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Latest Planning Details For 55 Reunion Now Available For Information And Comments

This is the latest 55 Reunion update from Gary Hyde...

Let me take a little of your time and discuss where we have been over the past couple of years and what we might conclude or learn from that journey.

During the past 24 months, among many things, we have done four on-line surveys of the entire class, coordinated many times with reunion POC’s at West Point, concluded where we wanted to have the reunion, decided when we wanted to have it, communicated with hotel sales reps at some 17 potential lodging venues, conducted face-to-face meetings with the five short-list lodging venue reps, had follow-up face-to-face meetings with the three finalists for lodging and reunion HQ, and completed a final contract with the hotel chosen as base of operations for the 55th. 

As you can imagine and probably observed I have learned a lot and come to many convictions about the reunion during that period.  Let me recap some of my thoughts, convictions, and lessons learned here for your info and comment as you wish.

1.  The Surveys

a.   I am convinced that these surveys were invaluable in getting us to where we are today.

b.  The surveys allowed us to gather unfiltered input from the entire class so that we could be sure we were moving in the direction that the majority of the class wanted. 

c.   We determined where the class wanted to go and when they wanted to go there.  We know what they liked about past reunions, what they did not like, and what they would like to see for the 55th.

d.  As far as I know, no class planning committee has ever had the benefit of this level of understanding.

2.  Hotel Selection

a.   Competition, communication, and articulating our wish-lists were key factors in finding the best hotel for our purposes.

b.  We looked at 17 or so potential locations.  Communicated with hotel reps, gave them our top level wish-list, and obtained preliminary proposal info from the reps.

c.   From the preliminary inputs, we down-selected to five hotels that met our initial selection criteria.  We refined our wish list, provided it to the hotel reps, then met face-to-face with them to explain each item on the list.  We asked them to respond to the list and give us preliminary proposals.

d.  We learned some things from the meetings and the resulting updated props.  From these insights, we eliminated two of the hotels that did not meet our minimum requirements and we refined our wish list.

e.   We met again with the three finalists to once again go item by item thru our wish list and obtained final proposals from the three hotels.

f.   We ended with three offers that would work for us, but one was clearly better than the other two.  You saw the concessions the Marriott offered and the cost benefits, including the comparison with the 50th costs – potentially a $110k+ cost differential for the class as a whole.

g.  So I learned again the value of competition, working closely with your supplier/vendor, and not being afraid to ask for what you would really like to have.

3.  Flexible Itinerary

a.  More flexibility was an issue mentioned frequently in the surveys.  Folks wanted a more flexible schedule.  They indicated that they felt rushed and herded with little time to relax.

b.  We are responding to these suggestions in several ways:

  i.  We have a five-night/four-day stay, which opens up much more time to relax.

   ii.  There are no mandatory formations.  Every event is optional.

iii.  There is a lot of free time in the itinerary for folks to pick and choose what they want to do.

iv.  We have numerous options for day trips, tours, or visits.

   v.  We have optional “Featured Activities” each day, which I will talk about later.

vi.  Buses are optional with POV car pools an option.

  vii.  We will stagger bus departures based on what folks want to do.

   viii.  We can move buses as they fill up rather than holding all until all are full.  We do not need all buses to travel in a big convoy.

4.  Featured Activities

a.  Several events and attractions were mentioned by large numbers of folks.  These, of course, included alumni events at West Point .  In addition, many indicated an interest in a day trip to NYC and attractions at Hyde Park , particularly the Culinary Institute.  So we are offering each day what I call a “Featured Activity.”  This is an activity that I anticipate a fairly good sized group will want to sign up for.  Here is the lineup.

b.  Saturday – Hyde Park

  i.  This package is a visit to Hyde Park , which, although often only associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, in fact includes several interesting attractions. Travel time is about 80 minutes and I expect the folks will want to car pool.  However, buses can be arranged if there is enough interest.  Lunch and or dinner at CIA are options.  CIA usually hosts a dinner on Saturday nights.

   ii.  Attractions include:

