History of the Cornell College Alumni Association

by Allan Ruter '76

As it does today, so it has done from its earliest days:  The Hilltop forges lasting bonds and lifetime friendships in the young lives it so fleetingly hosts. In 1858 Cornell College, established only five years earlier, conferred its first degrees upon Matthew Cavanagh and Mary Fellows, the first woman ever to earn a baccalaureate degree from a college west of the Mississippi River.  And when Matthew and Mary married shortly thereafter, the Cornell College Alumni Association was effectively—if not yet officially—founded.   By 1873, college records cite the Alumni Association as “newly formed,” and for the next fifty years it sustained social ties among alumni through a confederation of local clubs from coast to coast. 

In the early 1920s, amidst a national fervor for creating new civic and fraternal clubs, Des Moines newspaperman Charles C. “Ben” Nye 1901 promoted a sweeping reorganization of the Alumni Association in order to increase its support of the college.  After lobbying trustees, administration, and alumni themselves, Nye and his associates launched in 1923 what they branded the Alumni Council, whose first paid member, Fred P. Fisher 1886, submitted his $3 dues along with a note: “Please enter me as a member of this new Alumni Association, whatever it is.”  Just one year later, the new Alumni Council and the existing Alumni Association merged, adopting the council’s constitution and program and receiving the association’s $3000 treasury. 

Since its rebirth nearly a century ago, the Cornell College Alumni Association has vested its daily presence on campus in the work of these Alumni Directors:  Oscar L. “Ole” Allanson 1916 (1924-1926); Walter B. Gray ’26 (1926-1942); James Morrow Macaulay ’29 (1942-1947); Orville Rennie ’25 (1947-1954); Paul K. Scott ’29 (1954-1976); Robert F. Majors ’57 (1976-1985); John M. MacGregor ’67 (1986-1993); David Hanses ’88 (1993-1996); Kaitlynn Lewis Voigt ’93 (1997-1998); Ruth Keefe Miller ’66 (1999-2007); and honorary alumna Lisa White (2007 to present.) 

Meanwhile, in its unstinting advocacy of the deep and dynamic relationship between Cornellians worldwide and their alma mater, the Alumni Association has been led by these Presidents:

View list of Alumni Board presidents