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With annual fund lagging, Dean Attridge calls for increased alumni support

By Frank Brown
Assistant Director, Publications

Phone CallIn an effort to boost alumni support for a YDS Annual Fund that is lagging behind last year’s contribution figures, YDS Dean Harold Attridge held a Feb. 19 conference telephone call with a number of alumni leaders.

The dean emphasized the school’s rock solid commitment to student financial aid and support of a top-notch faculty, along with other positives, but he also gave a sobering presentation on the impact the recession is having on YDS and the University as a whole. 

As class secretaries, class agents and members of the alumni board listened from around the country, Attridge stressed repeatedly that the school’s core focus is the same. “Our fundamental mission remains as it always has been,” he said, citing a commitment to increase student financial aid from $4.9 million this year to $5.1 million next year.  He also noted that renovations to office space at the rear of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle are moving ahead, despite the nation’s faltering economy, with a completion date set for this autumn.

For their part, alumni leaders and Carmen Germino ’07 M.Div. who heads YDS alumni relations efforts, appeared heartened by Attridge’s presentation.

“I feel encouraged,” she said after the call. “I’ve heard from several alumni leaders that they appreciated the chance to hear from Dean Attridge directly and ask some questions.”

While stressing the positive, Attridge also reviewed the impact the recession is having on YDS and the University as a whole.

“We have to be very careful at this point,” said Attridge, noting that the University’s endowment has lost 25 to 30 percent of its value during the economic downturn. “That is going to present some challenges for us.”

Already, the school and the rest of the University are bracing for a probable 7.5 percent cut in non-faculty labor costs and a similar reduction in administrative outlays. In addition, YDS plans to replace the student housing on Canner Street are on hold.

The Annual Fund’s success is crucial to maintaining financial aid levels, as 100 percent of Annual Fund donations are used directly for student aid.  To close the gap in Annual Fund donations, Attridge called on alumni leaders to renew their efforts at fundraising. To encourage participation, Attridge plans to announce soon details of a challenge grant with a goal of 2,500 donors to the Annual Fund by June 30.

While YDS is facing challenges, Attridge acknowledged that alumni are, too. Answering one class agent’s question about resources available to job-seeking graduates, Attridge walked her through a list of Yale-sponsored resources ranging from the YDS career counseling office to the University’s career network.

Other alumni leaders’ concerns ranged from worries that the school’s physical plant will suffer in the recession (“No,” said Attridge.) to calls for the YDS Alumni Office to help strapped alumni living in regions distant from New Haven to connect with each other locally rather than expecting them to journey annually to New Haven.

By the end of the 30-minute conference call, Germino said, “I hope this helps engage our alumni leaders and empower them to reach out to their peers in support of each other and the students.”

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