1.  Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt

2.  Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

3.  Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site

4.  Val-Kill Cottage

5.  Vanderbilt Mansion

6.  Culinary Institute of America – Tour, lunch, and dinner options

c.   Sunday – NYC

  i.  This package is a day-trip to visit New York City .  I think folks will opt for Travel by bus, but car pooling is an option.  Preliminary outline is departure from hotel at 0900 or so, drop off at the 9/11 Memorial between Rector and Thames St (a standard bus drop off spot).  Once in the city, participants can choose tourist buses, subway, taxis, and/or walking, plus any combination of these, as modes of travel between attractions. Attractions visited will be at the option of participants in groups or as individuals.  Return buses will pick up at Bryant Park, 42nd & 6th Ave (near Times Square ).  Two return times, 1630 early departure and 2100 late departure for those that want to have dinner in the city.

   ii.  Many attractions in NYC.  Mostly folks will be on their own.

1.  I expect that the 9/11 Memorial will be popular, so we will likely set up group visit for that.

2.  Some other attractions may warrant group visit also.  This we will determine in future surveys.

d.    Monday – West Point Day 1

  i.  This package is a day-trip to West Point .  There are scheduled alumni activities and time for individual tours.  I expect that there will be mix of bus travel and POV car pools.  We will have continuously running shuttle buses on post moving between stops of interest.  All events are optional and we have options for travel times.

   ii.  Preliminary Schedule:

1.  0800-1700  POV travel to and from WP

2.  0830   Early bus departure from hotel– drop off TBD

3.  0930 – 1330 individual tours

4.  1130-1230  Optional lunch at hotel for those that did not catch the early bus

5.  1200-1300  Optional lunch Eisenhower Hall for those that did catch the early bus

6.  1215   Late bus departure from hotel to Eisenhower Hall

7.  1315-1330 Hell Cat Performance – Eisenhower Hall

8.  1330-1430   Academy & AOG Update Briefings

9.  1430-1500  Travel to Cadet Chapel

10.  1500-1600   Memorial Service – Cadet Chapel

11.  1600-1630   Organ Recital – Cadet Chapel

12.  1600-1630  Buses depart Cadet Chapel for hotel

e.   Tuesday – West Point Day 2

  i.  Similar to Monday, this package is a day-trip to West Point .  Again, there are scheduled alumni activities and time for individual tours.  I expect that there will be mix of bus travel and POV car pools.  We will have continuously running shuttle buses on post moving between stops of interest.  All events are optional and we have options for travel times.

   ii.  Preliminary Schedule:

1.  0800-1700  POV travel to and from WP

2.  0900   Bus departure from hotel– drop off Doubleday Field

3.  1000-1045  Alumni Ceremony Eisenhower Statue

4.  1100-1145  Cadet Review on the Plain

5.  1215-1315  Alumni Luncheon in Cadet Mess

6.  1315-1600  Free time

7.  1400-1600  Bus departures to hotel – buses depart when full

8.  1600  Last bus to hotel

5.  More Time to Relax, Socialize, and Tour

a.   In the surveys 80% agreed that we should have more time to relax and socialize.

b.  Many complained about agendas being too full and having to rush from one event to the next.

c.   Furthermore, I have for sometime been puzzled about the fact that for mini-reunions we often have five-night/four-day events, but for the big five year reunions we jam everything into three-night/two day events.

d.  For the 55th we are responding to the comments with several initiatives, including:

  i.  A five-night/four-day event.  The old format had just a little time at breakfast, before dinner, dinner, and a little time after dinner for social time, say 12 hours or so over the entire period.  Our 55th will have more like 40 hours available for free time.

   ii.  The new event spans four days, providing two days for the alumni activities at West Point and two days for any activity one chooses, including day trips to NYC and Hyde Park, the two special activities in the master plan.

iii.  In addition, in the past we had no private room available to relax and meet.  For the 55th we will have four comfortable hospitality rooms, fully stocked, and available 24 hours a day.

iv.  We can also streamline the days at West Point, allowing us to leave at staggered times from the hotel and return at staggered times to the hotel from West Point .

