Look who’s 135
The Case Alumni Association celebrates a landmark birthday with an eye to the future.
By Robert L. Smith
When the first five graduates of the Case School of Applied Science formed an alumni association in 1885, their goals may have sounded ambitious. The school was only five years old, with a student body of fewer than 50, and several colleges had already tried and failed in the upstart town of Cleveland.
Yet the first Caseys had reason for optimism. Their professors included physicists like Albert Michelson, who was measuring the velocity of light with astonishing precision. Classes had just moved from the Case home downtown to a handsome edifice in the countryside, in what would become University Circle. The founders felt pride in what they were a part of.
“We had a good stiff course, and we worked hard,” Daniel Warmington, the association’s first president, told Case Alumnus in 1930 as he recalled his Case days. “It gave me a good education. It taught me to be exact to the millionth of an inch, and it taught me to think clearly and to the extent that I have.”
Warmington and his peers committed themselves to foster fellowship among future alumni and to support “science to serve humanity.” They laid the foundation for a remarkable institution.
One hundred and thirty-five years later, the CAA is the oldest independent alumni association of science and engineering graduates in the nation, representing more than 20,000 members worldwide. Case alumni have endowed scholarships for future generations, equipped labs and raised classroom buildings, pushing the school ever toward the forefront of science and engineering.
But what does the future hold? We asked some of our alumni leaders to ponder what the CAA should be in the years and decades ahead. Here’s what they had to say:
Hillary Emer ’07, MS ’07, CAA board member, Young Alumni Leadership Award winner
I think that CAA should continue to help alumni connect regardless of graduation year, major, gender, or race to support and encourage each other in our careers and lives. And I think that CAA should continue to provide scholarships for engineering and science students – filling in the gaps and reducing student loan burdens.
Additionally, CAA should support Case in removing barriers to admission for Black students and other students of color. I think CAA should support diversity initiatives at Case and within CAA to ensure we are anti-racist and doing our part to dismantle systematic racism.
Jim Kilmer ’00, MS ’00, CAA board member, Meritorious Service Award winner
I’d like to see the Case Alumni Association continue evolving to become more of a professional connector. We should continue to open up more opportunities for alumni to work together, to use our skills and shared experience to create new industries, jobs and opportunity across many areas of science and engineering. We need to connect alumni with each other and use the network that the organization has built over decades to everyone’s mutual benefit.
CAA has changed over the years, from a primarily social organization to one that is very good at fundraising and supporting the growth of the Case School of Engineering. We need to continue that evolution and become a lifelong community that both engages and benefits alumni all over the globe. In cooperation with programs ongoing at the University, I think the CAA could help to open up new areas of research, collaboration and commercialization, leveraging the strength of our alumni to the benefit of all.
Carlin Jackson ’15, MSM, CAA board member
As CAA looks towards the future, I believe the organization can position itself as an authority on the university experience of “tomorrow.” The year 2020 has shown us how flexible and innovative society can (and must) be towards the concept of higher education. As we hope for a return to normal, there will be changes that are either permanent or harbingers of other changes to come. CAA should be proactive in helping define this evolutionary process.
The common perception of the collegiate experience has been dominated by the notion of the 4-year degree. However, recent times have shown that there exists much utility in breaking away from that default and embracing unique pathways that cater better to the diverse subsets of students that come to a university. While continuing to bring together current students and fellow alumni, the CAA can help establish the “lifelong learning community” as the new default experience that society expects from top-tier universities like CWRU.
Sunniva Collins, MS ’91, PhD ’94, CAA board president, associate professor and associate dean at the Case School of Engineering
The story of the CAA is still being written. The school is evolving and so are we. The concept of diversity and inclusion is really resonating today. It’s not like we haven’t had successes, but we’re still breaking down barriers. We need to get to the point where we’re a little more holistic about the world.
We need to support our international students and engage with our international alumni. They give us a huge advantage. They give us connections all over the world. We have people around the globe who are approaching problems with thinking they developed at Case.
Diversity is a good thing. We get different solutions when we can include as many different points of view as possible. I think we’re doing a pretty good job. We’ve got a number of younger and mid-career alumni involved. They’re in the world, and that helps inform what we need to do.
Michael Diamant ’68, JD, CAA past president, Case Alumni Foundation board member
From its inception, the Case Alumni Association was composed of a broad range of graduates in all areas of science, mathematics, and engineering. Whatever their major, graduates learned to think analytically and logically. Case also provided a wide range of exposure to the humanities. As a result, Case graduates have excelled and led in numerous career fields, from science and engineering to business, medicine, law and finance. Ask any Case graduate the most important benefit of a Case education and universally their answer will be “Learning to solve problems through logical analysis.”
I hope that going forward the CAA continues to recognize, include and benefit from alumni from all professional areas. The original Case cheer was “S-C-I-E-N-C-E, Go Case!” While corny, it recognized the broad foundation in science that a Case education provided. The greatness of Case was that it was a pioneer in integrating engineering, i.e. applied science, with science, mathematics, and the humanities to produce creative analytic thinkers. I strongly recommend the CAA not stray from that path, but refocus and commit to its roots and traditions of being an alumni organization for all science, engineering, and math alumni and continue to support students and faculty in those disciplines.
What are your thoughts on the future of the CAA? We would love to hear them. Email Casealum@casealum.org.
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