The New School Archives Digital Collections

Parsons School of Design. Alumni Association

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The Parsons School of Design Alumni Association was incorporated in 1952. The previous year, Parsons President Van Day Truex, Executive Vice President Geoffrey Gates and the Office of Educational Relations had solicited graduates to form an Alumni Advisory Committee with the goal of re-establishing an alumni organization for the school. An alumni association incorporated in 1942 had lapsed into inactivity, possibly due to the demands of the Second World War. Documents indicate Frank Alvah Parsons had organized an earlier alumni association for graduates of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in the 1920s. However, little is known about the first group except for its brevity. The Alumni Association incorporated in 1952 continued until Parsons School of Design merged into the New School University in 1970. At that time, the administration of Parsons School of Design and the New School University folded the functions of the Parsons Alumni Association into the New School University's Development Office, and it ceased to exist as a separate entity.

The Parsons Alumni Association's primary goals included raising funds for scholarships and promoting the school's programs and students. The Alumni Association sponsored functions such as dinners, cocktail parties and exhibitions of student and alumni/ae work. One of the most significant events was Parsons School of Design's 60th anniversary celebration held in 1956, which culminated in the awarding of a Parsons medal to distinguished contributors to the fields of arts and design. The Alumni Association also existed as a means for alumni/ae to maintain a connection with Parsons School of Design, whether by locating former classmates, recommending prospective students, or obtaining proof of matriculation.

Publication of the Alumni Bulletin (later titled Alumni) was the Alumni Association's primary vehicle for celebrating alumni/ae professional and personal achievements, championing current students, and publicizing the institution to the arts and design communities. It began publication in 1940 as a black and white, non-illustrated newsletter and gradually evolved into a glossy magazine. The Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association edited the magazine and solicited content. For many years, Parsons School of Design alumnus and faculty member John Russo served as Art Director.

The Alumni Association cultivated and maintained relations with alumni chapters throughout the United States beginning in 1953 with the establishment of the Atlanta Chapter. Throughout the 1950s, the Alumni Association worked with alumni/ae in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. to establish functioning chapters.  

The Alumni Association held annual elections for the position of President and Council Members. A chronological listing of Parsons School of Design Alumni Association Presidents appears below. The Alumni Association was administered by an executive secretary whose duties included writing and editing Alumni Association printed materials, corresponding with alumni/ae, and managing financial accounts. Her office also assumed responsibility for maintaining a series of scrapbooks begun in 1926. Director of Educational Relations Dorothy Livingston Arnold, an alumna of the Teacher Training program, was the first Executive Secretary beginning in 1952. Following her retirement, a succession of interim employees managed the Alumni Association until the hiring of Grace Agnew Story in September 1957. Mrs. Story served as the Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association until 1970.

A three-page description of the Alumni Association's structure and administration entitled "Know Your Alumni Organization" appeared in the November 1962 issue of Alumni and is available in the Kellen Design Archives’ periodicals collection.

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