6.  Keep Costs Down

a.   This is another hot button that a large number of folks commented on in the surveys or agreed with as a hot button.  We have done a lot to lower the costs compared to past reunions and keep the costs down.  I will just briefly list some of the initiatives here and provide more detail on most of them elsewhere in the document.

  i.  Hotel Package.  The hotel package we selected and the concessions we obtained is a very significant cost reduction item for the class.  You have seen the cost impacts in some of my past memos.  Let me just repeat the comparison to the 50th costs.

1.  If we used the Westchester Marriott costs from the 50th and plugged them in for the 55th.

a.   Average Cost per Couple per Day - Westchester Marriott prices would be $140 per day higher

b.  Total Cost per Day for Entire Class - Westchester Marriott prices would be $27,933 per day higher

c.   Total Reunion Cost for Entire Class - Westchester Marriott prices would be $111,733 higher

   ii.   Room Costs

1.  55th room cost is $139.00 and includes a buffet breakfast and free wifi.

2.  50th cost was $149.00 and did not include breakfast or wifi.

iii.  Tax on Room

1.  In the past we had to pay sales tax on the room.

2.  For 55th we do not.

iv.  Breakfast Costs

1.  Breakfasts are complimentary for 55th.

2.  For 50th the average cost per person per day for breakfast was $25.00.

   v.  Dinner Wines

1.  For the 55th we can supply our own wines for cocktail hour and dinner with no corkage fee.

2.  This is large savings for those that drink wine.  For past reunions, we had to buy by the glass or bottle at regular hotel bar prices.

vi.  Banquet Dinners

1.  These are expensive and always more costly than if one were just to go to the hotel restaurant and eat.

2.  For 55th, we have a 15% discount on banquet food prices.

  vii.  Hospitality Rooms

1.  In the past there were none.  So folks had no private place to relax and visit.  We had only the hotel bars and lobbies where we had to pay bar prices for beverages and snacks.

2.  For the 55th, we will have four hospitality rooms that we can stock with food and beverages at our costs.  All you can eat and drink available 24 hours a day. Three of the rooms are comp’d by the hotel. 

   viii.  Buses

1.  Before everyone had to pay for the buses, whether they used them or not.

2.  For 55th, buses are optional.  If you want to use them you pay, if you do not want to use them you do not pay.

ix.  Photographer

1.  We had professional photographers in the past.

2.  I believe we can use class volunteers for this, since we are taking thousands of our own pics at these kinds of functions.

   x.  Welcome Packets

1.  We had hard copy welcome packages in the past.  Getting them together was labor intensive and costly.

2.  I submit we can streamline and eliminate the costs by transmitting the welcome packages electronically on-line.

xi.  Memorabilia

1.  In the past everyone had to pay for the items for the guys and gals, whether they wanted them or not.

2.  For 55th, these should be optional.  Folks that want them can buy them, those that do not want them do not have to pay for something they do not want.

  xii.  Hotel Shuttle

1.  I am not sure what we had in the past for a hotel shuttle, but I imagine it was limited if available at all.

2.  For the 55th we have free hotel shuttle available all days for use within 3 miles of the hotel.

7.  AOG Support

a.   For many years the AOG has been a valuable resource for reunion planning and support.  Feedback I have gotten indicates that classes have been very pleased with the support they received.

b.  However, that support now comes with a price.  At some point in the not too distant past, I believe, the AOG decided to create categories of support and charge fees based on the level of support they provided.  Here is their menu.

c.   Here is my take on the options:

  i.  No Cost. 

1.  Reunion Consulting.  I have gotten some help in this area, but not much on hotels.  We had to dig that out on our own.

2.  Data on classmates.  Ed Brown and Sam Weiss have all this.

3.  Email Lists.  Ed has the list and uses the AOG for distribution of our emails.

   ii.  At Cost

1.  We may use this.  Will get prices and compare with other printers.

iii.  Black Package @ 5% of all monies processed

1.  Reunion info website – we do not need it.  We have a website.

2.  On-line Surveys – We are doing our own and these are much easier and convenient.

3.  Mail-in Registration.  We are not using mail-in.  Ours will be web-based using our survey app.

4.  On-line Registration.  This would be convenient, however, past reunion committees have recommended not using credit cards since there is substantial charge for such service.

