To investigate and discuss the possibilities, in 1982 an Ad Hoc Committee was formed of staff, faculty, and selected alumni. In their final report to the Board of Governors in February 1984 they state, "The committee members are confident that the seeds have been sown for the creation of the finest Alumni Association in the Ontario Community College System at Mohawk College." Its interim board was chosen from alumni who already had experience establishing various alumni chapters, as well as former student leaders . Headed by Jim Miller, (Nursing '77) the new association set about establishing its priorities in the form of a constitution.
John Bruce became the first alumni officer in an Ontario college to hire a full time alumni staff. With a $30,000.00 startup SUC grant, $30,000.00 from the college, and a lot of plain old hard work, John and the interim board began to plan a strategy that would create an association that would be a source of support to its alumni, as well as for college advisory committees, bursaries, and fundraising for special projects . By the conclusion of 1985, it was ready with a new constitution adopted and approved by the SUC and the Board of Governors.
During that first year, it secured $10,000.00 in pledges from its inaugural telemarketing program, the proceeds of which went towards refurbishing Alumni Hall complete with access to the new Student Centre. It would provide a quiet lounge space as well as another potential source of income. The next year, John became a regular contributor to the official school newspaper, The Satellite, informing the general student population about the growth of the association and actively promoting its activities and services to those who were looking to graduation.
In the initial planning stages of the Student Centre, the SUC would accommodate the alumni department; since much of the financing for the center had come from past-student activity fees that had been invested in the development fund, now, as alumni, they could reap some of the benefit that investment . It was John, a task force from the college administration, and representatives from the SRC, who planned the opening ceremonies for the Centre.
Foremost in the strategic plan, was to track down the thousands of graduates with whom the college had lost track. With fundraising as its primary consideration at the time, the alumni department used many sources to conduct regular phone contacts and surveys. Paid trackers, students, and volunteer alumni were all recruited to make calls to the thousands of graduates that the college produced every year. Together with the start up budget and various fundraising efforts, the alumni department shared much of its wealth with the full-time students of the college by establishing and adding to scholarships and bursaries and contributing to badly needed equipment in various academic and technological programs. It's highly successful Annual Fund Campaign, which ran from January to April 1988, contributed over $17.500.00 to refurbish classrooms and labs with much needed equipment.
With the Student Centre opening ceremonies under its belt, the association began its next major event, Homecoming '87, that celebrated Mohawk's 21st year or "coming of age" and included a 500 pound, 21 layer birthday cake.
"There is a great college named Mohawk; Whose alumni department does much more than squawk. With board members in hand, they did what was planned, And here is an quick update on what was so grand." - Mel Leggat, from his Alumni poem, 1992
Nineteen ninety-one marked the 25th Anniversary of the College and the alumni department was particularly active organizing events - even commissioning a special reserve wine that was served at the SRC/SAC dinner they helped organize with the Student's Athletics Committee. Another big hit, "Blue Jay Days", invited Mohawk alumni to celebrate at the Skydome in Toronto and enjoy a baseball game while watching the Blue Jays mascot rub tail feathers with their own "Mo the Hawk", mascot of Mohawk's Mountaineers. Even an anniversary Alumni Directory was in production. The Board members of the day were so intimately involved in programming events that year, one of its directors, Mel Leggat, wrote a poem about it . Golf tournaments, homecomings, convocation speakers, advisory board members, and representation at college events were, and continue to be, the heart and soul of the association.
"…So listen close as you hear my tale, the tale of my faithful quest, to find you alumni of Mohawk College to fill our 'lost souls' list…" - Jade Sinclair, "Life of a Tracker", In Touch Winter 2000
Josie Bufalino-Jasek became the Alumni Officer in 1989. As an alumna of the Business Administration Program, and an active member of student government herself, she was chosen to replace John Bruce when he resigned to take another position in the private sector. Josie continued the work of promoting the Alumni Association within the college, and representing its interests to the SUC. With help from Wendy Charlong , then a Director on the Alumni board, and Rose Charmee , Records Co-ordinator, they concentrated their efforts on establishing the 25 Year Club in 1992 hosting about 200 alumni from all over North America and the world, yearly. A celebration with dinner, dancing, fun and games allowed old friends and classmates to reunite, reacquaint, and search the graffiti on the walls of "The Cellar".
Due to their efforts and that of the alumni's Board of Directors, Mohawk's Alumni Association became the first to introduce affinity programs for its alumni. A concept well known in university circles, Bank of Montreal's Mosaik® Mastercard® became the first affinity credit card created for an Ontario college and was especially designed to integrate Wray Provo's magnificent red-tailed hawk on the front. Together with the Mainway Insurance Affinity Program, they served as fundraisers for the alumni department, the Mohawk College Foundation, and as services to the many graduates of the college.
In 1995, the Province of Ontario created the Premier's Awards to recognize the contributions of graduates of college programs. To coincide with this, the Alumni Association created the "Alumni of Distinction" awards where, each year, alumni who are nominated in 6 categories become Mohawk's candidates. The college proudly displays pictures of these candidates on "The Wall of Distinction" in the front lobby of Fennell campus where students, staff, faculty and visitors alike can see among its ranks a few well known Hamiltonians like Connie Smith, formally of CHTV, and Fomer Police Chief Brian Mullens along with prominent local businessmen like Tony Battaglia of Tradeport International. To date, five of the selected alumni have gone on to be awarded Premier status, second only to Sheridan College , with a corresponding $5,000.00 contribution to the OSOTF scholarship fund on behalf of each award winner that assists new, incoming, full-time students.
At one time, Mohawk College alumni were defined as graduates of full-time diploma programs, but in 1995, its membership expanded to include those who have graduated from diploma and certificate programs through continuing education . Many of the college's full-time graduates have continued their education through part-time programs, and the alumni department helps to inform them about educational opportunities through degree completion programs.
Today, the alumni department is most visible at convocation ceremonies where it is responsible for providing engaging guest speakers, as well as selling roses and diploma frames created especially for showcasing that all-important new diploma. It also distributes a special invitation to each and every new graduate; encouraging them to remain an important part of the Mohawk College community. The In Touch Magazine, which had its premier issue in 1984, continues to be the association's primary means of continued communication to graduates and is now distributed to over 60,000 alumni throughout the world.
From the time of its inception in 1984, the Alumni Association's operating budget was provided through the MSA. Effective October of 2003, the college has agreed to provide all administrative support for the department and the association. As it enters its 20th year they now have access to a new and expanded administrative staff, new office space, and a new excitement for supporting Mohawk College alumni.