Preserving the Living Part 2


My alumni audio interview project was partially successful.  (Yes, the glass is half full).

Somehow I had miscalculated.  I said in my last blog that alumni who come back for alumni weekend love their school and would be more than happy to be interviewed and reminisce. 

I have two students –Nate and Matt — who are bright, ambitious, and charming.  They were so enthusiastic about interviewing alumni they beat me to work so they could scour the campus for incoming alumni.  Just about every alumnus/alumna they approached politely declined the opportunity for an interview.   

 When Nate, Matt and I analyzed this we came to the conclusion that:

 lumni had come back to see friends and take part in the weekend activities

  1. A few were intimidated with the new technology
  2. Some didn’t even understand the concept of the internet

 Now, it wasn’t a complete failure.  By the end of the weekend my guys got 10 interviews and tons of photos and video.  Most of the interviews were very good with great stories and anecdotes that brought the alum’s particular period to life.  Two of them asked for CD copies because they didn’t have computers.  One fellow had never been interviewed and kept asking if he was doing okay.  He had some great things to share.

The fact that many older alumni don’t have computers just underscores the need to get these interviews.  These are people who rode to school on trains. They grew up in the Depression.   They interrupted their college education to fight in World War II.

 So we did get some rich material that will add much to our oral history project.

 But if I had it to do over (which I will, next year), I think I’ll do the asking myself.  That was my biggest mistake.  I began my career as a reporter.  I’ve spent 30 years in PR.  I have a lot of experience in persuading people to talk, knowing that once they start, they have a lot to say.  I know how to ease them into the whole process.

 Plus I have a lot of gray hair. When I ask, I suppose it has more credibility and maybe authority, than a 21-year-old college student, no matter how bright and sincere he is.

 Overall, for the first time experimenting with this, we did well, and I’m more enthusiastic about this than ever.  Our alumni, our retired faculty and staff, have important stories, anecdotes and insights that add valuable information in a colorful, personal way, to the histories of our institutions.

 I know you’re counting your life out in precious minutes these days. We’re all busy, too busy.  Then again, what’s a few hours when you’re capturing individual history and preserving it for generations?

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2 responses to “Preserving the Living Part 2

  1. Great, you had me all excited about your alumni interviews project, and now you’re saying it didn’t pan out.

    Your first few posts about this convinced me to convince our alumni director of the idea.

    I’m thinking that once the older folks watch your initial interviews, they’ll have a better concept of the end product, and they’ll be much more cooperative if given another opportunity.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Drew. I’m glad you convinced your alumni to try it because it is worthwhile. Next year, I’ll hand select alumni who are coming and contact them ahead of time.
    I’ll also do an updated post on this because our sesquicentennial site which has interviews of long dead Mansfield related folks and ones we are now interviewing is getting more than 1,000 page views a week.
    The thing to remember is we’re all pioneers in this new territory.
    Again, thanks for your thoughts.

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