Alumni Association of the University of Michigan

Maize and Blue for Life

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By Joyce Wiswell
U-M alumni are always part of the crowd at U-M football games.

University of Michigan alumni were thrilled when Gavin Creel won the Tony Award on June 11 for his role in “Hello, Dolly!” And then his acceptance speech really put them over the moon.

“I want to dedicate this to the Musical Theater Department at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance,” said the life member of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan (AAUM). “My education there as a young person changed my life forever. My professors, my classmates, they instilled in me an appreciation for what it is to be an artist and what it is to be a part of this incredible community.”

Among the millions watching on TV that evening was Helen Harding, AAUM’s director of membership and annual giving. “We were all screaming like it was a touchdown at the Rose Bowl,” she said. “That filled our hearts with such pride.”

Creel, a 1998 grad, also encouraged those who “have money” to start a scholarship and “change someone’s life.”

Actor Gavin Creel thanked University of Michigan's School of Music, Theater and Dance when accepting a Tony for his performance in "Hello, Dolly!"

The 100,000 members of the AAUM do that every day by belonging to the group, which, among its myriad activities, awards many scholarships each year.

Bountiful Benefits

“If you know Michigan alumni, you know we are leaders and we love everything maize and blue,” Harding said. “My Life Member card is like a badge of honor.”

It’s also the key to more than 100 special benefits and perks, including discounts on new cars from Ford and Lincoln, admission to the Detroit Zoo and the Henry Ford Museum, and deals on everything from Dell computers to rental cars to hotel stays to clothing from Land’s End and Brooks Brothers.

“Whatever you want a discount in, we offer it,” said Harding. “And we are always updating our benefits.”

One unique privilege is access to hundreds of publications, scholarly journals and photographs thanks to a partnership with the University Library system.

Noel Cimmino, a 1994 grad, uses his membership for discounts at the M Den (the Athletic Department’s official retailer, which offers AAUM members discounts twice a year for annual members, four times a year for life members) and when scoring tickets to out-of-town games like basketball at Madison Square Garden and a bowl game in Florida. He especially appreciates bringing his family to Camp Michigania, the exclusive site on Walloon Lake open only to AAUM members.

“It is literally indescribable, one of the prettiest places on God’s earth,” said the Farmington Hills attorney. “There is no vacation I could ever do that is quite like that.”

Camp Michigania, which also has a location in Upstate New York, is just one of the many travel perks offered specially to members. From Cuba to Thailand, Iceland to Turkey, the elite Travel Collection presents alumni with the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime excursions.

One of the perks of being an AAUM member is access to Camp Michigania, the exclusive site on Walloon Lake open only to members.

U-M grads love connecting so much that there are 63 AAUM clubs in the United States alone, as well as international locales as far flung as Paris and Hong Kong. As Harding noted, “You can tap into that network of 575,000 living alumni. It’s an elite group.”

Among the 100,000 members are a whopping 52,500 alumni who have chosen to become life members.

“Other universities call me all the time and say, ‘What do you do? How do you have so many paid members?’ I always confess that there is something magical about Michigan that you can’t reproduce,” said Harding, a 1994 grad and life member since 2013. “It comes down to the alumni who have so much pride and want to stay connected, and it is so wonderful to help provide that.”

And, she stressed, AAUM is for all alumni, not just those who formally join. “Our main mission is to engage all alumni. Even if they are not members we are here as a resource,” Harding said. “We want to engage all alumni in relevant ways and connect them wherever they go.”

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This story is provided and presented by our sponsor the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.