5.  Cost of Black Package for us could be around $9000.  Not worth it to us since we would not use much, if anything, of the services offered.

iv.  Gold Package @ 12% of all monies processed

1.  Includes all items above plus:

2.  Registration Packets.  Not needed if we go with my recommendation to do this electronically and eliminate the paper packets at the hotel.  I will discuss this later.

3.  Staff Registration Table.  This is helpful, but I am thinking we can streamline this and essentially do away with the old sign-in table of the past.   More to follow on this.

4.  Full Service Reunion Planning and Execution.  As we have seen, hotel negotiations are best done by the stakeholders.  The AOG would not and could not have gotten the many concessions we got – this confirmed by what the Class of 64 paid for their 50th, some of which I had a chance to review.  Other things like stuffing packages we likely do not need.  Staffing and support during the reunion is valuable, but alone not worth the cost.

5.  Cost of Gold Package for us could be around $21,000.  Again way too much for the value of services we want or would use.

   v.  So my bottom line on AOG support is that there are some nice things they do, but except for some pay-as-you-go items it is way overpriced for the value the Class would receive.

8.  Welcome Packets

a.   Traditionally, there have been welcome packets distributed at the hotel.  These have contained paper copies of agendas, events, welcome letter from class president, list of attendees, etc.

b.  Preparing and distributing these packets is costly, labor intensive, and of somewhat limited value in my opinion.

c.   I propose replacing these paper copies with an electronic welcome package distributed by email to attendees prior to their arrival.  Attendees can decide what they want in hard copy and print that for themselves.

d.  In addition all the latest information on events and tours will be posted in the hospitality room (see below for info on the HR).

e.   A few copies of selected items can be made available in the hospitality room for those that lose their copies or find they need a copy of something.

9.  Registration Table

a.   In the past we had a registration table located somewhere in a hall or other space folks could find.  It had to manned for long hours the first two days.  Folks signed in here and picked up their welcome packets.

b.  I think we can do away with the registration table for the 55th.  First, we will not have welcome packets to hand out, at least if we go with my recommendation.  Second, we now have a main hospitality room that is available 24 hours a day.  In this room we will have all the admin and logistics info published on the walls, so people arriving can get all the hot skinny they need.  Third, we do not need a list of who has arrived, we can get this from the hotel each evening or first thing in the morning.

10.  Hospitality Rooms

a.   The number one item mentioned in the survey for things liked at the reunions was the chance to socialize with their classmates.  Unfortunately, past reunions did not have hospitality rooms to provide a comfortable private location to relax and meet with classmates. For the 55th we will have four such hospitality rooms.

b.  Main Hospitality Room.  The main HR is one of the banquet rooms and is just across the hall from the large banquet rooms where we will have the class dinners. This will be the main room for informal social get-togethers, coordination meetings, reunion information, and cocktail hours before dinners.  The room will be available 24 hours a day.   The Class can stock the room with soft drinks, tea, coffee, and dry snacks (a concession that was somewhat difficult to obtain – a point I will discuss later).  State regulations and insurance restrictions prevent the hotel from allowing us to supply our own alcoholic beverages in this room.  It is a fairly large room that can handle 100-150 with a foyer for additional space for cocktail hours before dinner.

c.   Auxiliary Hospitality Rooms.  The Marriott is comp’ing two suites and we are reserving another that will be used as auxiliary hospitality rooms for the class.  The suites are furnished with comfortable furniture and have bar areas with sink and refrig.  In these we are able to stock our own beverages, including alcoholic beverages, and snacks.  These suites will be available 24 hours a day for smaller groups to use for informal social activities.  What we do in these rooms is not subject to the restrictions on the banquet rooms mentioned above.

