1931: Foundation of HSG Alumni

The idea of founding an association of all HSG alumni first came up in 1916 at a meeting of Mercuria San Gallensis, one of the HSG’s oldest fraternities. The suggestion came from two board members of the fraternity Henri Stucki and Emil Walder. They proposed to organise a yearly event as a reunion of all school graduates. During the First World War, however, the implementation of this proposal was repeatedly put on hold, and it was not until 1919 that a group of alumni drafted the statutes and founded the HSG’s first alumni association. However, its significance remained low in the following years and the idea of an official network remained a vision of the future.

It was not until the annual celebration in the winter semester of 1930-31 that the association began its official existence as an organisation that was intended to become – and immediately did become – the most important link between HSG and the public. As President Oettli stated, looking back on the founding day of the association, “the HSG vision had never been so broadly and enthusiastically welcomed in our town.”

It was largely due to Dr Emil Duft’s enthusiastic efforts that the idea of an alumni association found support among the authorities, the citizens, and the business community of St. Gallen. By the end of its first year the organisation had as many as 253 members. The association was also greatly supported by Dr Curt E. Wild, who presided over the association from its foundation in 1931 to 1964 and contributed significantly to the HSG’s funding through multiple fundraising campaigns.

Curt E. Wild
Curt E. Wild

In the first 25 years of its existence, the alumni association was able to attract no less than 2,000 members. Through membership fees and fundraising activities, it was repeatedly able to support HSG with considerable sums of money while being a point of contact for criticism, wishes and suggestions . In the winter semester of 1935, it started issuing a school’s magazine, which covered current news around HSG as well as the school’s latest research publications.

In the following years, the influence of the association grew continuously, and it was gaining more and more say in the development of the school, which resulted in such significant changes as the introduction of intermediate examinations or the requirement that students should complete an internship prior to applying to the graduate programme.

In 1964, Walter Rheiner (1964 – 1969) took over the presidency of the alumni association. In 1965, the idea was born to initiate a "mental refresher course" for alumni and in 1968 a continuing education programme was introduced; it was further developed under Adrian Hemmer.

Under the presidency of Heinz R. Wuffli (1969 – 1982), as a result of a fundraising campaign in 1972, the association purchased HSG’s first small computer, hence ushering in the computer age at HSG. In this period, the association counted over 5,000 members.

In the 1980s the association plaid a major role in gaining the approval for the project to expand the Rosenberg campus (inaugurated in 1989) through its public relations work. During the 1990s, the alumni association was particularly active in the further development of what today is known as executive education programme, as well as its international networking. The promotion of women was also a topic that the association focused on heavily, which led to the appointment of Dr Carla Wassmer in 1997 as the first woman president of the association had been called in the meantime.

The St. Gallen association of alumni has undergone an impressive transformation over the years as stated by Dr Frank Schnewlin, HSG alumnus and the vice-president of SwissLife’s board of directors: “Our school has developed from a business academy to a business university, and so too our alumni association has gone all the way from being a local club to becoming a professional, international network, focused on business, ongoing further education and personal development, with a guaranteed lifelong ‘return on education’".

Since its first step towards professionalisation in 1997, when a dedicated unit was set up to oversee the association’s work, HSG Alumni has developed into one of the three largest alumni organisations in the German-speaking world. Through its support of HSG projects and initiatives in the areas of graduate and postgraduate education, HSG Alumni has created added value for the alumni, the university as well as its students and faculty.

At the General Assembly on 13 June 2003, the board of HSG Alumni was reappointed and Dr Urs Landolf became the new president. Under his presidency the board’s activities were divided be-tween three areas of responsibility which was supposed to help develop an effective strategy for further professionalisation: "Friendraising" to maintain and expand the network of alumni, "Brainraising" to support the exchange of knowledge and experience between the University and alumni, and "Fundraising" to promote the financial support of the University by alumni in areas not covered by the canton.

A central project for the coming years was the further expansion of the executive education centre WBZ Holzweid including the construction of what is known today as ‘HSG Alumni Building’. Following its extension, the executive education centre was intended to become the residence of the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law (ES-HSG), which was launched under the leadership of the former HSG president Professor Peter Gomez in 2006.

In May 2008 the WBZ Holzweid was inaugurated under the new name ‘Executive Campus HSG’. The part of the project that was financed by the HSG Alumni Foundation and previously known as ‘Project Campus’, was renamed to ‘HSG Alumni Building’ in recognition of the important role that the HSG alumni played in the realisation of the expansion of the centre.

Various projects within the context of overall digitalisation were realised by HSG Alumni in the fol-lowing years.  The media network was expanded significantly through the Member Benefits mem-bership programme, the HSG InSite website presenting various projcts that require funding and the HSG Spotlight webinar series, created in collaboration with the Execute School.

Almost 32,000 members are now part of the HSG Alumni network. The focus is on knowledge transfer through high-calibre events in Switzerland and abroad as well as the commitment to co-financing further expansion of the University through the new learning center SQUARE.