For KU alumni this will be a year in which involvement will really count.
At a time when many alumni groups are seeing membership erode, the Kansas University Alumni Association is maintaining its ranks.
Dorothy Wohlgemuth Lynch of Salina, a 1959 KU graduate who is this year's KUAA chairman, said the key is a combination of networking opportunities and member programs that provide valuable services.
Lynch, a former teacher and businesswoman, was director of J. Lynch & Co., a family-owned grain business in Salina until 1981, when the company was sold. She is a member of the search committee that will make a recommendation on the hiring of a new KU chancellor.
When it comes to active involvement in the KUAA, Lynch speaks from personal experience. In 1988 she became the KUAA's representative on the Kansas Memorial Union Corp. Board and last year completed a term as its president.
Fred Williams, KUAA president, said the association has 49,000 members today because of ``the overall greatness of the university and an inherent loyalty'' among its former students.
``I would say that has not been the case for some of our peer organizations,'' Williams said. ``In today's society there are all kinds of organizations that represent the interests or the betterment of some entity like a university. Those groups are increasing and therefore it becomes more difficult to recruit and retain members.''
Williams said the KUAA's membership efforts have been helped by programs started in the mid- to late 1980s to provide services to members. They range from a Jayhawk bank card program to Skill Search, a job placement program for alumni who have been out of school at least two years.
Membership benefits also include use of the Adams Alumni Center, which provides dining and meeting facilities for the alumni community.
Williams said the center, which has more than 100,000 visitors a year, may be renovated and expanded. A committee has been appointed to work with consultants who are studying the feasibility of such a project.
For the KUAA, the coming year will be a test of the organization's ability to pull together as one of KU's primary channels of outreach into the state.
Williams said one of the KUAA's most important tools for advancing the university's cause is Jayhawks for Higher Education. That effort, a network of about 800 people -- alumni and friends of KU -- make their support for the university known to Kansas legislators.
Williams said Jayhawks for Higher Education will help fill a void created by Chancellor Gene Budig's resignation to become president of professional baseball's American League. Williams said Budig had developed a rapport with and base of support among lawmakers who vote on funding for the university.
``With Gene leaving, I think the efforts of our alumni involved in that program will be more critical,'' he said.
Lynch said the organization also has several other programs in place to help put the university in the spotlight around the state.
One of them, the Kansas Picnics Program, gives university officials a forum for meeting with alumni and other citizens in communities across the state.
Those efforts, which involve alumni in their local communities, have been well received, Williams said. For example, he said that more than 100 Hugoton residents turned out to meet with university representatives at a picnic in that community last year.
Lynch said the KUAA's Kansas Honors Program, which targets high-achieving high school seniors, also has been popular throughout the state. The program is active in all 105 Kansas counties through 39 regional programs, she said.
Typically, Lynch said, the top 10 percent of high school seniors are invited to dinner and presented with a dictionary.
The ultimate objective for these community-based efforts, Lynch and Williams said, is to show graduating high school seniors that they have an alternative to attending college out of state.
Williams said the kind of young people courted by the Kansas Honors Program are ``the greatest natural resource in the state.''