Organise a reunion
For the past 15 years, the MAA has helped medical alumni organise their reunions.
The MAA can help connect you with your classmates, mail out invitations and provide general support and advice.
Contact the Medical Alumni Association on +61 2 9036 3375 or email
How to organise your reunion! - A personal perspective
These notes that follow reflect our experience of organising reunions over four decades since my class graduated in January 1966. We held our first reunions 10 and 20 years after graduation. Since then we have enjoyed reunions every five years.
- Making contact. Contact Ms Diana Lovegrove at the MAA as soon as possible to inform her of your intention to hold a reunion (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will prevent any duplication and more importantly the MAA can assist you with your endeavour. They will know if someone else has started the process. They will:
o obtain current contact details for your Year from Alumni Office records
o arrange mail-outs to your class
o advertise your reunion in Radius, and
o place a notice of your reunion on the MAA website (www.alumni.med.usyd.edu.au/reunions/)
- Start early. Start early. Ideally, inform people about a year in advance. Many colleagues need adequate notice to plan their travel.
- Share the load with your organising team. Discuss the general plans for your reunion with a small, enthusiastic group of colleagues who may have joined you in organising previous reunions. They will assist by contacting friends and colleagues and helping with many other arrangements closer to the time of the reunion.
- Which Year is which? For some, there is still confusion about defining their Year. Reunions are based on the year of graduation (in my case 1966), not the year in which you may have completed final year (in my case again, 1965).
- Not me! Remember, not everyone wants to participate in reunions for health or other personal reasons. Some remain adamantly opposed to the idea, others can be gently persuaded, but then often there’s a final rush, so don’t be discouraged by an initial lack of interest.
- Finding further contact details. For your initial mail out to your class, ask the MAA for addresses, home and work telephone numbers, and – most importantly for future contact – current email addresses. While the Alumni Office will have the majority of these contact details, missing information can be found from:
o your Year’s Senior Year Book
o the most recent Medical Directory of Australia
o telephone directories www.whitepages.com.au, and sometimes, professional Colleges
As many don’t reply to the early requests, inevitably you must then rely on personal networks. Many will contact their friends or those working in the same specialty or region.
- Make it an extended weekend! For our past four reunions, we have held a concurrent conference for a day or one-and-a-half days. Only those who graduated in our Year speak at the conference. It’s not difficult to find speakers from among more than 300 in the one year. Based on our recent happy reunion, we suggest: registration and coffee late on a Friday morning; an early lunch; alternate sessions of 1-1½ hours for passions and science on Friday afternoon; informal dinners at restaurants away from the main venue that evening; a similar format for morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday morning and afternoon; reunion dinner on Saturday night; and farewell brunch on Sunday morning! As we all age and the decades slip by, be sure that everyone has a name label with large print!
- When is the best time? If you like the idea of an extended weekend, the end of the summer vacation period in January works well. This gives people returning to Sydney from overseas and interstate the chance to see family and friends. The Festival of Sydney is another attraction at that time. Others hold their reunions in autumn or in spring.
- Selecting a venue. Many choose to hold their reunion dinner in the Great Hall, or in other University of Sydney venues such as the refurbished Old Medical School. We did that too but then decided on beach-side venues in summer for an extended weekend – Manly, Bondi Beach or Brighton Beach. Other venues outside Sydney have been considered but these places often disadvantage those travelling from afar.
- Passions, hobbies and interests outside medicine. A huge factor in the success of our recent reunions has been to hold several sessions in which presenters tell their friends and colleagues what they do in their spare time with scientific presentations interspersed with a few talks in an hour or so on passions and hobbies.
- Biographies. We requested that everyone should send the story of their professional and personal lives, and a photo, in a single page. About half our year responded and laminated biographies were displayed during our reunion weekend. It can be amazing what you learn about even your best friends from student days.
- Charge a registration fee. Obviously this fee should be kept to a minimum. The funds are used for lunches and coffee breaks at the conference venue, as well as other expenses for hire of the venue and conference equipment. As an indication, we charged $160 for such expenses this year.
- Subsequent notices about your reunion. Maintain momentum by several more mail-outs every three months or so. As the date approaches, send more frequent emails to everyone, whether or not they have indicated that they will take part. Many change their mind in the last few weeks.
- Raise money for student scholarships or other projects. Contrary to popular opinion, student surveys highlight that many students experience financial hardship during their studies and would benefit from some assistance. The MAA will gladly provide advice about how your Year can contribute to scholarships, or other designated projects such as building restoration. An extra amount added to the registration ensures that everyone contributes!
- Keep in touch between reunions. You can arrange your own website for updates, photos and subsequent contact. We have yet to take up this idea but no doubt more recent graduates can rapidly use the technology, again with the assistance of the Medical Alumni Association.
- Take photos, write a report The MAA are keen for photos of the event and for your reunion report for the website and of course Radius.
- And other help. The University’s Alumni Office is now also very active and helpful too (www.usyd.edu.au/alumni).
Remember, start early – it eases the final burden for the organising team. It’s also a lot of fun!
I would be happy to send the material used for our most recent reunion to those organising reunions for their year. Please ask the MAA for my contact details.
Paul Lancaster (MBBS 1966)
Medical Alumni Association