Shortly after Nick Covino assumed the Presidency of William James College in 2002 he expressed an interest in reestablishing contact with the individuals who started the school in the 1970s and the original risk takers who came to the school as students or faculty. In September of 2005, after being appointed Special Assistant to the President, Stan Rosenzweig, who headed the planning group that worked to make the school a reality, collaborated with Nick Covino to conceptualize the idea of our Pioneers. They defined the Pioneers as every professional who played a role in the earliest days of the school's development and existence, extending from 1972 until 1981. This group, which numbers about 200 is headed by Rosenzweig and includes founders, trustees, faculty and early students.
In the fall of 2005 a letter was sent out to this population describing the purpose of the Pioneers, i.e., to reconnect them with the school and their most recent developments, and to invite them to a luncheon on November 7, 2005 where they could socialize with each other and learn about new programs and other recent developments. About 30 attended this first function including President Covino and several administrative staff. The attendees were informed about such new endeavors as the Latino Mental Health Program and the School Psychology Program. The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the palpable enthusiasm of the attendees and their pleasure at touching base again with old friends and acquaintances.
Since that first get-together, there have been two major Pioneer events scheduled each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. At the original gathering various goals and potential tasks for the group were expressed. To help work toward these goals a Pioneers Planning Group was established. This Planning Group, after exploring a number of options, felt that they could be of greatest value to the school by working to increase its visibility. It was further felt that this could be accomplished by sponsoring open meetings (Focus Groups), offering programs to the community and increasing the school's presence in the media. This Group also plays a role in developing each major Pioneers event.
Initially, there were four Focus Groups, all but one held in someone's home. Members of the general public were invited to hear about the growth and developments of the school and encouraged to share their thoughts and suggestions. These groups, which had from 8 to 27 participants, brought out many individuals who initially knew little or nothing about the existence of the school. The Planning Group eventually incorporated many of the suggestions into their planned events.
Over the years, the major Pioneer programs have had presenters from the administration of the school or have paid tribute to some of the earliest founders of the school. The last Pioneer event was a cocktail party in the home of the Dean of the Doctoral program. The next event, which will take place in the fall of 09, will be a luncheon and feature Dr. Covino, President of William James College, speaking on the most recent developments in the school. It is expected that, in the future, the Pioneers will be focusing more on increasing the role of the school alums, a group that represents over half of the Pioneer population.