Hundreds of alumni will descend on Durham for our annual Homecoming Weekend celebration. Their presence here reminds us that alumni are an indispensable, though often overlooked, part of the Duke community. Having stood in our shoes before, alumni are uniquely positioned to offer valuable advice and assistance for students. Students should to take this opportunity to connect with alumni both young and old.

Alumni are much more than just walking checkbooks. They possess a wealth of knowledge about Duke and the world outside of our gothic wonderland. Furthermore, alumni are able and willing to mentor students, provide valuable information and aid students in achieving their aspirations.

Alumni are an extremely important institutional resource for students to engage with when searching for career advice. Specifically, the Career Center's and Office of Alumni Affairs' Duke Connect program allows students to reach out to alumni working in a variety of fields for career information. Alumni who participate in the program list their information in the database, allowing students to contact them for career information. Students should take advantage of this tool, among the many others Duke provides, when researching job or internship opportunities.

Alumni can also make an impact in students’ academic endeavors. The Thompson Writing Program’s Reader Project matches students who are working on a writing project, such as a senior thesis, with an alumnus who is engaged in that field of study. This allows students to get feedback from someone who has detailed knowledge about their topic.

This weekend also presents an opportunity for Duke’s development office to make serious inroads in the University’s donation goals. The approximately $350 million alumni donated in Fiscal Year 2012 is impressive, and we are very grateful for that support. This number pales in comparison, however, to some of our peer institutions. In Fiscal Year 2012, Stanford University raised over $1 billion dollars, followed by Harvard University at around $650 million, Yale University at approximately $544 million, Columbia University at around $490 million and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at approximately $379 million. If we hope to realize our “outrageous ambitions,” we may have to gently ask our alumni to give more to the University.

Alumni are forever an integral part of the Duke family, connecting past to present. So, to alumni returning to the hallowed grounds of their alma mater, we welcome you with open arms.