Mason Fever Spurs Increased Alumni Involvement

Posted: November 28, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Trying to track down alumni is a challenge for almost every university.

But after George Mason’s Final Four appearance in men’s basketball last spring, Chris Clark-Talley and her staff experienced nirvana: alumni were contacting them.

Clark-Talley, the executive director of Alumni Affairs, has a binder in her office with copies of e-mails written to her office last spring from alumni who were caught up in Mason fever.

There was a note from Doug Oliver, a 1998 graduate living in North Carolina; from Megan Kelleher, a 2004 graduate from Chicago; and from C.L. Daub, a 1994 graduate from California who wrote: “San Diego is my home. Mason is my heart.”

As of February 2006, the Office of Alumni Affairs had 18,900 e-mail addresses on file from Mason alumni. As of this month, that number has climbed to 21,300.

There were, as of February, 10,500 Mason alumni who had registered with the online Mason alumni directory. As of this month, that number has reached 13,200.

An alumni tour of campus in early November attracted a record number of alumni, necessitating a second tour guide to handle the crowd. “Most of our events this fall have exceeded expectations,” says Clark-Talley.

“I think a lot of alumni reconnected with their alma mater last year,” she adds. “When something you are affiliated with has something exciting going on, you want to be a part of it.”

Clark-Talley says she got another glimpse of how things have evolved prior to the Nov. 18 men’s basketball home opener against Wichita State University, when she saw alumni, some with their young children, tailgating before the game that began at 4 p.m. at the Patriot Center. “It felt like homecoming in November,” says Clark-Talley.

Wichita State won (which put them in the top 25 national rankings two days later), but that didn’t distract from the excitement, as Mason raised its Final Four banner near section 106 about 15 minutes before the game began.

Clark-Talley wants to build on the excitement and reach out to alumni, both in the Washington, D.C., area and outside the region. Her office is working with enthusiastic alumni in the Atlanta, Chicago and southeast Virginia regions, for example, who have expressed interest in building regional groups. Clark-Talley says the team’s success got the attention of alumni in areas outside of Northern Virginia.

“Basketball created a window of opportunity. But our hope is we can build off of that,” says Clark-Talley. “When people support athletics, they also support the university. It’s a form of support that can grow into other forms of support” at the university. For example, alumni giving is up 16 percent from this time last year.

This year, for the first time, the Office of Alumni Affairs is sending e-mails to alumni in every city in which the men’s basketball team will play on the road, encouraging them to cheer on the Patriots when they come to town. The office also sent out e-mails to alumni in the Virginia Beach area to let them know about the men’s soccer team appearance in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game on Nov. 5.

Another first is that Clark-Talley’s office will have a table set up on the concourse of the Patriot Center for every men’s home basketball game this season, staffed by volunteers from the Alumni Association. This is part of a broader member involvement campaign the Alumni Association is focused on this year.

“It’s off to a great start. The response from alumni at the home opener was terrific,” says Clark-Talley.

For more information on the Office of Alumni Affairs, call 703-993-8696 or e-mail

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