Alumnae of NU celebrates centennial, creates new programming

Matthew Choi, Assistant Campus Editor

In 1916, a small group of women began selling sandwiches to fundraise for a women’s building at Northwestern. In the 100 years since, that group has raised more than $7 million for NU.

The Alumnae of NU, an organization of volunteer women who fundraise for various University projects, is celebrating its centennial this year. The organization announced a series of initiatives to commemorate the anniversary, including the creation of a new endowment called The Alumnae Centennial Endowment for Undergraduate Research that will be administered by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The organization also awarded Gwynne Shotwell (McCormick ‘86, ‘88), the president and COO of SpaceX, the 2015 Alumnae Centennial Award in November as part of the centennial celebrations.

The organization has a long history of fundraising for the University. By 1938, the group had donated more than $160,000 toward the construction of Scott Hall. This year, it donated an initial contribution of $750,000 toward the Alumnae Centennial Endowment for Undergraduate Research, said Michele Bresler (Communication ‘63), the group’s chair of public relations. The group is employing various methods to reach its goal of $1 million, Bresler said.

“We will send e-blasts throughout the year in series of three to all women who have been in a degree-granting program at Northwestern and telling them about the undergraduate endowment,” Bresler said. “We’ve raised another $100,000 and we’re trying to get to our $1 million goal.”

The Alumnae is involved in an array of programming on campus. One of its most popular programs is Continuing Education, a series of noncredit, subsidized courses open to the public that attract more than 3,000 attendees per year, Bresler said. Often held in McCormick Auditorium in Norris University Center, the classes are taught by NU faculty and help raise money for The Alumnae’s various grants.

“This program is great for town-gown relationship, you know bringing the community into Northwestern,” said Janet Bilandic (Kellogg ‘84), the group’s president. “And the professors like us because they don’t have to grade any papers.”

More programming is planned for the centennial, including a lecture by Lisa Corrin, director of the Block Museum of Art, that will complement the museum’s current exhibit, “A Feast of Astonishments,” which is focused on avant-garde artist Charlotte Moorman, said Pam James (Weinberg ‘71), chair of The Alumnae centennial committee.

The Alumnae will also host a pre-party before the Waa-Mu Show on May 7, Bresler said. The Alumnae regularly sells patron tickets for the show as another fundraising event, but this year it will include a pre-party for patrons and guests before the afternoon’s shows, she said.

In addition to this year’s supplementary planning, the group of volunteers always works hard to better the University and maintain strong relationships with the administration, Bilandic said.

“As Pam says, we work,” she said. “And we love it.”

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