As we see the close of 2020 before us, the world seems more intent than usual on forgetting the year that was. Collectively, we are looking forward to the new year with great anticipation, expectation and a sense that the mere turning of the calendar will help to alleviate the tragedy, discomfort, chaos and unrest that will forever define 2020.
I’m looking forward to 2021 as well, primarily because of what it represents for the Alumni Association. Next year, we will celebrate the 175th anniversary of the historic founding of the Association. In 1846, a small group of graduates decided it would be a good idea to organize in support of their alma mater.
Nearly two centuries later, we still agree—more than 17,000 of us joined together as members of the Association to pledge our time and treasure to support not just our beloved university and its students but also the 280,000 others just like us who walked the Horseshoe and proudly call ourselves Gamecocks. Collectively, we know that membership in the Association is the best and easiest way to show that support.
There’s no doubt 2020 has had its positives. The Association celebrated another historic milestone this year—100 years as a chartered non-profit. The women’s basketball team was, unequivocally, the best team in the country. Our university leadership, faculty, staff and students came together over the summer to put a plan in place that would keep COVID-19 in check so we could hold a full semester of classes this fall—mission accomplished. We have advanced a much-needed conversation around social justice and racial inequities to the forefront of the national dialogue. That very conversation obligates us to recognize that 175 years later, we are a very different University and Association now than we were then and to celebrate those differences with gusto, while recognizing we still have much work to do.
2020 has also had its negatives and your Association did not escape its impacts. The hospitality business at the Pastides Alumni Center came to a halt in March and has only now begun to see signs of slow recovery. Due to the economic uncertainty around us, new memberships in the Association have slowed, as have membership renewals. Like thousands of non-profits, businesses and the University itself, we’ve had to institute cost-saving measures and even say goodbye to valued team members.
Friends, we have work to do in 2021 and I’m excited about what it will hold. It’s not about turning the page on 2020 but forging ahead. Let’s enthusiastically celebrate 175 years as we seek to grow and strengthen the Association. We remain committed to tripling the amount of scholarship money we provide to students, increasing the number of alumni clubs and affiliate groups by nearly 50 percent, launching new mentorship and career development programs for students and alumni and maintaining the fabulous Pastides Alumni Center—a crown jewel for our University.
We can accomplish all of this and more, with your help, as we seek to grow our membership four times over, or even more! I wish you all a happy and restful holiday season and look forward to seeing you in 2021.
Forever to thee,
P.S. Be on the lookout for opportunities to engage beyond your membership: serve as a mentor, become a volunteer leader, travel with us (hopefully soon) and stay tuned for more information about our upcoming fundraising campaign.