A record-shattering total of 160 members attended Pi Gamma Mu’s 2011 triennial international convention on October 20‑22 in the Washington, D. C., metropolitan area. As volunteers, employees, and the delegates themselves pitched in to cause everyone to accomplish worthwhile outcomes and to have a good time, the convention proved to be a model for honor-society programming.
|THURSDAY EVENING – Welcome, Ice-Breaker, Roll Call, Constitutional Convention
Indisputably, the highlight was the day-long presentation on Friday, October 21, of 40 members’ research findings, which took place in the ornate Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, located across from the U. S. Capitol on the northern side of Constitution Avenue. Thirty‑five of the members‑‑mostly undergraduates‑‑delivered oral presentations of their research papers, while five members displayed posters. While at past conventions about 12 students would present research papers, the Committee of Readers received 51 proposals for this convention. Dr. Charles W. Hartwig, chairman of the committee, and committee members Dr. Stephen E. Medvec and Dr. Janice K. Purk approved the 40 presentations and developed the program for the panels, an indispensable contribution to the convention planning in the weeks leading to the event. The much-larger-than-expected number of presentations necessitated that the presenters condense the duration of their presentations to 8 minutes each; as a matter of consideration for each other, the presenters graciously made their presentations quickly and made way for the subsequent presenters. Scheduled to end at 4 p.m., the day-long presentation actually ended at 4:05 p.m. As a general rule, it is difficult to obtain cooperation of that kind from participants in conferences, but the 35 presenters displayed their courteous nature while the ingenuity and creativity on which their research projects were based became very apparent.
|FRIDAY – Presentations of Research Papers and Display of Posters
Once the panels concluded, Dr. Larry Heck led a group of about 40 attendees on a tour of the National Mall, consistent with the convention theme of “Pi Gamma Mu Honors America’s Past, Plans the World’s Future.” Some of the sites that the group viewed during the walking tour included the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the recently dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
The convention opened the previous evening (Thursday, October 20) with a keynote address delivered by Jeff Thiebert, national grassroots director of the Concord Coalition. Atty. Thiebert discussed the U. S. national government’s precarious financial situation after decades of persistent deficit spending. His presentation was followed by a splendid buffet, which the convention committee had named the “Dessert Bar” but that had been expanded to include very satisfying, heavy hors d’oeuvres. Executive director Sue Watters and outgoing student trustees Mark Bender and Michaela Dolphin conducted a combined Roll Call of Chapters and mock Constitutional Convention, during which members produced stuffed-animal convention delegates that proposed timely amendments to the U. S. Constitution. The stuffed animals were donated to the Fairfax County, Va., Artemis House, a battered-women’s shelter; unfortunately, the shelter representative who was scheduled to accept the stuffed animals that evening was hospitalized, so they were delivered to the shelter the next day.
|FRIDAY – Tour of the National Mall
On the convention’s final day (Saturday, October 22), student delegates elected two members of the international Board of Trustees for the 2011‑2014 triennium: Matthew P. Tucciarone of Florida State University and Amanda M. Wolcott of North Georgia College & State University. The student delegates also elected Dr. Matthew Anderson, who was initiated at Lincoln University and recently completed his doctor of management degree at the University of Phoenix, to be Pi Gamma Mu’s “Student Shadow President,” succeeding Eric Knutson, who did an outstanding job since the 2008 convention. Alumnus members who attended volunteered to be the charter members of Pi Gamma Mu’s new Alumnus Council. At the final plenary session, outgoing second vice president Charles McClellan of Radford University in Virginia conducted a ceremony during which six veteran Pi Gamma Mu volunteers were inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu Hall of Fame. They are:
Immediate past president Jean Karlen of Wayne State College in Nebraska and outgoing president Gordon E. Mercer of Western Carolina University in North Carolina were formally given the honorary titles of “president emerita” and “president emeritus,” respectively. Dr. Mercer thanked all those who helped to organize this unparalleled event in Pi Gamma Mu’s history, thanked all members of Pi Gamma Mu for the opportunity to serve as international president, and then installed the international officers and board members for the 2011‑2014 triennium. Incoming president Barry D. Friedman of North Georgia College & State University accepted the gavel from Dr. Mercer, conducted the remaining business of the plenary session, and declared the 2011 convention to be adjourned.
|FRIDAY (cont.) - SATURDAY – Closing Plenary Session
Pi Gamma Mu has a long history as a modest-sized honor society, but the 2011 convention is arguably compelling evidence that the organization has matured and is now positioned to serve many more members far more effectively than ever before. Overwhelmed by interest in the convention that exceeded any that we have experienced previously, the international officers pondered the circumstances that would have brought about this result: last year’s compilation of our membership directory, Pi Gamma Mu Members Today; the creation of the Pi Gamma Mu Listserv and the conversion of the Pi Gamma Mu Newsletter to an electronic format that now reaches 20,000 E‑mail addresses (including thousands of alumnus members); and the active involvement of board members and employees in determinedly calling chapter sponsors and encouraging them to ensure that their students know about the opportunity to present papers in the Kennedy Caucus Room. Combined with the stature of our outstanding journal, the International Social Science Review, these developments indicate that we have built an honor society that is effective in delivering benefits to our members and of which its members can be immensely proud. Pi Gamma Mu’s founder, the late Leroy Allen, undoubtedly would be proud, too. As we reflect on an eventful and memorable convention, we all wonder: Where do we go from here? And the answer seems to be: We plan to make the 2014 triennial international convention better than ever!