Administering SRA – In celebration of the 30th birthday of the Society of Research Administrators

In celebration of the 30th birthday of the Society of Research Administrators. Prepared by Ken Beasley, chair, History and Archives Committee, with Barbara Clark, contributing editor.

Kenneth Beasley, Ph.D., CRA, was the director of Sponsored Programs at Butler University in Indianapolis. A charter member of the Society, Ken served as president in 1971-72.


As volunteer professional organizations grow, they soon find the need for a united continuing function to direct the activities and achieve the goals of the organization. The means to achieve this end is usually the establishment of a national office with a permanent executive officer to manage the organization. The Society of Research Administrators has followed this pattern of central administration, though the SRA International Office has changed hands a few times along the way.

In the Beginning

From 1967 to 1969, the Society’s office was what that of the first two presidents, Ken Hartford and Richard Nicholsen. The push for a national office came from the Western Section, the first organized section of the Society.

Paul Davis, Cal-Berkeley, and Rod Rose, Cal-Irvine, developed the original proposal for a national office and presented it to the Western Section. The Western Section approved this proposal and recommended it to the SRA National Executive Committee at its meeting in July 1969. The plan for a national office was approved, and the first SRA National Office was established on August 1, 1969, at the University of California-Irvine, School of Physical Sciences, with Rod Rose as director.

A part-time assistant to the director, Joannie Wall, was added in 1970. In early 1974, Julie Mendelson was hired as the assistant to the director and editor of the newsletter. In 1975, the SRA office had outgrown its cramped space a UC-Irvine and in April moved to its own office in nearby Corona Del Mar. The duties of the office remained the same.

A Period of Change

In 1976 and 1977, the first major changes in the SRA National Office occurred. First, the Canadian Section was admitted in 1975, so the office became the SRA International Office. Second, the executive committee was looking for an administrator who could devote more than part-time attention to the duties of the office. Rod Rose has moved to UCLA and did not feel he could continue in his role as director of the office. In the summer of 1976, Jack Balderston was appointed as the new executive secretary of the Society. No stranger to the SRA Office, Jack had previously served as SRA president (1972-73) and as editor of the Journal.

Early in 1977, the International Office moved from Corona Del Mar back o an academic setting as part of the UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The stay at the UCLA address was brief because the office was moved to West Los Angeles in the summer of 1977.

At the same time the office moved, Jack Balderston decided to step down. On June 4, 1977, Julie Mendelson was acting executive secretary in addition to her role as executive office manager. Julie was later confirmed as the SRA executive secretary. In a two-year period, the management of the Society of Research Administrators had transferred from a part-time active research administrator to a full-time person with experience as an association secretary. The location of the office had changed from an off-campus location, to a campus setting, and the back to a commercial office in West Los Angeles. Four years later, in 1981, the office moved to Santa Monica.

Julie Mendelson married in 1982 and became Julie Carthane. In 1983 she was named executive director and managed the Society from the office Santa Monica. During her administration, the responsibilities of the office remained essentially the same as before, but the workload increased due to an increasing number of members and program activities. Clerical staff and assistants were added over the years but the staff was usually no more than two or three.  Julie Carthane directed the national office for the longest period of time in SRA history, 11 years. All told, Julie was an SRA employee for 15 years, half of SRA’s history.

Association Management

In the mid-1980’s, the SRA leadership began to explore the appropriate administrative structure to manage the organization. The size of the membership, along with the corresponding increase in programs, publications and fiscal management, caused some members to ask if SRA needed a more professional management approach. Some members felt the International Office was not providing the breadth and quality of services that were required to keep up with the growth of the Society. After discussing management options for a couple of years, it was decided to close the International Office in Santa Monica and secure the services of a professional association management firm.

In June 1988, President Donald Hart announced that the firm of P.M. Haeger and Associates, Inc., in Chicago, would be the association manager for the Society of Research Administrators. Haeger was one of the larger firms in the association management field with a full-time staff of 65 employees experienced in all phases of association management. The staff provided expertise in areas such as organization, communications, publications, meeting management, finance and legal matters. Haeger assigned Joan Carter as the executive manager. She became the manager of all SRA functions under the direction of SRA’s board of directors. Joan was assisted and the full range of other Haeger personnel, depending on the type of support required.

In 1994, the contract with Haeger was due to be renewed. Prior to the renewal, Haeger had been sold to another owner, which had led to a change in services. Additionally, Joan Carter had resigned from her position and a new manager had been assigned to the SRA account. The Society leadership questioned whether Haeger could continue the level and quality of services in the future. Under the leadership of President Ruth Roole and the board of directors, a decision was made to explore other possible association management companies. The result of the search was the mid-year relocation of the SRA International Office to Washington D.C., and a new contract for services with Smith, Bucklin & Associates. Since that time, SRA’s executive director has been Carolyn Freeland, who currently is assisted with day-to-day SRA business by Mary Ann Grant, program administrator, and David Tubman, membership coordinator. Convention, publications, accounting and office support are provided by other members of the Smith, Bucklin staff.

One June 27, 1997, SRA President Don Clark announced that Carolyn Freeland was retiring from Smith, Bucklin and association management on July 30. SRA’s new executive director is Dena Grove Stoner.

Conclusion

Over the last 30 years, there have been many changes in responsibilities, locations and personnel in the SRA national office. The changes mostly result from the growth and increasing needs of the Society. It is somewhat ironic that some of the founders of SRA wanted to locate the original national office in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s; a quarter century later, their wishes came true.