Alumni Leadership Council: History - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Alumni Leadership Council: History

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The Alumni Leadership Council of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion was formed in the 1994 - 1995 academic year as the Alumni Council. Representatives of the Alumni Associations of the Schools of Graduate Studies, Jewish Communal Service, Rabbinic Studies, Sacred Music, and the Rhea Hirsch School of Education served on the Council. In 2003 the Council added seats for representatives of the New York School of Education, and later for representatives of the Executive Masters in Education program.

The Council’s mission from its inception until today is to foster a mutually supportive and collaborative relationship between the College-Institute and its alumni. The Council both contributes to and promotes the programs and innovations of the College-Institute through its member Alumni Associations and the broad national and international network of alumni.

Dr. Gary Zola guided the formation of the group in its initial years. The first meeting of the Council was held in spring 1995 at HUC-JIR in New York. In July 2002 the College-Institute engaged the first full-time National Director of Alumni Affairs, Joy Wasserman, an alumna of the RHSOE. For more than a decade Joy supported the work of all the HUC-JIR Alumni Associations and the Alumni Council. The Alumni Council’s first program was an alumni lunch at the 1995 UAHC Biennial in Atlanta.

The Alumni Council participated in the discussions that led to the awarding of honorary doctorates as early as 1999 to alumni of the Schools of Education, Jewish Communal Service, and Sacred Music. For the first time, at graduation in 2006, meritorious alumni of the School of Graduate Studies were awarded a medallion in honor of their twenty-five years of service. Leadership of the Alumni Council engage with the College-Institute at the highest leadership levels, including serving on the HUC-JIR Board of Governors and on the most recent Presidential Search Committee.

In July 2003 the Council changed its name from the Alumni Council to the Council of Alumni Associations. Council members believed that this new name more accurately described its membership and purpose. The Council continued to be a place where all matters concerning alumni and their involvement in and connection to the College-Institute were discussed.

For the next decade, in partnership with the Alumni Associations, the Council focused on connecting with students and engaging alumni, on recruiting new students, and on continuing education opportunities.

In recent years, the Council recognized that while it served as a valuable convener of the Alumni Associations, it could better accomplish its mission by taking a stronger leadership role. Recognizing that the Alumni Associations were working in silos, the Council made a concerted – and ultimately successful – effort to create and model a more unified alumni body. The Council has also identified four areas in which it will take a leadership role, working in partnership with the College-Institute and with the Alumni Associations: alumni giving, ongoing learning, student recruitment, and communicating with alumni.

In recognition of its evolving role and status, the Council of Alumni Association changed its name to the Alumni Leadership Council in 2016.

The Alumni Leadership Council is currently made up of the Chair and Vice Chair (or their designee) from each of the member Alumni Associations, and is led by an Executive Team comprised of the Chair, Vice Chair, Member at Large, and Immediate Past Chair.