For decades, the Princeton alumni club in Brazil was, in the words of current vice president Jill Otto ’02, “basically a one-man show.” All that changed in January when a group of alumni put together a weeklong series of events, complete with speakers from the University; Arminio Fraga *85, the former governor of the Central Bank of Brazil; and several performances by the Nassoons.
Because of the extravaganza — which was covered in the society pages of the local press — the club’s database is now bursting with 200 names, and members are hoping to foster academic ties with Princeton as well as alumni bonding.
“We want to create a community here that brings the best of Princeton to Brazil and also the best of Brazil to Princeton,” says Otto, who was born in Brazil.
From Utah to the Netherlands, a smattering of new and reactivated Princeton regional groups have sprung up over the past two years. Last year Susan Massick ’93 helped restart a club in Columbus, Ohio, and Peter Nowicki ’73 and Henk Gajentaan *64 organized a new regional club in the Netherlands that held its first reunion in The Hague last November. Amber Mettler ’99, who got the Utah club going again in December 2007, says, “We’re far away from Princeton, and you really lose touch. We want to get alums reconnected to Princeton, and to each other.”
Princeton does not provide alumni regional groups with funding, but does pay for a University professor to deliver a guest lecture to the most active groups once a year. There are approximately 160 regional groups, and each one has a different story.
Sometimes organizing a club closest to home can be the hardest. When Kristin Epstein ’97 moved to Princeton several years ago, she figured a Princeton-in-Princeton club would be well under way. When she contacted the Alumni Association, she was shocked to learn there wasn’t an active one. “You could go to a lecture or theater and a football game, but it didn’t seem like there were social events [for alumni], like happy hours,” she says. Since getting the group re-energized she has organized social gatherings and events for young families.
Other regional alumni groups have grown out of efforts to interview high school students through the Alumni Schools Committees. In Nevada, Nick Donath ’83 said the newly restarted regional group and the Alumni Schools Committee work closely together with the goal of increasing the number of students admitted and encouraging more to apply.
The Princeton Club of Brazil also is hoping to boost admissions from Brazil: Last fall only one Brazilian student (who does not reside in that country) entered the University, according to Princeton’s Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
“Brazil really knows only Harvard and maybe Yale,” says Brazil club founder and Indiana native Michael Royster ’64. Little things, like making it into the local papers, he says, can make a big difference in terms of visibility. Says Royster: “It’s easy to raise people’s levels of consciousness when you show up in orange and black.”
Anne Ruderman ’01 is a graduate student at Yale University.