The history of the Erasmus Alumni Club goes back more than 100 years and in it, three connected entities take centre stage. In the very midst of it all stands the Erasmus University. The other two organisations are the Erasmus Trustfonds Foundation and the Erasmus Alumni Association. All three entities bore different names at their respective times of conception. The current Erasmus Alumni Club is a combination of the last two organisations.
How it began
At the dawn of the 20th century, science did not enjoy a high status in Rotterdam. A few ‘harbour barons’, however, noticed the Dutch economy was growing and, with it, complexifying. They expected persons who understood the economy on a deeper level to attain better positions, faster; this was something they wished to bestow upon their sons. Thus the importance of scientifically-underpinned knowledge for future-proof careers was evident to them. They themselves had acquired knowledge through years of experience in business, but they thought the learning process could happen much more effectively. Economics, though, was not yet taught as an independent subject in the Netherlands (even if it was elsewhere in Europe and America) and so there was no comparable school in the country. On account of lacking interest from the people in Rotterdam in creating such an academy, the harbour barons were dependent on themselves and a couple of like-minded business owners to create and support the school.
After a couple of months of preparation, on the 29th of April 1913, the ‘Vereeniging tot Oprichting eener Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool’ (‘Association for the Establishment of a Dutch University for Commerce’) was founded. This association harboured educational functions as well as the financial responsibilities of the trust fund, to maintain the school. The educational institute was officially founded on November 8th, 1913, in what used to be the Doelen. The launching capital was over 140000 guilders. The first lecture was held two days later.
The graduates, the University and the trust fund
The founding of other universities with a similar focus during the 20’s meant competition in the education arena. Especially Amsterdam and Tilburg grew to become worthy rivals. This external pressure resulted in additional efforts from the University of Commerce in Rotterdam to improve its education. Critical reflection paved the way for an extended curriculum, which gave the University better scientific footing.
On February 27th, 1926, a group of former students commenced the ‘Nederlandsch Instituut van Doctorandi in de Handelswetenschap’ (‘Dutch Institute for Doctorates in the Science of Commerce’) for alumni of the University. A little over a year later, on March 12th, 1927, the association was made official by establishing its statutes. The goal of the association was to support the interests of its members, in whichever ways were (legally) possible; as well as to further the science of commerce. One of the association's core aims was to strengthen bonds between alumni. (Decades later, this association would become the Erasmus Alumni Association.)
The club funded and published its own quarterly magazine, which they intended to continue for as long as there was interest in commerce science from within the association. The club also housed a collection of relevant literature, which members could borrow for free. Book discussions would be regularly held at a later point. This way, the association endeavoured to keep members interested and up-to-date, even if commerce was no longer part of their daily lives.
In 1939 the university was awarded the ‘scientific status’, meaning it was eligible for financial support from the government. The name was changed to ‘Nederlansche Economische Hoogeschool’ (‘Dutch Economics University’). Over time, as the spelling of words in the Dutch language changed, the name followed suit. In 1956, the university separated its two entities, each of which would focus on their own main tasks: education or finance. Education was to be sustained by the university, while financial tasks, intended to ultimately support the university, were handed to the newly formed ‘Vereniging tot bevordering van de belangen der Nederlanse Economische Hogeschool’ (‘Association for furthering the interests of the Dutch Economic University’). This was the clearest form of the Trustfonds.
The Erasmus University Rotterdam, as it exists today, was born the 1st of February 1973. It was a fusion of the Dutch Economic University (which had been expanded 10 years prior with a Faculty for Social Sciences and one for Law) and the 5 year old Medical Faculty Rotterdam. The Trustfonds contributed 1,5 million guilders for its establishment. The trust fund that had existed for the previous medical faculty fused with the Trustfonds in 1977, although a ‘Trust Fund’ remained in existence separately for its traditional rights to nominate professors. These rights were brought under the fused Trustfonds in 1991, which was given the name ‘Association Trustfonds Erasmus University Rotterdam’. In 2005 this association fused with another trust fund, which had existed since 1920 to support underprivileged but promising students. Its goals were assimilated in the association.
The Trust Fund split in 2017, bringing the member-related tasks of the association into a new ‘Vereniging Erasmus Trustfonds’ (‘Erasmus Trustfonds Association’) and transferring the financial responsibilities into the ‘Stichting Erasmus Trustfonds’ (‘Erasmus Trustfonds Foundation’). This Foundation is the legal successor of the original association founded in 1913.
The final fusion took place in 2019, when the Erasmus Trustfonds Association merged with the Erasmus Alumni Association, which had been founded in 1926 for doctorates in the science of commerce. The new association serviced the development and flourishing of the Erasmus University Rotterdam and its alumni, and was given the name ‘Erasmus Alumni Trust’, retaining the focus and history of both organisations. In 2021, the name was changed to ‘Erasmus Alumni Club’.