Alumni clubs hark back to the good old days of the post-graduate world-places to visit and drink with old college chums in a swanky room, in a swanky building, a block away from Grand Central Station, before heading back home to Westchester.
But behind the squash courts and posh facilities at the Columbia University Club of New York is a place drastically different from the world of almost Wodehousian grandeur and aristocracy. The CUCNY has changed in its membership, size, and physical state in recent decades and is beginning to resemble nothing less than an old boys club.
After 30 years of moving from place to place, the club has finally found a permanent home on 43rd Street just across the street from its original location. It has seen a 200 percent increase in membership over the last three years, has expanded its Governor's Board, and developed better connections with other Columbia clubs around the world.
The club, founded in 1901 on 43rd Street just as other Ivy League clubs were popping up around it, formed part of what became an "Alumni Club Row." In 1973, the building that housed the club was sold to the World Unification Church due to the University's financial problems and a diminishing interest in developing alumni relations.
"Columbia was flat out hurting for money in those days," said Lawrence Guido, CC '65. The administration "was recovering from the distress of the late '60s and so there wasn't that much attention paid to alumni."
Until 1997, the club moved from place to place, among them the homes of the Women's Republican Club and the Williams College's Club, finally taking up permanent residence across the street from its original location in the same house as the Princeton University Club of New York, with which it now shares facilities.
Since finding a permanent home, membership in the club has skyrocketed. Over the last three years, club membership has increased by more than 700 people. It now has over 2,000 members in total.
According to Michael Foss, CC '03 and one of the club's youngest members, prior mismanagement was the major cause for the lack of membership. He emphasized, along with Guido, the continued necessity for a permanent space. "For a long time, people were embarrassed CU didn't have something comparable to the other Ivy League clubs," he said, adding that this new pride was something important to the increased membership and the meaning of the club in the community.