the International Shaw Society Meeting of Oct. 18, 2009
At the “Shaw and Politics” Conference in Washington, D.C.
Prepared by John McInerney, Recording Secretary
1. ISS President Richard Dietrich called the meeting to order at 10:00.
2. Summary of Officers’ Reports: the officers’ reports were deferred to be included as the President proceeded to the substantial list of announcements and issues for discussion on the agenda.
3. What’s past and accomplished for the ISS?
A. Memberships: After expressing his own thanks and the appreciation of the membership for the excellent service of Lori Dietrich as Secretary for Membership, President Dietrich commented on the agenda items in section A. He noted particularly that the ISS is doing better with regard to member attrition than many similar organizations, who lose an average of 20% per year, as compared to our 8-10% He also mentioned another encouraging trend: the average age of our membership has declined from somewhere in the 60s to somewhere in the 40s in just six years. Our membership has risen from 109 in 2004, our first year, to 194 in 2009, counting honorary members.
B. Financial Summary: the President expressed his appreciation for the fine work of Treasurer Lagretta Lenker, with whom he has necessarily worked in close cooperation because he discovered early that the President of the organization had to had to have direct access to the treasury for a variety of reasons, such as the initial acquiring of our non-profit status, and doing the annual financial report and budget projection for the year required of him in the by-laws. Therefore the budget statement included with the agenda is his work. Mr. Dietrich also summarized his approach to the ISS financial resources as follows: he carefully considered one stream of advice that recommended spending as little income as possible in order to build an endowment, the interest from which would eventually support us, but he realized that this course would take too much time; he also did not follow the advice that every cent taken in be spent immediately on the principle that building the membership would occur faster if every cent were spent on membership advertising. Rather than a save all or spend all strategy, he took a middle of the road approach, spending income on measures that would build the organization by making it attractive, by hosting events, awarding grants, etc., while also saving toward the day when establishing an endowment fund might be possible. He mentioned that the lion’s share of ISS spending goes for member’s copies of the SHAW journal.
B. Founding President’s Review and Assessment of “The ISS Plan” [see agenda]: President Dietrich’s overall assessment is that we have made reasonably good progress on all the objectives listed in the ISS Plan. He then made some specific comments on actions and plans pertaining to each of the objectives:
Regarding Objective One: he announced that, in addition to the conferences, symposia, and seminars already held or scheduled, discussions about including Shaw events in Irish Society meetings are ongoing, and added that he would give us an A in this category. In response to a concern expressed from the floor that too many presentations scheduled might result in diminished quality, he offered his view that we have not reached that point yet. He then expressed regret that efforts to hold ISS events in Europe, such as the proposed seminar in Brioni, have not yet been successful, but pledged to continue working toward that goal, and suggested that London and/ or Dublin would be the most likely host cities.
Objective Two: After noting that we have given out over 48 travel grants to young scholars, costing $16,000, the President said that we can measure the success of this program, in one way, by the increased attendance at our conferences and other events. Also, we have a 70% retention rate of grant recipients as ISS members. An additional test of this program will be the number of grant recipients who continue to teach and write about Shaw, regardless of whether they retain their membership or not, and that is hard to measure. Overall, the President would give ISS efforts in this area a grade of B.
Objectives Three, Five, and Six: President Dietrich maintained that we have made steady progress toward our goal of encouraging submission of papers to non-ISS conferences and periodicals, progress visible most clearly in the Shaw sessions at the Comparative Drama Conference. He also pointed out that two of the three Shaw periodicals, THE SHAVIAN and the INDEPENDENT SHAVIAN, publish good work but are not refereed. The SHAW, however, is a very solid, refereed publication. Since our support of the SHAW eats up thirty dollars of each ISS member’s standard dues payment, you might say that it is an example of the journal tail wagging the ISS dog, but our financial contribution is essential because, for one thing, it prevents the SHAW from going completely online, and it perhaps relieves the ISS from having to publish its own journal, as a membership attraction. He added that we do need to publish more frequently in non-Shaw periodicals, beyond the “Shaw ghetto,” as it might be termed, so that some of our best work won’t be hidden from the general scholarly public and Shaw’s visibility would be enhanced. Objective Six specifically encourages support of the series of Shaw books published by the University Press of Florida and the series published by the University of Toronto Press; the President noted that there are now fourteen books in the Florida series, and Vice president Conolly added that Toronto series will eventually total about ten books. In all these ways, the ISS is keeping the ISS “open to the study of all aspects of Shaw’s life and career,” as Objective Six calls for,
Objective Four: We are indeed encouraging the production of Shaw plays, President Dietrich declared, citing the plays presented at this conference, typical of almost all ISS meetings. He also pointed out that two of the three Shaw conferences have been sponsored by academic theatre departments, and that a sizable proportion of our members are from theatre departments, while others are non-academics who are simply interested in Shaw and/or in theater.
