The Role of the AYA and Opportunities for Service

By Gus Hedlund
1962 AYA Delegate

AYA Assembly Report Nov 17-18, 2011

The focus of the 2011 Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) assembly was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the granting the first PhDs in North America by the Yale Graduate School and to celebrate the legacy of those have become leaders in teaching, research, education administration, government, business, nonprofit work and much more. Notable among other firsts was the awarding of the first PhD to an African American in North America in 1876 in physics. The assembly also focused on the progress and future direction of the AYA strategic plan. There were a number of breakout sessions to discuss various programs and listening sessions for the board of governors to receive input from the delegates.

The AYA is an organization is composed of members of the Yale Community, i.e., alumni of Yale College and the many graduate schools. It is managed by a group of AYA professionals housed in the AYA building on York Street. The purpose of the AYA is not fund raising rather “Friend Raising.”  In contrast to other university alumni organizations, there is no link between fund raising and the activities of the AYA organization except that by creating good feelings towards Yale, it is likely to increase contributions to the alumni fund. The primary task of the AYA is to organize and run the class reunions which most of us know. Also, as many know, they put together trips to interesting parts of the world combined with educational lectures by knowledgeable Yale professors. However, the AYA, through Yale Alumni, participates in other important activities such as volunteer service for people in need, both domestically and abroad. The AYA supports the activities of the various Yale Clubs as well as a myriad of other alumni groups too numerous to name. I also see the AYA as a conduit of information about what is happening at Yale and the greater Yale community, and the opportunities available to serve others through volunteer work. The AYA website is very robust for those interested in more information about what they do.

Jim White (1962 Ex officio AYA delegate) and I attended this two day symposium for alumni members of the AYA. It was organized and run by the AYA staff and was designed to familiarize members with the activities of the AYA, allow interaction between the members and for the AYA to receive input on how to make improvements or suggest new activities. The AYA also organized various lectures for members to attend. A highlight for me was the tour of the Indian Art Exhibition at The British Art Gallery. Yale is certainly a wonderful resource for all people to take advantage of. The other thing that I enjoyed very much was meeting with and discussing personal life histories and AYA issues with other alumni delegates from many different walks of life, classes and geographic locations.

I was particularly interested the AYA overseas service programs. The discussion I participated in was focused on a project for Nicaragua and one for Ghana. The service can range from education on health and sanitation issues, building schools and other infrastructure to creating sports programs for children. The general idea is to create programs that can endure long after the AYA is no longer present. This involves strong local participation in all events so that there is follow up for the long run. Most of the volunteer projects take place during Yale vacations so the correct resources are available from the university. Those with or without special skills are very much encouraged to participate in these programs. For more information go to the AYA website and click on “Volunteer” and then click on “Service Corps.”

I attended a “listening session” where the governing board was present to hear ideas for improvements to their strategic plan. The primary points that were raised centered around the need for better information to be available for alumni groups especially for those located in relatively remote locations from New Haven. This could involve improvements to the website and having some way of notifying alumni groups of Yale related activities that will occur in particular areas.

President Levin gave an overview of the state of Yale today. He made the following points:

– Endowment increased significantly in the last year which is very positive
– Styles College reconstruction project is completed
– Building of the two new colleges on Prospect St has been suspended for now
– Most other building projects are suspended for now
– Yale will try to raise funds targeted to specific construction projects
– The West Campus is being integrated into the main Yale campus by providing frequent
transportation-shuttle buses. (He stressed the need to minimize West Campus isolation.)
– Yale sports teams have the best overall record in the Ivy League with the lowest percent of recruited athletes in the Ivy League.
– Yale is examining using the internet to make available Yale resources to a wider audience

I view my job as a delegate to the AYA to become more knowledgeable of all aspects of the AYA, communicate events of special interest to the class of 1962 and to listen to members of our class for ideas for new events and suggestions to improve the AYA and to discuss these with the AYA for possible resolution. My e-mail address is

Yale '62

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