April 26, 2021 – Held via Zoom
Meeting started at 6:30 pm.
Approximately 30 alumni participated.
Margaret Matz (CUAA President) introduced the guest speakers, Laura Sparks (Cooper Union President), Malcolm King (Chair of the Board of Trustees).
Laura Sparks summarized the school year. The administration spoke with students and faculty regarding plans for next year to determine what aspects of the Cooper experience should be prioritized. There was an effort to allow in-person studio and lab time and move instructional classes online. Cooper Union is planning for a return to in-person learning in the fall. Laura said that the last fiscal year was completed on-budget. Cooper Union is continuing to improve academic programs, including introducing computer science and humanities minors, and a bioengineering minor. A computer science major is being developed. Cooper Union has relationships for classes and research opportunities with other parties such as Mt. Sinai and other institutions. The Art School introduced a new digital techniques program. The AACE lab also opened for use by all the schools. Laura spoke about programming in the Great Hall, and that when events went online, alumni from across the world were able to attend.
Malcolm King spoke after Laura Sparks. He spoke about the history of Cooper Union and how the school had been complacent for a long time. Now as Cooper Union is dealing with the crisis, it is improving and will continue to do so. Malcolm mentioned that he held fireside chats and some themes overlapped in the chats. He spoke about his experience at Cooper Union and that he “learned how to learn.” During his first 15 years after graduation, he felt a strong connection to Cooper Union. But when Cooper Union had to revise the mission statement (to no longer be free), the Board began debating what the institution was about since it was no longer free. They came to understand that Cooper Union was more than just a school, it was an institution born of Peter Cooper’s vision to be a multi-faceted gift to society, to students who attended and the alumni who would do good for the world. It was also a platform for civic discourse, such as via the Great Hall. This changes the narrative about why to support Cooper Union, it is not just to give back for a free education, it is to support the institution. Some of the themes that came up during the fireside chats include how to get alumni more involved, and how to accelerate the return to free. One way to engage alumni who have stepped away is to introduce them to the great things going on at Cooper Union.
Mark A. Vasquez (Chair of Events Committee) noted that Malcolm’s remarks are in line with what he hopes to see from the CUAA in terms of increasing alumni engagement. Malcolm asked if Mark has suggestions for events to increase alumni exposure to the Board. Mark suggested that direct promotion to the Board of CUAA events would be helpful.
Hope Wade commented that she is impressed with the events and things happening at Cooper Union. She noted that some of her classmates lost interest in giving after the new academic building was built. Eric Hirschhorn (Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees) said that there is a history when the school was not paying attention to finances, but now over the last few years it is improving and working out of financial problems. He offered to speak with any alumni or potential donors who were hesitant to give as a result of the financial crisis and Cooper starting to charge tuition, or provide notes to address these issues.
Barry Drogin suggested that someone from the alumni office should be attending council meetings and noted that historically someone from the alumni office attended meetings. Laura Sparks said she will take the question back to the team.
Margaret Matz and Eric Hirschhorn mentioned the initiative to coordinate mailing lists between Cooper Union and CUAA.
Margaret Matz mentioned that the election is ongoing and any questions regarding voting or registration can be addressed to Shankar Venkataraman (Chair of Elections Committee) or Sim Blaustein (Vice-Chair of Elections Committee).
Rob Marano (Chair of Annual Fund Committee) provided an update on the annual fund progress. This fiscal year to date, $2.22M has been raised for the Annual Fund towards a goal of $4M (through June 30). Approximately 75% of the amount was contributed by alumni. Of the total $4M goal, the goal is to raise $3M from alumni, which leaves about $1.33M for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Rob addressed the goals of achieving 100% council participation, 100% alumni participation, and 100% dollar amount of the Annual Fund goal. He mentioned the “Did You Know” campaign that the Office of Alumni Affairs is working on. The Annual Fund Committee is hoping to spin off a campaign of facts about Cooper Union and alumni. He also spoke about a Penny for Your Thoughts campaign that will encourage donations and start up conversations between alumni. Rob invited alumni to the next Annual Fund meeting on May 11 at 6pm Eastern to help launch the Penny for Your Thoughts campaign. Margaret Matz noted that the Office of Alumni Affairs provided updated information that was presented at today’s meeting and some of the past information was retracted.
Margaret Matz provided a brief update to the budget for next year. It will be similar to this year and will be sent to the Executive Committee and then the Council.
Mark A. Vasquez (Chair of Events Committee) provided an update on behalf of the Events Committee. Mark summarized past events, including trivia nights, alumni showcases, and the virtual tour of Green-Wood Cemetery. Mark noted that one of the alumni showcases included a fundraising component, which was an idea that came out of a meeting with the Office of Alumni Affairs. Upcoming events include an alumni showcase with Carla Diana ME’02 on May 25, and a First Tuesdays event on June 1 that will have a Green Camp storytelling theme.
Bernie Codd (Chair of Communications Committee) presented on behalf of the Communications Committee. The next meeting will be on May 11 at 7:30pm Eastern. The next Alumni Newsletter will be sent out around mid-May. He said any new content should be submitted by the upcoming weekend. The Communications Committee will continue to remind alumni to vote in the election, and to assist with year-end fundraising. The Committee will work with the Office of Alumni Affairs to coordinate the content and amount of emails. He noted that the school is using a vendor to analyze the school’s and the CUAA’s mailing lists to try and compare and consolidate the lists. Bernie called for volunteers for the Committee, including those with graphic art expertise and ability to assemble the newsletter. He reminded committee chairs that they can post items on CUAA’s Facebook and other social media. Mark A. Vasquez thanked Bernie for leading the Communications Committee and sending out reminders about events. Mark also mentioned that the Events Committee coordinates with the school to include events in the Five Things emails and their social media. Margaret Matz thanked the Auxiliaries (such as the Saturday Program and Maroon & Gold) for interacting with the Communications Committee and via social media since these have drawn attention from the Board of Trustees and younger alumni.
Mark A. Vasquez asked when the election results will be announced. Margaret Matz said that it takes about one week for the Tellers Committee to count the results. The results are typically announced at the next council meeting. Barry Drogin said that historically the results have been announced at the council meeting. The next meeting is May 20, 2021.
Anna Brook moved to adjourn. Hope Wade seconded the motion. The meeting adjourned at 8:10 pm.