With the challenging days of World War II behind them, hundreds of Miami University alumni flocked back to campus for Homecoming in October 1945. For most, it was their first trip back to Oxford since 1941, and the atmosphere – like that of the nation – was filled with promise.
Put on hold during the war but not forgotten was the interest in establishing a permanent alumni office and employing a full-time alumni secretary. Wasting no time, a special committee of 10 alumni was appointed on Oct. 25, 1945, to explore the possibilities. They studied other alumni associations, spoke with successful alumni secretaries, and left no stones unturned.
The consensus of the committee’s findings was that Miami’s Alumni Association was not doing the job that Miami’s alumni expected or that the university deserved. A recommendation was made that the university should employ a full-time alumni secretary, provide a continuing subsidy for the Alumni Office, turn over operation of the Alumni Loyalty Fund to the Alumni Association, and allow dues to be charged for Alumni Association memberships.
The proposal was submitted to President Ernest Hahne and nationally to all alumni club officers. On Alumni Day in June 1946, the Alumni Association executive committee and general meeting delivered its approval.
The final hurdle was receiving approval from the Board of Trustees, which featured 23 Miami alumni among its 27 members. With the board questioning whether the university could afford the endeavor, C. Vivian Anderson rose from his chair and circulated among his fellow board members, raising $3,000 for an emergency Alumni Association reorganization fund to get the program off the ground.
Real progress was finally underway, and Alumni Association president J. Paul McNamara formed a new committee to study the challenges of forming an Alumni Association. It quickly became clear that the success of the reorganization would rely heavily on the individual selected as the program’s first Alumni Secretary. This position would employ many virtues and skills ranging from self sacrifice and a good sense of humor to effective communication skills and statesmanship.
The Alumni Association found this cornerstone of its newly reorganized program in John E. Dolibois `42, who was working in Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. Previously he had served in World War II as a Military Intelligence officer, where he assisted with the interrogation of Nazi war criminals.
Dolibois was, coincidentally, convinced to attend Miami in 1938 by the same Kenneth Gambee `29 who fought for Miami to hire a full-time Alumni Secretary during his term as Alumni Association president. On May 1, 1947, Dolibois began a nearly 35-year term at Miami that would shape the Alumni Association we know today.
Sources cited in compiling this story included Chronicle of Achievement by Douglas M. Wilson, Pattern of Circles: An Ambassador’s Story by John E. Dolibois, and Miami University: A Personal History by Phillip R. Shriver.
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