11.  Class Supply Own Food and Beverage for Hospitality Rooms

a.   This is an option we have been able to obtain for our mini’s and for golfing grads.  So I did not expect this to be a major issue.

b.  I was wrong, it was a significant issue for the Main Hospitality Room.  It was not an issue for suites or guest rooms – here the hotels use a don’t ask/don’t tell approach.

c.   All the hotels have a contract clause that says that any food or beverage consumed in the hotel must be provided by the hotel.  Further, we learned that insurance requirements and state regulations require that all alcoholic beverages be served by the hotel.

d.  So when we asked for a main hospitality room, all readily agreed, but all said their policy was the hotel had to supply the food and beverages.

e.   I realized early on we were not going to change their minds about alcoholic beverages and any perishable snacks.  So we restated our request to be only non-alcoholic drinks and dry snacks.  We also made this a threshold requirement – ie, a must-have for us.  In the end all three finalists agreed to our request to provide our own non-alcoholic beverages and snacks in the main hospitality room.  They all gave tacit approval for us to do anything in our suites that we wished – don’t ask/don’t tell.

12.  Memorial Room

a.   When we toured Israel this spring, Pete Gleichenhaus (our host) got us a tour of the Israeli West Point.  Pete’s friend who owns the tour company is a graduate and arranged the visit.  It was very interesting and occurred on their Memorial Day, so we not only got to visit the school, but also were invited to the evening Memorial Day ceremony.

b.  In Israel , all young persons must go direct from high school into government service, mostly to the IDF.  So their West Point is a high school.  The school is small and graduates 65 or so each year.  They go to college after their required government service.

c.   While we were visiting the school, the hosts took us to a room that they used as a memorial room for all the grads that had been killed in combat.  It was a simple room, but very meaningful.  On the walls were single page tributes to each of the fallen grads.  Picture and short bio.  The visit to the room made a deep impression on me and I think on all of us.

d.  As I thought about the room, it occurred to me that the idea would be something that we could have for our 55th.  A Memorial Room at the hotel with a one page tribute for each of our deceased classmates on the walls of the room.  I envision a standard format with picture from the Howitzer, some basic data (DOB, POB, died xx, etc), maybe some short career history like is in the register, awards and decorations, and then the obit/writeup.  All sized to fit the template.  Most of the data are available at the class website.  A sample tribute page is attached.  It shows the current template we are using.

e.   There are currently 189 or so deceased classmates/ex-classmates.  So pulling this together and creating the one page tributes for the walls is a fairly large job.  In fact I am getting some push back from some classmates who are saying that this sounds too hard.  It is hard, but I think well worth the effort.  Besides that is why they pay the planning committee the big bucks.  Bob Hampton has agreed to help with this and has completed the first drafts.  He has done this kind of thing and is ideal to help draft the wall tributes.

f.   The memorial room would be a quiet room, separate from the hospitality room, in which folks could walk the walls and think about and remember guys they knew.  I reserved such a room at the Marriott.  We think we could have post-it notes or paper so that folks could write remembrances, eg “I remember xxxx………….”  We could also have some additional resources on the table, including copies of the Howitzers, Registers, 50th Yearbook.  Around the room could be memorabilia, such as cadet uniforms, tar buckets, etc.  We are also thinking about west point music playing softly in the background.

13.  Complimentary Buffet Breakfast

a.   This is a concession that evolved as we went thru the negotiations.

b.  When I reviewed the costs from past reunions and looked at what the hotels charge for private breakfast buffets, I initially decided that we would not plan on private breakfasts and let everyone decide on their own what the wanted and when.  We did in our initial wish list indicate we would like to have discounts of some sort for those that wished breakfasts.

c.   Then I went on some trips with classmates and saw that all enjoyed a breakfast as part of their lodging package.  So we changed our wish list to include a request for a room package with breakfast included (B&B if you will).  We asked the hotels to include in their updated proposal a room breakfast combo.  The argument used was that while almost all of us would opt for breakfast, at our age we would not be eating very much.  Therefore, the hotels should consider offering their buffet breakfast at a significantly reduced price and that I felt they would still make out from a cost standpoint.

d.  The response from the Marriott exceeded my expectations – they offered buffet breakfasts included at no change in their prior room price.  They even made it applicable for three in a room.  One more of the other hotels also included breakfast (for two) at no cost and one did not.

e.   Similar lesson here – had we not asked for it we would not have gotten it.