Objective Seven: The President affirmed that, in conformity with this objective, the ISS does advertise good textbooks which focus on Shaw. The most interesting of new developments in textbook preparation—the online ORION Shaw Project—has been heartily supported by the ISS, partly because it may end up being the online concordance we need.
Objective Eight: In line with this objective, efforts have been made, particularly by the Dietrichs, to “get Shaw Studies better organized” by seeking more contacts and cooperative projects with other Shaw societies. The contacts have been friendly, but these groups tend to have older populations, to be rather “place bound,” and not very eager to make durable alliances. The Shaw Concordance project, intended to be undertaken with the Shaw Estate, foundered because of the request (impossible to provide) for a business plan that sent royalties their way. More could be done with other, non-Shaw Groups, like the Oscholars, which focuses on Shaw’s contemporaries in authorship. We are contributing to Kai Li’s Orion online Shaw Project, which will be more universally available in 2010.
Objective Nine: This calls for encouragement of volunteerism among ISS members regarding participation in our activities and events, and the President reported that a spectrum of members have been invited to be in charge of symposia and other events.
Objective Ten: President Dietrich said that a blog had been set up to foster ongoing discussion and participation in ISS activities, as called for in this objective, but it did not “take hold.” However, the steady stream of e-mails to all members has often prompted productive e-mail debates.
4. What’s in the future for the ISS?
A. Replacement of Officers; the President reiterated that a new President and a new Treasurer must be in place before the end of the year, and that the Recording Secretary will oversee the election, following the procedures specified in the By-laws. The election process was outlined as follows: Before the end of October, members will receive, by e-mail and by regular mail, procedural information about the forthcoming election, nominations of Leonard Conolly for President and Richard Dietrich for Treasurer, and a call for any other nominations, which should be submitted, by e-mail or in writing, to Secretary McInerney by Nov. 20. The election, using paper ballots only, will then be conducted and completed by December 20. If Leonard Conolly becomes the President, another election will be held in January to choose a new Vice-President.
B. Next Conference: Leonard Conolly supplemented the information in the Agenda about the 2011 Conference by reporting that the schedule will likely include presentations by some distinguished foreign speakers, and, if talks with Jackie Maxwell work out as planned, the Shaw Festival may produce Shaw plays selected for the occasion by the ISS, and perhaps more than two of them.
C. New Symposia and Continuing Shaw Sessions: see 2. C. and 2. D. in the Agenda.
5. Founding President’s Concluding Recommendations: President Dietrich announced that in the remainder of his term he will seek to formulate proposals which will simplify the duties of the office, so that the ISS presidency would not be too time consuming and complicated for a non-retired person. He cited as one complication the personal expenses he and Lori have incurred for such items as mailings and the printing of program material. This comment precipitated a brief discussion among the members, with some suggesting that future budgets include a sum explicitly allotted for administrative expenses. Another member proposed looking into the possibility of applying for a grant to various Arts organizations. Dietrich rather took the view that such work should be pro bono.
6. Tribute to the Dietrichs: Leonard Conolly offered a tribute to the President for his peerless e-mailing and for his dedicated, exceptional service, and he added that Lori Dietrich deserved equal praise for her work as Membership Secretary, as well as her many other contributions to the ISS. The members responded with a standing ovation for both Dietrichs.
7. The meeting was adjourned at 11:07.
John McInerney, Secretary