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An evolving community: The history of the AAGC

Collage of historical Goucher alumnae and alumni

By Kristen DeMarco Rickard


“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in William Shakespeare’s famous line. In looking back at the 130-year history of Goucher College’s Alumnae/i Association, the answer is, quite a lot.

Much can be said about the formation of an all-women’s college in 1885. Originally named the Woman’s College of Baltimore City, Goucher was founded by a group of influential Methodists led by the Rev. John Franklin Goucher, who, with his wife, Mary Fisher Goucher, deeded the land to the college to begin its original campus in downtown Baltimore.

In June 1893, members of the Class of 1892 came together as the first graduates of Goucher College for the purpose of organizing an alumnae association. Officially founded by former senior class president Anna Heubeck Knipp 1892, the Alumnae Association was a separate entity from the college. They did, however, have a space dedicated to alumnae on the downtown campus, known as the Alumnae Lodge. By 1917, the Alumnae Council within the Alumnae Association was formed as an organization, similar to a board of directors, to represent and be a go-between for the alumnae, the faculty, and the administration of the college. On May 21, 1920, members filed the charter and articles of incorporation of the Alumnae Association of Goucher College Inc. The association, now led by the Alumnae Council, formed committees to accomplish important work relating to the college, such as raising money through the Alumnae Fund. All money raised by the association was then divvied to the committees, with the rest donated to the college.

By the 1930s, the Goucher community was buzzing with talk about the campus relocating to Towson. Under the leadership of President Robertson, designs were put in place; however, there was one problem: money. Faced with the financial realities of the Great Depression, he expressed the difficulties of raising the funds to build on the new campus. Knowing the alumnae were enthusiastic about moving the college to the Towson site, he turned to the Alumnae Council for fundraising advice. The council responded that they wanted to see definitive plans for the relocation by 1938. This was not going to be easy, but the Alumnae Association ended up putting forward 60 percent of the money needed to build one of the first buildings on the new campus, which later became known as Van Meter Hall.

From there, the Towson campus slowly came together, and the college officially relocated in 1954. Just two years later, the Alumnae Association would have a home of its own on the new campus. The Alumnae/i House, as it is now known, opened as a space for casual gatherings, council meetings, and rest for travelers. The space had a large room with a fireplace, a smaller library, and a bedroom wing composed of six bedrooms, each with twin beds, and three baths. While those bedrooms were eventually turned into offices, the Alumnae/i House still has many of its original features and continues to be a space for alumnae/i to come together.

The alumnae community evolved over the years. The biggest change came in 1986 with the college’s decision to become coeducational. Upon hearing the news that their beloved college, after 101 years, was opening their doors to men, alumnae had strong opinions. Although many opposed this decision by the administration, the Alumnae Council members concluded that they needed to be practical and change their name to appropriately represent their membership. Therefore, in the same year, the Alumni Association became the new name as the plural representation of male and female graduates, with the first male alumni emerging four years later.

Although this name held for several years, a growing voice of alumnae felt that the title took away from their rich history as an all-women’s college; it was decided under the leadership of Dorothy Lee Dorman ’63, the association president, that the name would be changed to Alumnae and Alumni of Goucher College, or AAGC for short. The association was still incorporated as a nonprofit Maryland corporation and operated independently from the college; it wasn’t until 2002 that the Board of Directors, formerly known as the Alumnae Council, voted unanimously for the AAGC to become a part of Goucher College, allowing it to enjoy the benefits of a college-provided operating budget and professional staff support.

Although alumnae/i had been emerging from graduate programs for decades, they never had true representation on the AAGC board. This changed in 2006, when an amendment was made to the bylaws so that there would be an alumna/us representative from the graduate programs on the Board of Directors.

Today, the AAGC is as strong as ever. With eight awards given and the Athletics Hall of Fame, there are so many ways for alumnae/i to be celebrated. To further engage alumnae/i through shared interests, experiences, and community connections, the AAGC also recently launched the Black and African American Alumnae/i Affinity Group during Alumnae/i Weekend 2023. With 130 years of hard work, dedication, passion, and community, the Alumnae and Alumni of Goucher College has truly been a rose of this school—under any name.