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Remembering Chris Demakes, former alumni director

by Amanda Hughes

Former University of Cincinnati executive director of alumni affairs Chris Demakes, A&S '62, JD '65, died March 19, 2008, at age 67 from complications of Parkinson's disease. Demakes led UC's Alumni Association from 1977-99 and worked at the university for 39 years.

"The University of Cincinnati has been my only employer; I have really never worked anywhere else," Demakes once admitted to "UC Magazine." As an undergraduate in political science, he asked for a summer job in the UC public relations office, which segued into an assignment with the university's development office.

"When that was finished, they said to me, 'Why don't you stay a little bit longer?' So, I stayed a little bit longer!"

Demakes wrote numerous grants and repeatedly visited Washington, D.C., seeking matching funds for new campus buildings. He worked with alumni and volunteers on both university and alumni fund-raising campaigns. He was director of development and alumni activities in the mid-1970s, when growth finally demanded the two areas be separated.

Among the improvements that Demakes spearheaded are two he considered especially significant: the formation of a new membership-dues alumni association and the building of the Myers Alumni Center. With dues came more financial stability, allowing new programs such as Alumni College and more visits from university leaders to alumni clubs across the country. Members also began receiving "UC Magazine."

The Myers Alumni Center gave the UC Alumni Association "a presence on campus," he explained. "The fact that it was built with funds contributed by alumni was the key thing. Not everyone believed we could do it."

Tributes poured in for Demakes when news of his retirement became known in the fall of 1999. David Sharp, Bus '86, wrote: "Your enthusiasm for the university was infectious. The time and attention you gave us as students helped make us feel like an important part of the UC experience." And Michael Perry, A&S '84, told Demakes he was "one of the reasons I have never felt like 'just a number' at UC. Not when I attended school. Not after I graduated."

Joseph Steger, HonDoc '04, former president of the University of Cincinnati, worked with Chris for 20 years. He has fond memories of traveling with Demakes on international alumni association trips, including the UCAA's first excursion to China.

"Chris was a swell guy. We were together for many years. He was right on the button, and at the same time, everybody liked him. At the university, he was very well liked," Steger says.

For John Albachten, Bus '99, Demakes was a mentor, boss and friend. Albachten met Chris as a sophomore at UC, and would later work with him as assistant executive director for alumni affairs.

"I never heard a single person say a bad thing about him. He was always calm and gentlemanly," Albachten says. "He had a great memory for alumni. He knew so many people, and he could tell you anything about them.

"Chris was definitely 'Mr. Bearcat.' He epitomized UC."

Related article:

May 2000 feature story on Demakes' retirement