Northwestern University Associates
The Northwestern University Associates were founded on February 9, 1929. Thomas A. Gosner, the University's development officer and Silas H. Strawn, partner in the Chicago law firm of Winston, Strawn and Shaw, were the principal founders of the organization. They were joined initially by seventy-seven other leading Chicagoans. Strawn became the first chairman of the organization and led it through its formative years. Gosner became Northwestern's Vice-President for Development and acted as liaison between the Associates and the University administration.
The Northwestern Associates are identified with the cause of higher education and particularly with the welfare of Northwestern University. For the most part, members of the Associates are not alumni of Northwestern. Among the purposes of the Associates are the following:
1. To foster and advance the welfare of the University.
2. To provide means by which the members may be kept informed of the general activities of the University.
3. To engender a spirit of friendly co-operation between the public and the University.
4. To increase the influence of the University in national and international affairs.
5. To bring together influential and representative citizens who are interested in education generally and particularly in the work of Northwestern.
6. To hold meetings during the year at which University officers and members of the faculty will interpret the work and progress of various departments.
7. To procure from time to time speakers of national reputation in the various fields of education.
8. To encourage the public to become acquainted with the work of the University, to inquire into its needs, and give encouragement and counsel.
The Associates were, from the beginning, an all-male organization, with the exception of one woman charter member. Mrs. Joseph G. Coleman was the lone female charter member, and she was not even allowed to attend the founding meeting because the Chicago Club did not admit women. It was not until 1977 that women became active in the Associates.
Although the Associates are not assessed dues or solicited for contributions as a group, the indirect benefits that Northwestern has derived due to the efforts of this group have been significant. Members of the Associates have supported the University generously and have played instrumental roles in obtaining corporate and other gifts for Northwestern.
During the early years, the Associates held an annual black-tie dinner at the Casino Club in Chicago. In 1946, the Waa-Mu Show, which had been suspended during the war years, was revived and it was decided to move the Associates' dinner to Evanston and combine it with a performance of the Waa-Mu Show. The dinner-theatre program has become the Associates' principal annual social event. From 1947 until 1973 the dinner was held in the Guild Hall of Scott Hall, adjacent to the Cahn Auditorium where Waa-Mu was staged. In 1972, the dinner was moved to the John J. Louis Room in the Norris Center so that more Associates could be accommodated at the annual event.
In addition to the dinner-theatre program, the Associates hold four luncheon meetings in downtown Chicago, usually in September, November, December and February. University officers or members of the faculty will at this time interpret the work and progress of various departments. The University speakers present topics on a wide variety of issues, ranging from a debate on the First Amendment to an update on cancer research.
The Associates held their 25th Anniversary on February 3, 1954. The group consisted of 269 members at that time. Twenty-five years later the Associates held their 50th Anniversary dinner on May 4, 1979. The group had grown to 408 members. In 1984, the group's membership was at 407.
Silas H. Strawn (1929-1945), Elmer T. Stevens (1946-1963), Tilden Cummings (1964-1976), and Harvey Kapnick (1977- ) have held the office of Chairman of the Associates.