Join the Celebration
The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.
Robert L. Mason is an industrial statistician at Southwest Research Institute, where he has worked for more than 37 years. He is an institute analyst, which is the highest technical rank at the institute. He is also a past-president of the ASA and a Fellow of both the ASA and American Society for Quality.
What has changed in the ASA since its 150th anniversary celebration in 1989? Let’s step back in time and recall some of the events that occurred in the association that year.
Janet Norwood was the new ASA president. The membership count was more than 15,000, with about 2,000 members located in 92 countries outside the United States. The Founders Award to recognize members who had provided distinguished service to the ASA was established, and the first two recipients were Fred Leone (a past executive director) and Margaret Martin (the 1980 ASA president). The first issue of STATS magazine was issued in the spring. The Quality and Productivity Section was established, increasing the number of sections to 11. There were 75 ASA chapters located throughout the United States. The Office of Scientific and Public Affairs was started and its first director was hired. A revision of the ASA constitution was well under way.
In early January, the third Winter Conference was held in San Diego, California. In August, the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) was held in Washington, DC, and there was record attendance of 4,200 registrants with more than 1,000 paper presentations. The opening session was signaled with a flourish by the Patowmack Ancients Fife and Drum Corps. A temporary postal station for mailing letters with an ASA-150 pictorial cancellation was set up in the registration area. A special offer for attendees was the opportunity to purchase the latest Hewett-Packard hand calculator (model HP-21S for $35 or HP-28S for $150).
Many activities were held throughout 1989 to celebrate the ASA’s sesquicentennial anniversary. There was a sesquicentennial videotape titled “Statistical Science: 150 Years of Progress.” There were souvenirs, including lapel pins, mugs, T-shirts, pens, and bumper stickers. There were several publications, including a special sesquicentennial JSM proceedings volume and a report titled “Challenges for the ’90s.” A time capsule was placed in the ASA headquarters building. The year ended with a symposium and banquet celebration held in Boston on December 9.
In the 25 years since 1989, the ASA has definitely grown in many areas, expanded its influence, and adapted to the many changes in our society. Although the number of chapters remains stable at 74, the ASA now has more than 18,000 members. We can more readily communicate using various media, such as Facebook, smart phones, iPads, email, etc. We also have access to a multitude of statistical computer software packages.
The ASA has a strategic plan that incoming ASA presidents use to ensure there is continuity in programs. There is a voluntary professional accreditation program. We have more than double the number of sections that we had in 1989, and these have extended the range of emphasis into specialized areas such as statistics in imaging, statistical learning and data mining, and statistics in defense and national security.
The ASA is fortunate to have a new headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, and an excellent staff headed by Executive Director Ron Wasserstein. There is a director of science policy to help promote statistics and the ASA among legislative and policymaking organizations. The ASA also hired a public relations coordinator. Both of these positions help promote the visibility of the statistics profession.
JSM has continued to grow, with attendance reaching more than 6,300 registrants at the 2012 meetings in San Diego, ranking it as the second-highest attended JSM conference. In addition, there is a new Conference on Statistical Practice that the ASA started in 2012.
There is an entirely new structure for governing ASA committees, which are now headed by the Leadership Support Council with groups of committees reporting to the three board vice presidents. This structure has greatly strengthened the committees and more closely aligned them with the strategic goals of the association.
There is a change in journals and how they are disseminated, with Taylor & Francis now distributing most of them. In addition, there is online access to all ASA journals and magazines.
It is exciting to consider the many changes in the ASA that have occurred over the past 25 years. In 2014, we will celebrate a 175-year-old organization that has continued to improve and enhance the statistics profession—and serve its members. This has been accomplished, in great part, by our many volunteers who are willing to share their time working on ASA projects and events. The opportunities that await the statistics profession in the future are only limited by our imaginations. Come join the celebration!