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Guest Opinion: Alumni Association helps grads make most of UI relationships

BY STEVE WOLKEN - GUEST OPINION | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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Have you ever counted the number of people you know through the UI? Think of it as a variation on the “six degrees of separation” theory, which claims that, in terms of social connections, you are never more than six steps away from anyone else on the planet.

Every year at Homecoming, I am reminded of this theory when I look at the Hawkeye friends gathered to celebrate at our home. There are the obvious connections: my wife, Sue Montgomery Wolken, whom I met at the UI (she was a Scottish Highlander, and I was in the Marching Band), our friends and classmates, and my siblings and our children who attended the university.

My personal Iowa network also stretches further: to my parents and friends, who may not have attended the UI but are passionate Hawkeye sports and Hancher fans nonetheless, to colleagues whom I met in the course of business and discovered that they, too, are UI grads.

I came to the university after being raised on a farm an hour from Iowa City, where I listened to Hawkeye football and basketball games while milking cows or working in the fields. During my nearly 11 years here, including medical school and my ophthalmology residency, I enjoyed all that I could work into my schedule, including playing trombone in the Marching Band. My role in the Marching Band landed me on the 1962 Homecoming badge, where I appear with a couple other members.

As longtime residents of Iowa City, my family and I have been fortunate to maintain extensive social, cultural, and professional associations with the university. Now that I serve on the UI Alumni Association Board of Directors, I am more aware of the crucial role the association plays in strengthening such memories and bonds. It serves as the gateway for alumni, students, parents, and friends to build strong relationships with the university and one another, as well as to help them enjoy existing connections to this great university. Many alumni keep their Hawkeye pride alive through the association’s international network of IOWA Clubs, while others connect with friends via the online community, the Iowa Voyagers travel programs, or educational, social, and athletics events in the Iowa City area or around the country.

An abundance of communications — from Iowa Alumni Magazine to e-mail newsletters — keeps alumni informed about what is happening at their university and in the lives of their fellow graduates. Reunions and other association events bring back older alumni to revisit the good old days, while the group’s student programs help the next generation of Hawkeyes make enduring memories and friendships.

When I travel outside Iowa, I am always proud to recognize the black and gold of Hawkeye faithful, and I am no longer surprised to identify a common acquaintance or connection with a stranger based on ties to the university. Evidently, that six-degrees theory does apply here. Thanks to the alumni association, where the Hawkeye spirit is alive and well, you’ll never feel separated from the UI.

On, Iowa! On Forevermore!

Steve Wolken, ’65 B.S., ’68 M.D., ’75 R.,
chairman of the UI Alumni Association Board of Directors


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