14.  Discount for Banquet Meals

a.   The costs for banquet meals are very high in my opinion.  So we requested some concession on the costs.

b.  We argued that at our ages we eat less.  So there must be someway that the chef can size the portions for seniors and therefore charge less.

c.   The Marriott responded with a 15% discount for banquet dinners.

d.  Again, had we not asked we would not have gotten this concession.

15.  Dinner Wines

a.   We understood that the hotels would not give us happy hour prices for dinner, but we asked if they would feature a house red and house white wine at the dinners at reduced prices.

b.  Again the Marriott exceeded my expectations by offering the Class the option of supplying its own wine with no corkage fee.  This is an option that I had not even thought of and is a very significant cost benefit to the Class.

c.   Had we not been conducting a dialogue with the folks and been in a known competitive environment we would not have gotten this very attractive concession.

16.  Option to Change Room Commitment after Contract Date

a.   Normally for these types of contracts, when you sign the contract you make a “Room Commitment”, which is included in the contract as a room “block”.  You then are guaranteeing that you will fill a certain percentage of these rooms (usually 80-90 percent).  If you fail to meet the min level the Class then has to pay for the unused rooms.

b.  Even though this is standard for all such contracts, as far as I know, I always felt it was inequitable to the extent that the customers signed the contract months or years in advance and had to take all the risk of meeting the original room block.  Further, I thought it was unfair because the hotels reservation cycle is just weeks or maybe a couple of months ahead of a reservation date.   Thus they were probably going to fill any unused rooms anyway.  In essence, they would be getting paid double for a room.

c.   Therefore, in our meetings with the hotel reps, we emphasized our concern about the age of our class at the reunion time and the unfortunate fact that we will lose attendees for emergency reasons right up to and even during the reunion.  Thus we asked for as much flexibility to change the block of rooms and the corresponding guarantee to as late as possible and to something that was equitable to both the hotel and the Class. 

d.  Again, the Park Ridge Marriott exceeded my expectations by supporting a 90 day decision date prior to Event Date to release any unsold rooms in block without group incurring any penalty.  This is a very valuable and important concession and one unique to the Marriott offer.  In fact, something that was beyond what I imagined we might achieve and one that I have never heard offered by any other hotel.

e.   Lesson – ask for what you think is fair and justify why you believe it is equitable.

17.  Room Cancellation Policy

a.   This is another issue that bothered me.  Sometimes hotels put a cancellation restriction in the group contracts that is more restrictive (ie, further in advance of the check in time) than what they offer the regular customer.

b.  Therefore, we requested that our folks have the same cut off as any other customer.  The Marriott agreed and will allow room reservations to be cancelled up to 1800 on day of arrival with no penalty.

18.  Shuttle Service

a.   Many of the hotels offered some type of shuttle service for local travel.  In the case of the Marriott they offered complimentary shuttle service within a two mile radius, Monday – Friday.

b.  This did not really meet our needs since the primary times we needed the shuttle was likely to be on Saturday and Sunday.  Further, when I studied the map, I saw that two miles was just not large enough to get a large number of stores and restaurants in range.

c.   So we requested that the shuttle be made available on Saturday and Sunday and that the radius be extended to three miles for the reasons stated above.  The Marriott agreed.

d.  Lesson – do not accept standard policies if they do not meet your preferences.  It does not hurt to ask.

19.  Buses

a.   Too much time on buses was the single largest complaint about past reunions.  In the past buses were mandatory (at least you had to pay for them whether you used them or not).

b.  We were able to cut down travel time by 20-25%, but we could not reduce it as much as people would want.  The fact of life is that there are no large hotels close to West Point .

c.   We can however make using them optional.  Folks will have the option to use the buses or travel by POV.  If they do not want the bus, they will not have to pay for it.

d.  We can make using the buses more convenient.  We can run them at different times both from and to the hotel and move them as they fill up rather than waiting for all to fill and moving in convoy.

e.   We can also provide shuttle buses/vans on post that will run a round-robin circuit around the post.  That way folks can get around to visit what they want without having to be herded onto a convoy of buses.

