AAVC Welcomes New Affiliate

By Samantha Soper '91

Spurred by the efforts of John Wolf ’74, signatures from over 100 alumnae/i athletes, and the support of the Department of Athletics, this spring AAVC inducted the Athletic & Fitness Alumnae/i of Vassar College (AFAVC) as its newest affiliate group.

Although Vassar’s six affinity groups are all unique, they share a common mission: to unite alumnae/i with similar interests or backgrounds in order to maintain their connections and to offer support to each other, the college, and current students. The other five alumnae/i groups are African-American, Asian-Pacific, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, and Latino. (Currently, AAVC is looking for volunteers to lead the Latino alumnae/i group.) Contact AAVC for more information.

African-American Alumnae/i (Triple A VC)

Although the African-American Alumnae/i group is run and organized as an affiliate group, technically it is a sub-committee of AAVC.

The first “affiliate” group, Triple A VC was established in 1984 under the leadership of Billie Davies Gaines ’58, Marian Gray Secundy ’60, and Claudia Thomas Carty ’71. Triple A VC holds several annual events not only to connect with African-American alumnae/i, but to keep abreast of on-campus relations and advocate for improvements.

One such program is the Mentor Program, which grew out of the organization’s objective to deepen its relationship with current students. “I have been overwhelmed by the response from alumnae/i who are eager to support and assist current students in reaching their academic, personal, and professional goals,” said Tamar Tate ’95, co-chair of Triple A VC. “To date, there have been 20 matches made between current black students and alumnae/i. Students as well as alumnae/i were given the name of their respective person along with an information sheet outlining the expectations of the program in order to facilitate a meaningful and productive mentor/mentee relationship.”

Asian-Pacific Alumnae/i (APAVC)

Entering its 10th year, APAVC intends to continue to “provide support for Asian-American alumnae/i through conferences, opportunities for job networking, and other events where alumnae/i can gather and talk about issues they are currently facing,” said Delia Hom ’00, transition team member. One such event was APAVC’s winter conference, held on campus in November 2001. In addition to a captivating talk by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, APAVC members and students participated in lively discussions. “The on-campus programming is designed to not only be as interesting as possible to Asian-Pacific students and alumnae/i but to appeal to non-Asians as well in order to break down stereotypes,” said Fritz Friedman ’74, former APAVC president.

For commencement 2001, APAVC created a special ceremony to recognize and share experiences with Asian-American students at Vassar. “The graduating seniors were given an open ti-leaf lei to wear at graduation…a symbol representing their part in creating an Asian-American community at Vassar and beyond…. We hope that in the coming years APAVC will be able to work more with students on campus — both as mentors and as carriers of institutional memories of the Asian-American experience at Vassar,” said Hom.

Jewish Alumnae/i (JAVC)

Although originally chartered in 1996, JAVC was revitalized in 1998. After spending the last few years building its treasury, early next year, JAVC will hold its first conference. The one-day, on-campus event will review JAVC thus far, define the organization’s goals, and hold formal elections for officers. The day will also include a lecture on the progress of the Jewish Studies program at Vassar.

Jason Bartow ’98, chair, hopes that eventually JAVC will be able to offer at least one program or event a year per region. Unfortunately, since pre-coeducational class records don’t always state religious affiliation, the group has a mailing list of mainly classes after 1970. JAVC wants to reach out to all alumnae/i and hopes more and more Jewish alumnae/i will contact AAVC to participate in JAVC events.

Bartow also believes that affiliate groups such as JAVC “need to reach out more to current students, to offer networking help upon graduation and other support.” Even with their limited funds, JAVC has helped support such student programs as Ra’ashaan, Vassar’s first journal of Jewish culture.

Lesbian & Gay Alumnae/i (LAGAVC)

Founded in 1989 and officially recognized by AAVC in 1991, LAGAVC serves and supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community of Vassar College. Through fall and spring meetings for students and alumnae/i and frequent newsletters, LAGAVC continues to connect alumnae/i with each other and the campus community.

“Our first goal was to reconnect with older alumnae/i who had been alienated by previous years of homophobic attitudes and regulations,” said Anne Mackay ’49, longtime volunteer and one of the founders of LAGAVC. “In 1996 we presented the college with a handsome AIDS memorial, mounted in the Villard room, to remember classmates and college members who have died of AIDS.” In April, the memorial was revised and rededicated at LAGAVC’s annual conference, which also featured lectures on AIDS prevention and a look at gay cultural and political activism.

LAGAVC also supports students with books and information. “One of our most important projects,” Mackay added, “has been gifts and materials to support the Library Project on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Lives. This is a special collection in the Vassar Library to allow students to work with primary sources: memoirs, diaries, letters, poems, etc.”