The first formal organization of Norwich University alumni was established in 1852 under the name Norwich University Friendship Club. The founding document was signed by 17 members, with 11 honorary members listed, including Grenville Dodge and two of the Ransom brothers. The signatories sought to “voluntarily organize ourselves for the purpose of keeping in remembrance those friendly feelings, and that brotherly regard which now exist among us.” The further made the following pledge to one another: “Providence permitting, we hereby pledge ourselves that we will meet on Norwich Plain, at commencement if there is one in 1860; if not, on the First Thursday after the Third Wednesday in August of the above mentioned year.”
Another similar document was signed by 18 students and alumni the following year, establishing what they referred to as Friendship Club, No. 2. The relationship between the two groups is unclear. What we do know is that the morning after Commencement in 1860, a reunion indeed took place. During the meeting, the alumni voted to gather again in 1865, and to establish an ongoing “Association of the Alumni.”
These early Norwich brothers thus began a long tradition of fondness, loyalty, and support for “Old N.U.” from her nearest and dearest. Reunions continued to be held every five years until 1898, when it was decided that annual meetings should take place. It was also around this time that the alumni began electing alumni trustees to the board, ensuring that they would have a greater voice in the university’s future. At their annual meeting in 1921, the alumni voted to legally incorporate so that they could establish a more formal governance structure for the growing body of Norwich graduates.
Articles of association for the General Alumni Association of Norwich University were filed with the State of Vermont in May of 1922. Association President Ethan Allen Shaw, Class of 1891, signed the incorporation papers along with four other alumni leaders.
The national, regional, and local alumni associations and clubs have been a cornerstone of the Norwich community ever since that time. They held reunions, banquets and lectures, as well as raising funds and contributing their ideas to the university’s growth. A 1904 constitution for the Vermont Association of Alumni and Past Cadets of Norwich University listed fellowship, networking, and promotion of the university as some of its key goals—goals that are doubtless shared by the thousands of members of the Alumni Association today.