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Quirky club events bring out alumni in NYC

By Contributing Writer on July 22, 2013
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(Editor’s note: This article was written by Omar Aquije.)

On a Friday evening in January, a few dozen Colgate alumni toured the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. In March, the group took part in a cheese-making class. A month later, sports fans among the New York City Club attended a Brooklyn Nets basketball game.

Joanna Allegretti ’05, club president since 2006, said that in prior years the club focused on activities that appealed to younger members. After all, she said, the most active participants tended to be recent graduates looking to meet fellow alumni in social settings. As a result, gatherings at bars became the norm.

But the focus on a younger audience had an unintended consequence: fewer older alumni attended events. To address the issue, club members started planning more diverse activities. Now, a board of about 10 members meets monthly to organize events, and they also solicit ideas from a membership of about 3,000.

NYC Alumni Club

Colgate alumni in NYC painted preschool classrooms at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, a non-profit organization in Manhattan that works to meet the social, educational, recreational, and cultural needs of the Lincoln Center community.

The result is events and activities that go beyond what the typical alumni group offers.

“There is a very wide range of events that cater to a wide variety of interests,” said Robert Sobelman ’08.

This year, club members visited NBC studios, organized a trivia night against Colgate alumni from Washington D.C., and invited Colgate history professor Graham Hodges to lead them on a tour of the East Village. The group has also taken on some philanthropic activity, such as uniting volunteers to paint preschool classrooms.

Alexander Shindler ’06, said he wants the club to arrange more outdoor activities, but knows it could be difficult because of the time involved for traveling to places far outside the city.

“There is a lot of opportunity for different events,” Shindler said. “I think Joanna has done a great job to attract different types of alumni based on age and interest.”

But not every idea is an instant winner.

For instance, a guacamole-making class was cancelled due to lack of interest, and when the club tried hosting a 1960s-only gathering, it was cancelled because of expected low attendance.

Undeterred, Allegretti said the club will try again. Later this year there will be an event for graduates from the 1970s and 1980s.

While it may be easiest to schedule tours or happy hours, Allegretti said the club has deliberately increased its emphasis on raising scholarship money, which, five years ago, was an afterthought.

“That’s one half of our mission statement,” she said, “so we are trying to be strategic in raising money.”

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