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March 10, 2003
Volume 81, Number 10
CENEAR 81 10 p. 61
ISSN 0009-2347




Now, in my final statutory year as chair, I see it very much as a beginning, because it's now time for us to implement the major emphases of the past two years.
Anne O'Brien's recent ACS Comment (C&EN, Jan. 13, page 42) about what it's like to be a member of the board inspired me to describe for you what it's like to chair the board. To do that well, I have to write about the end--and the beginning. For me, this role meets my goal of ending a long and rewarding career on the highest possible level. Serving as chair is an honor and a privilege, an awesome thought, and a dream come true!

Looking back as I enter the remaining nine months as chair of the board, I approached the challenges of this position just as any leader would in a traditional business model. In your first year, you get acquainted with people, issues, expectations, and accountabilities. I had chaired both corporate and nonprofit boards before, but all boards are different. I quickly learned that my colleagues wanted and expected a participatory and informed board. So we began bringing virtually all major issues and decisions to the full board and opened even closed committees to them. We particularly asked the full board to attend all meetings of the Society Committee on Budget & Finance, as these are the debates that support the board's fiscal decisions.

The second phase of my chairmanship brought me into a steep learning curve--one that required me to lead the board through new challenges, both operational and economic. We elected a new ACS secretary during this time, creating change in an important officer role. We worked closely with staff to implement new expense management guidelines and dealt with the economic downturn that has affected us all.

Now, in my final statutory year as chair, I see it very much as a beginning, because it's now time for us to implement the major emphases of the past two years. The board and I are facing two significant responsibilities for this year: first, developing a new strategic planning cycle in which our vision for ACS must be moved forward, and second, recruiting and retaining the best available person to succeed John Crum as executive director and to lead us into the future.

If we expect to remain a premier organization for our chemistry, chemical engineering, and allied professions, a revised strategic plan is essential. Let me report to you on its current status: The full board and management of the society were invited to join the Planning Committee's December meeting to hear from a futurist, Ed Barlow. He widened our perspectives on where ACS must be in three to five years to prepare our membership for a rapidly changing landscape in science, technology, and their applications. We also received a report on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related specifically to ACS. Now, I invite your input and perspectives: Where should we be headed?

Even as we build a new plan for the future, we must hire a new chief executive to help realize our goals, mission, and vision. Toward that end, the board has begun to plan the search we will undertake this year. A consultant hired by the board last year will help facilitate our decision-making process for the search. With the consultant's help, we have agreed to a process in which a search firm (yet to be selected) will assist us; drafted a list of challenges, competencies, and requirements for the position; and made search committee assignments. Between now and the end of March, we will identify and prescreen search firms, selecting a few for the board to choose from. Between April and June, we will retain a firm, place position announcements, receive and process applications, and develop interview questions and rating criteria. Candidates will be interviewed and references checked from July through September; interviews with candidates who are finalists will be held in the last quarter. Finally, the board will elect the new executive director to meet the target start date of Jan. 1, 2004.

I hope you have noted the number of times my favorite word--"our"--has appeared in this comment. I firmly believe, when it comes to the council and board, that "it's not you and me, it's us and we." And we can't achieve these two important goals in 2003 without input and assistance from you.

We will use every avenue to communicate with you as these efforts move forward. Let me ask that you communicate with us, too. Members of the board of directors will be at the national meetings, regional meetings, and award events, and we are eager to hear your input. I encourage you to attend our open meeting in New Orleans on Sunday, March 23, from 10:30 AM until noon, if your schedule permits. We welcome your e-mail comments on either process at

As I enter this very busy year, and as these new plans and management begin, we need your help more than ever. Please contribute your thoughts!


As a service to its readers, Chemical & Engineering News publishes ACS Comments. These messages from ACS officers and committee chairs provide insight into the workings of the society. They are available on C&EN Online at The site has ACS Comments archived back to 2000.

For more information on ACS governance activities, go to the ACS website at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Committee.


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