When I retired from my day job a few years ago, I had visions of reading books while lounging in my Adirondack chair near my neatly tended perennial garden. Nice fantasy. Since then, my path has taken quite a different turn.
A year after retiring, I became Vice President of the Mensa Foundation’s Board of Trustees. This July, I take office as President of the board. My life is even busier than it was before I retired — and my garden is now a study on survival of the fittest. So why would I put my retirement plans on hold to work so much for no pay? I’m happy to tell you and why it matters.
Whether you’re 4 or 94, you are or have spent time as a gifted youth; so you understand what it’s like to have a teacher who sees you as an overly curious disruption in the classroom. If you were fortunate, you had a teacher like Tanya Bergantz, who was selected for the 2016 Distinguished Teacher Award (nominated by Patrick L. of St. Louis Area Mensa).
From Patrick’s essay “Teacher of the Year? Teacher of the Century”: “It is rare to find an educator who is not only remarkable at their job but is also an incredible role model and companion. My mathematics teacher is one of those rare occurrences. She is the culmination of everything that makes a great person and a great teacher.” How I wish I had a teacher like that.
In support of nurturing youthful intelligence, the Foundation provides matching grants to Local Groups for Gifted Youth activities. These grants enable opportunities for educational activities, such as a recent outing in which kids in New York learned about kinetic and potential energy and how weak the force of gravity really is at a trampoline park. Young Mensans in Dallas toured an art museum; then, with a pretend price list and budget, they played museum curator by choosing which of the paintings they saw and wanted to “buy” for their own museum. I’d really like to have been part of that, even with pretend money.
Frequently, we receive thank you notes from scholarship winners. Besides making us feel appreciated, it’s also interesting to learn what they’re doing and how they’ve gone on to make a difference.
Received earlier this year from Andy R., winner of a Grosswirth-Salny Scholarship in 2011 and a Kuhnel Scholarship in 2012: “I’m currently finishing up my final year at UC Davis in aerospace and mechanical engineering and plan on graduating this June. After completing a NASA Pathways co-op, I’ve been offered (and just recently accepted!) a full-time civil servant job at NASA! Specifically, I’ll be training to become an ADCO flight controller, responsible for the International Space Station’s navigation hardware and orientation in space. ‘Mission Control!’ It’s a dream come true. […] it’s been such an honor to be recognized by Mensa.”
This year, we awarded 190 scholarships at the local, regional, national and international level, totaling more than $90,000. One goal has been to increase the number and dollar amount of scholarships. With a generous bequest this last year, we have achieved some of this sooner than later. The Karen Cooper and Diana Mossip scholarships awarded on behalf of participating local groups with funds provided by the Mensa Foundation will be increased from $300 to $600 this next program year. This is just a start. Stay tuned for more. One of my life goals is to make a difference.
Working with the Mensa Foundation to benefit society by inspiring and empowering intellectually gifted people is very satisfying, and it matters to me. And that’s why my garden has to fend for itself for a while.