Since 1838, Duke University has had two locations and five name changes, but one of its oldest components has been an active alumni association.
The Trinity College Alumni Association was founded in 1858 by President Braxton Craven, with 41 alumni on record. In the 1890s, when the proposal to relocate Trinity College to Durham was announced, opposition to the plan was widespread among alumni. The Alumni Association, however, listened to the arguments for relocation with an open mind and decided to put the interests of "a greater Trinity" above personal considerations. In 1891, a year before the move, the College's charter was amended to require that one-third of its trustees be alumni of the College. This tenet remains a requirement of the university's bylaws today, and 31 of the 37 members of Duke's Board of Trustees are alumni.
Within a decade of the move to Durham, both men and women enrolled in sharply increasing numbers from the North, the South, the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and abroad (especially Japan). Today's Duke Alumni Association represents more than 140,000 members from all 50 states and more than seventy countries.
Just as the pool of alumni has grown and changed during the last 150 years, so has the role of the Alumni Association. From an association intended to foster friendships and maintain an ongoing affiliation between alumni and the university, the Alumni Association now also provides learning and travel opportunities, career services, regional programs, on-campus student programs, and many university and community services. It disseminates information about university activities and issues to alumni and friends of the university, and it produces its own sources of revenue to help support its programs.
These changing roles are expressions of an ongoing review by Alumni Association leadership and members of the alumni community. They illustrate the Alumni Association's ability to recognize the university's continually changing needs and its own opportunities to contribute to the Duke community.