In 1872 Cornell University’s alumni were organized as the Associate Alumni, according to A History of Cornell written by Morris Bishop. Per the Cornell Charter, they were given the responsibility of electing a trustee to the Cornell University Board of Trustees (BOT). At that time, the only other institution that gave alumni this privilege was Harvard. Cornell held its first alumni trustee election in 1874. Initially, one alumni-elected trustee was added to the board each year for a five-year term.
In 1895, the charter was revised to provide for the election of two alumni trustees each year. The June 1895 election resulted in W. C. Kerr being elected for a full term and the other five trustees for terms determined in accordance with the revised charter. Beginning in 1896, two trustees were elected each subsequent year. In 1984, the terms were changed to four years.
In 1939, the alumni organization reformed and became the Cornell Alumni Association. One of the duties of the association was to “stimulate trustee nominations.”