Alumni Organizations in the Archives
Banner image: 1964 40th Anniversary event with the Alumni Association featuring alumnus and Trustee L. W. ‘Bill’ Frohlich ’37 (center), who founded the World Council of Alumni in 1966.
November is typically the time of year to look back and reflect on the things we are grateful for. Besides the health of my family and friends, this month, I am thankful for the International House Alumni community. Our alumni are comprised of a dedicated group of passionate professionals who, time and time again, have shown up to support International House and its Archives. This appreciation led me to delve into the records to explore the history of alumni organizations and I-House.
Reidar Gundersen ’29 / I-House Archives
A lifelong connection with residents has always been a part of International House’s mission. The first alumni organization was organized in 1936 by the first alumnus to serve on the Board of Trustees, Norwegian-born Reidar Gundersen ’29. The Alumni Association of International House, New York was instituted by Gundersen to continue the friendships formed at International House and promote the values of cross-cultural understanding beyond the physical facilities of the House. The organization partnered with the International Houses of Berkeley and Chicago to print and circulate a quarterly newsletter to alumni scattered around the globe; and November 10th, the date the Board of Trustees officially inaugurated the group, was designated as International House Day. To this day, International House Day–or “I-House Day,” as it is affectionately known–remains an annual tradition where former members/ residents meet in various countries to keep the House’s spirit alive.
Havana Cuba Alumni Chapter, 1951 / I-House Archives
In 1947, in an expanded effort to establish a formal global organization, the International House Association, Inc., was formed. The group was designed to coordinate the activities of thousands of alumni, not just from New York, Berkeley, and Chicago, but of the “The International House idea.” Under these guidelines, groups of alumni around the world organized into established chapters to further the ideal “that brotherhood may prevail” and promote the establishment of additional International Houses.
The first alumni chapters to be officially incorporated were in Northern California, Chicago, New York, and Hawaii. The International House Association, Inc. also took over the production of the “International House Quarterly,” which expanded to feature articles that both alumni and the general public could enjoy.
By all accounts, the International House Association Inc. was a success, connecting chapters of alumni and helping to establish new International Houses around the world. However, by 1960, the cost of printing, personnel, and travel became too high. In 1961, with sadness and regret, the International House Association, Inc. disbanded. In a letter dated February 27th, 1961, the president of the Association, Hugh M. Jenkins, wrote to the Trustees that while this decision was a reluctant one, he was confident that alumni would continue to coordinate and eventually form an established organization.
Filipino Alumni Chapter with International House Association Inc. Director Herrick B. Young (center), 1950s / I-House Archives
That very thing happened in 1966 when Trustee Bill Frohlich ’37 established the Council of World Members (now referred to as the World Council of Alumni (WCA), a body of alumni representatives from around the globe. Still operating today, the World Council of Alumni engages in recruitment, networking, and fundraising activities to promote the House’s mission and serve as points of contact for other alumni in their respective countries. Made up of 100 voting members as well as honorary and life members, the Council hosts bi-annual meetings to set goals and evaluate ways to support International House. The group provides global alumni with an invaluable link and assists the House in maintaining and strengthening relations with friends and supporters.
Other notable I-House alumni associations include Freunde des International House e.V. (Freunde), the first European alumni group established by Klaus Moessle ’85 in 1986, the Friends of International House United Kingdom (FIHUK), an alumni chapter based in London serving all of the United Kingdom, the New York Area Alumni Chapter (NYAAC), a chapter for alumni located in the tri-state area, and the Canadian Friends of International House, a chapter based in Toronto representing all of Canada.
WCA meeting at International House New York, 1978 / I-House Archives
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