20.  Mementos and Gifts

a.   Traditionally we have had some sort of memento for everyone (like ball cap) and gift for the ladies at the reunion.

b.  In the surveys, several commented that these should be optional rather than mandatory.  In the end if we have these all have to pay whether they want the item or not.  No matter what we picked for these, there would be, I am sure, many who would really not want the items.

c.   I agree with the comments and propose we make every such item optional.  If you want a memento, of which we will offer several choices, and/or if you want a jewelry item for your wife, then you can order it.  We can offer several options by working with the AOG gift shop.  This ensures that guys that do not want an item do not have to pay for it, particularly important for our classmates that are on very restricted budgets.

21.  Alcoholic Beverages

a.   In the past for group events and hospitality rooms we typically charged a standard charge per person for the beverages, snacks, and or food.  I have now realized that having a flat rate is not fair to those that do not consume alcoholic beverages.  For the Orlando mini’s I now collect different amounts depending on whether or not the person wants alcoholic beverages.

b.  For the 55th, I propose that charges for the hospitality room and dinner wine be based on whether one wants alcoholic drinks or does not want alcoholic drinks.  Easy to collect this preference in the surveys as I do for the Orlando mini’s.

22.  In-room WiFi

a.   The class of hotels we were considering sometimes have free wifi in the lobby and charge for it in the rooms.  Some even charge for wifi in the lobby.  It bothered me that in the hotel families, like Hilton and Marriott, the low end hotels had free wifi and the high end charged for it.

b.  So one of the hot buttons we presented to the hotels was our negative feelings about them charging for wifi.  The Marriott agreed to provide free wifi in the rooms.

23.  Room Reservations

a.   In the past, each individual had to call the hotel and make their own reservation.  This is another process we can streamline.

b.  For the 55th I propose that we streamline the process by using a centralized reservation process.  

c.   Here is how it works.  In our registration survey, we collect all the data needed for the hotel reservation (we normally do this anyway).  Then our Reservation Czar makes all the reservations from the master list by sending the necessary info to the hotel POC.  Once the reservations are confirmed we now know in real-time who has reservations.  We periodically send confirmed lists out to the class. 

d.  I am using this process with the golfing grads.  Reservations for that event are much more complex and there were major problems in the past when individuals were required to make their own reservations.

24.  Billing and Payments

a.   For past reunions the class collected payments for many group reunion expenses, including dinners, buses, admin and logistics costs, etc. and deposited these collected funds into the class master account maintained by the AOG.  These expenses were then paid from the class master account direct to the vendor.  The class is a non-profit organization, therefore any payments from the master account for goods or services that benefit the entire class are tax exempt.

b.  On the other hand, lodging expenses were paid individually by each attendee and consequently were not tax exempt.

c.   For the 55th I propose that lodging expenses also be paid from the class master account and will therefore be tax exempt.  This will be a cost saving of 7% for all lodging expenses.  Each attendee will make payments for all group expenses to the master account.  Then we will distribute payments from the master account for all the group expenses, including hotel rooms.

25.  Name Tags

a.   In the past we have used pin-on buttons, usually with Howitzer picture and name.

b.  The pin on buttons received mixed reviews.  Some liked them, some did not.

c.   The AOG recommends and many classes now are going with lanyard name tags instead of pin on buttons.  Folks find these easier to deal with and more convenient to use.

d.  I propose lanyard name tags for the 55th.

26.  Photos

a.   Professional photographers have been used for past reunions.  This service has been a fairly expensive item for the class in the past, and one I do not think is needed for the 55th.  Today, many if not most of the attendees are taking pictures with cameras, phones, ipads, etc.  Literally thousands to choose from.

b.  So for the 55th I suggest we not hire professional photographers and instead get a few volunteers to act as class photographers for us.  We then can collect up photos, create a digital album, burn DVD’s, and send them out to the class.  Maybe even make the album available on line, although download time might be excessive.


Our next coordination visits to West Point will be in mid June.













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