I'll Miss the Foundation -- And you would, too

  • May 24, 2016
  • Phyllis Miller, Foundation Trustee

It all started in the mid-’80s with a small ad in the Bulletin: Help Wanted — Editor of the Mensa Research Journal. “I can do that,” I thought. I was the editor of Technology & Society, the magazine of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (New Jersey’s answer to MIT). How hard could it be?

I was interviewed by the entire Mensa Education and Research Foundation Board of Trustees in Dorothy Bloom’s hotel room at the Snowball Regional Gathering. They all sat on a bed; I sat on the one chair in the room. I talked; they talked; I was hired. The job: find articles; get permissions for reprinting the articles; write an introductory column, table of contents and other ancillary matter; find or create a cover; bring everything to a printer; proofread page proofs; pick up finished journals from the printer and affix name and address labels; take finished journals to the post office for mailing; maintain a list of subscribers; tell subscribers when their subscriptions were about to expire; advertise for more subscribers; keep within budget; show up at trustees’ meetings; keep everyone happy.

The pay: $0.

Although Kathy Spaltro was my liaison to the board, I was invited to every board meeting, and I got to understand what the Foundation (we called it MERF in those days) was all about. I liked what I found: a group of smart people whose only concern was helping other smart people. After a number of years, I was invited to join the Board of Trustees, and now, after 25 years on the board, I am retiring. (I know; I never was shy, but now I’m retiring.)

When I started on the board, there were times we didn’t know if we had enough money to pay for the scholarships we had awarded, but we vowed to find the funds even if it meant chipping in ourselves. Over the years, we trustees have chipped in ourselves — all of us have made substantial gifts to the Foundation — but what really has put us on a sound footing are the gifts we have received from people like you. Our financial situation has become more stable, enabling us to increase our scholarships and create new programs for gifted education as well as a number of awards for what Mensans do best, using our intelligence.

I stayed on this board for a long time because I loved what we were doing and how we were doing it. Who wouldn’t like giving out money to make people happy, to perhaps make the world a better place? To encourage young people to achieve their dreams, to recognize older scholars whose work has changed people’s lives? To be a resource for parents frustrated because their gifted offspring were neglected by the school system and for teachers who saw a brilliant spark but were ill-equipped to turn it into a flame? To know that people all over the world depended on us to nurture their intelligence?

Of course, I will miss the Foundation Board of Trustees; and you would miss it, too, if it did not exist. You would still enjoy being a member of Mensa but you would miss going to a Colloquium, reading the MRJ, accessing the Mensa for Kids website, nominating someone for — or even receiving! — a prestigious award, providing the wherewithal for a scholarship. You would miss the deep satisfaction of knowing that the organization to which you belong actually does good work for humanity all over the world. You would miss that feeling of pride you get when you know that you have been a part of something really important.

I leave the board in good hands. Feminist that I am, I am thrilled that our next Board President will be a woman, but I am more thrilled that she has taken the past few years to learn how to become a fabulously excellent president. I am happy that the MRJ has an excellent editor and a wonderful production staff in the National Office. (The editor no longer takes the journals to the post office!) I know the current members of the board have the same understanding I have had of how our work can improve the world and how we feel rewarded when your generosity allows us to increase a scholarship or create an award or offer a new program for gifted youth.

And I thank those who hired me all those years ago, those who are still around and those who have left us — what an adventure it has been!