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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Alumni Association clips Tucson chapter

    The status of the UA Alumni Association is currently in limbo as the Tucson chapter deals with a lack of official leadership and the loss of fundraising duties.
    The status of the UA Alumni Association is currently in limbo as the Tucson chapter deals with a lack of official leadership and the loss of fundraising duties.

    The UA Alumni Association axed its Tucson chapter leadership in September 2006.

    Today, the association’s reasons for nixing its hometown chapter – a fixture at UA events – and even the official status of the Tucson Alumni Club remain shrouded in an administrative mist.

    Some within the club’s now-defunct governing body believe the quiet dissolution of the Tucson chapter stems from poor past club leadership and a lack of success in recruiting new members, said Jeff Mendelsohn, a 1973 UA alumnus and former president of the Alumni Association’s Kansas City chapter.

    Mendelsohn was likely to be elected the next Tucson Chapter president when the UA Alumni Association voted to disband the club’s leadership.

    The Tucson chapter’s primary function was to raise money for scholarships for local high school students through activities such as golf tournaments, art shows, a bike tour of the Tucson Mountains and an annual holiday party, to which local politicians were invited to solicit funding for the UA, Mendelsohn said.

    Now that it has been suspended, there may be fewer Alumni Association scholarships available to local students, he added.

    “”Basically, what we were involved in was raising money for scholarships for the best and brightest (local) high school seniors who were planning to attend the U of A,”” he said.

    “”We’re not raising money for scholarships anymore,”” he added.

    Chris Vlahos, the UA Alumni Association’s president since July, would not comment on the specific reason for the dissolution of the Tucson chapter’s leadership because he was not president at the time, he said.

    Then-UAAA president Sandy Ruhl executed the decision to disband the Tucson Alumni Club, Mendelsohn said.

    “”We’re always investigating ways of strengthening our chapters,”” Vlahos said. “”Tucson is our No. 1 market.””

    There are more than 50 UAAA chapters in the U.S. and abroad, he added.

    Boasting more than 40,000 UA alumni, the Tucson area should be the “”flagship of all (UAAA) clubs,”” Mendelsohn said.

    The UAAA’s move to flush the Tucson chapter seems to Mendelsohn like a step in the wrong direction.

    In April 2006, Nancy Yaeli, UAAA vice president, called Mendelsohn to say the UAAA wanted to re-evaluate the Tucson chapter, asking him to hold off on the scheduled May election while the board decided the club’s fate, he said.

    The UAAA board held a meeting in early September 2006, when members decided to dissolve the club’s leadership, Mendelsohn said.

    The Tucson chapter still has a charter, and the UAAA National Board of Directors never officially scrapped the club, Mendelsohn said.

    “”They don’t want anyone to know we’re gone,”” he added. “”They don’t want anyone to know they dissolved us.””

    The UAAA Web site still has a link to the Tucson chapter, and at Homecoming, the UAAA booth passed out ribbons for the chapter’s past club presidents and members, although the club no longer holds meetings, Mendelsohn said.

    In September, Mendelsohn said he contacted Vlahos requesting information on the Tucson chapter’s financial accounts but has yet to hear of any information regarding the closure or the accounts.

    Mendelsohn was not sure of how much money was in the club’s accounts, but he called it “”a substantial sum.””

    “”There’s been no accounting of that money for a year and a half,”” he added.

    Vlahos said he was unsure about whether the funds had been reassigned and was unable to provide that information before press time.

    At the time of the disbandment, about 15 active Tucson Alumni Club members met regularly, Mendelsohn said.

    “”They really have not given us a valid excuse for getting rid of us,”” Mendelsohn said. “”And we don’t know where (the) money is.””

    The UAAA continues to award scholarships to local high school students, but Mendelsohn is concerned that the drop in fundraising activity will ultimately result in a diminished capacity to provide financial aid to eligible students.

    “”For 2006-2007, the Tucson Alumni Group awarded, of their own funds, $1,250,”” Yaeli said in a voicemail. “”In addition to that, the Association matched that amount and, on top of that, provided the group $12,500 to award in scholarships.””

    For the current year, the UAAA will award $13,750 in scholarship funds, and will again provide $1,250 in matching funds, Yaeli added.

    “”I feel very sorry for the (high school students) because we can’t offer them what we’ve offered students in the past,”” she said.

    Vlahos would not speculate on plans to reinstate the Tucson chapter’s leadership.

    “”We’ve got money for scholarships, but not like we had before,”” Mendelsohn said. “”I think it’s a real shame.””

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