International Alumni Chapters

​If at First You Don’t Succeed, Throw Another Party

Badgers are a far-flung bunch: there are 13 active international Wisconsin Alumni Association chapters, six of which are located in Southeast Asia. That region has long been the hub of the UW’s international network, as the first international alumni group was founded in the Philippines in the first decade of the 20th century.

In April 1909, the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine recorded that UW graduates in Manila had gathered for the “first annual Philippine Interfraternity banquet.” Held at the Hotel Metropole, the event was attended by seven alumni, three of whom held government positions and four of whom were in the U.S. Army. At the time, the Wisconsin Alumni Association knew of at least 150 graduates living on the Philippine island of Luzon.

However, a 1910 letter from Albert Ralph Hager BS1897 indicates that another event had taken place well before the Metropole gathering. Hager, who eventually served as president of the Philippine alumni chapter, said the first event was open to any man or woman who had ever called Wisconsin home. We don’t know exactly when it took place, though Hager’s letter helps to date it before 1908. But “the club was never strong nor active and died young,” he wrote.

On February 8, 1913, the fledgling international chapter finally gained some traction with a banquet at the newly built Manila Hotel. “The blood-curdling and throat-tickling varsity yell found its echo in strange noises from across the Luneta, where the great Manila carnival and Far Eastern Olympiad was being held,” wrote Warren Smith BS1902, PhD1908, who served as the group’s secretary. Eighteen alumni, along with spouses, attended.

It’s a small world for Badgers.

Albert Ralph Hager split his time between Manila and Shanghai, where he worked for Technical Supply Company. He once wrote to President Charles Van Hise BME1879, BS1880, MS1882, PhD1892 to advocate for scholarships to increase the number of Chinese students at the UW. “I receive a good many requests from Chinese young men for information regarding colleges in the States and have advised a number regarding their choice of college,” he wrote, also praising Wisconsin’s then-new Cosmopolitan Club as a draw for international students. [Link to William Stewart/International students]

Hager was repatriated to the United States in 1943 after surviving the Japanese occupation of China during WWII. Coincidentally, he arrived in New York on the same ship as another intrepid Badger: Emily Hahn BS1926. While on board, Hager teased Hahn about the time she “borrowed” movie tickets from him in Shanghai.