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Alumnae Transition at Radcliffe

July-August 2003

June 4 marked what its president, Raine Figueroa '84, M.B.A. '91, said was the last formal annual meeting of the Radcliffe Association (RA). "This is, as far as I know, the last meeting. I am the last president." The organization, founded as the Harvard Annex Alumnae Association in 1887, was later renamed the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association. As of July 1, the RA will no longer be funded by the University, and most of its reunion activities and programs will shift to a new Office of Alumnae Services, under the auspices of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (RI).

At the meeting in Agassiz Theatre, RA executive director Judith Stanton told alumnae that the new office would oversee all reunion-related events for Radcliffe classes prior to 1963, as well as Radcliffe Day and the Radcliffe clubs, and would continue the RA's externships and the mentoring program, which has tripled in size during the last three years. Members of the RA's board of management have been invited to join standing committees of the Harvard Alumni Association and also an advisory committee set up to "advise the RI on outreach strategies." Alumnae were also encouraged to join HAA committees and activities. "It is primarily a structural change in the [way] alumni services will be delivered," says Stanton, who will direct the new office. "They are essentially the same services, and they are delivered by the same staff in the same location, 79 Brattle Street, with the same phone number."

Figueroa told the audience of mostly older Radcliffe alumnae, "In an ideal world we'd like things to go on just as they have because that is comfortable," but the merger with Harvard, and the more recent reality of losing funding, raised questions about the future role of the RA, which has always been its own 501(c)(3) entity. "As things evolve," Figueroa added, "we all will be about keeping alive at the RI and the HAA a community of women who support other women and who support each other." The board extended the current officers' terms and plans to continue the RA's corporate status "during a transition period." The RI has vowed to keep pre-1963 reunion services intact as long as they are wanted; it has not described its new office as a step toward a merger with the HAA. Stanton notes, however, that the HAA's resources and alumni networks offer opportunities for alumnae involvement, especially in the area of undergraduate life, that the RA and the RI never could.

After talking with dozens of alumnae, Stanton reports that most seem to see the new office as a positive step—"a powerful message to Radcliffe women who have seen so much change, that they matter so much that an office is being created to serve them."