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A Seven-Year Itch … or a Seventh-Inning Stretch

1 February 2012 No Comment

Sastry Pantula, 2010 president of the ASA

I can’t believe it has been seven years since I joined the ASA Board. It was hard to say goodbye to the Board after serving on it since January of 2005. It feels like just yesterday that I got a call from then President-elect Fritz Scheuren.

It was the summer of 2004, and Fritz called to ask whether I would be willing to serve as the ASA treasurer. At that time, the only experience I had managing budgets was that of one of the largest (oldest and best) statistics departments in the country. (Well, technically, I also was serving as the treasurer of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences.) I checked with my mentors, Wayne Fuller and Dan Solomon, about whether it was a wise move to accept such a responsibility. As always, they encouraged me to do service to our profession whenever there is an opportunity to do so. They are good role models, themselves, when it comes to service to our profession.

I was informed that the board approved my appointment as ASA treasurer after a lengthy discussion at JSM 2004 in Toronto. It was certainly another turn in my life. I was clueless during my first finance committee meeting, watching “stock market whiz” Al Madansky compare various indexes and how well ASA investments had done. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and I could see similar thoughts going through the mind of Steve Porzio, ASA director of operations and associate executive director.

It has been a pleasure to work with Steve and to actually understand the budget … well, enough to at least present it confidently to the board and at the Open Meeting during JSM. (Whatever happened to those well-attended meetings?) Steve is a real gem, and the ASA is in good financial hands.

It was a great honor to serve with many ASA presidents—Bob Mason, Brad Efron, Fritz Scheuren, Mary Ellen Bock, Sallie Keller, Tony Lachenbruch, Sally Morton, Nancy Geller, and Bob Rodriguez. What an impressive set of leaders with a vision to serve. It was also great to work with many distinguished board members who care about the practice and profession of statistics. As the treasurer, I worked closely with two excellent executive directors, Bill Smith and Ron Wasserstein, in addition to Steve.

The ASA saw many changes—free electronic journals access for members, moving to a new building, gaining a new investment portfolio and firm, and creating the new position of director of science policy. Those were the good times for the stock market, and we have been thriving as an association for a while now, even during the current economy.

It was a pleasure to be part of the board that recruited Ron, another “Energizer Bunny,” who works tirelessly for our association. In addition to what Nancy wrote about his work in a recent column, I personally enjoyed traveling with him, serving as an ambassador to professionals in China, training young statisticians in Slovenia, being part of mentoring discussions internationally, and sharing educational experiences in India, among others. Friendship with his family is something my family cherishes, and Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for fun activities for us together. It is also a pleasure to work with many of the ASA staff members, especially Pam Craven, Eric Sampson, Keith Crank, and Megan Murphy. It is nice to walk up on the ASA floors and say hello to the hard-working staff or hang out at the booths between meetings at JSM.

Back to Fritz. I admire his interest in promoting diversity and his great caring heart for humanity around the globe. He is a good role model for young folks. His service to our profession is contagious. I am certain he had a good hand in encouraging four Asian-American candidates to be nominated for president and vice president simultaneously. I was thrilled when Nancy Flournoy called me to be a candidate for ASA president, and even more thrilled when Ron called to congratulate me after the election. Again, that was a turning point in my life, and it has been an honor and pleasure to serve our association.

With Christy Chuang-Stein serving as the senior vice president and my departure from the board, there are no Asians (or Hispanics, African Americans, or Native Americans) left. I dearly miss my good friend Martha Aliaga, who spoke for diversity and had been the “ambassador” for statistics around the globe. I hope the nomination committees, chapters, sections, and publications committee keep diversity and new members in mind as they nominate candidates. In this regard, I am grateful to Fritz.

Our membership has been Growing. We are having an Impact. We are being Visible internationally, and we continue to Educate future problemsolvers. GIVE to ASA! I must say hiring Steve Pierson as the director of science policy and Rosanne Desmone to handle public relations has been beneficial for promoting the practice and profession of statistics. You see the effect on funding the federal agencies and making statements about important statistical issues globally. The ASA staff and board are continuously looking to provide more services that benefit our members and the profession in general. In this era of big data, statistical sciences continue to have an effect and enable many discoveries.

My wife, Sobha, always wonders how a spendthrift like me gets these opportunities to manage budgets. I tell her you need to spend/invest money to make money. She is at least glad that these jobs take me away from managing the budget at home.

It has been a wonderful seven years serving our association, and I certainly recommend it to others. Volunteering has many personal rewards, besides gratification. It certainly has helped me in many ways personally and professionally. So, the message to our young members is, when someone asks you to serve our association or our profession, please say “YES.” Of course, if the opportunity doesn’t come knocking, please go knock on doors. Many will open for you! I have been fortunate to have a good department head and dean who appreciate and value service to our profession. I know many of our statistics department heads and managers are supportive of professional service also.

Am I itching to do something new? Is this just a seventh-inning stretch? Who knows! Certainly, I am looking forward to IYStat, the International Year of Statistics, in 2013 and continue to promote statistical sciences everywhere. Its success will depend on many of you volunteers and supportive department heads, administrators, and managers. Spread the word.

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