The Presidents Club

The Presidents Club

The Presidents ClubThose who’ve ‘sat in the seat’ as IES presidents discuss their unique bond

Maybe you recall reading their quarterly column in LD+A, or you’ve seen them roaming the corridors at the IES Annual Conference wearing a special pin that few others receive. Their faces and badges seem familiar, and you probably notice that they look more relaxed and in less of a hurry than they did at an earlier conference. They are the IES Past Presidents.

LD+A asked several past presidents to look back on their terms, the bond they share with their fellow presidents, their transition back to “civilian life” within the Society and what they missed (or didn’t) when it was all over. Howard Brandston, IES President 1983-84, recalls the irony of pursuing the position only to be relieved when his tenure was over. In the 1970s, Brandston had been the Society’s first VP for Design & Application and a force on the ASHRAE 90.75 Committee. However, when he tossed his hat into the ring for the presidency, “in a nanosecond calls came in from all the officers and VPs for me to step aside; it was not my turn. So I ran against the lineup and won. The members knew who I was and what I was getting done.” But by the end of his term, he was ready to move on. “There was no letdown; just a sense of relief from some of the burdensome tasks I had to resolve during my tenure.”

Here are some other observations from members of our “Past Presidents Club.”

Paul Tarricone

 


RITA HARROLD • 1985-86

Rita M. HarroldLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
Being recognized as the first woman president of IES is most often the credential used when I am introduced. I hope that my breaking an 80-year period of male-only presidencies became the contribution that changed the way in which the role was perceived, and that this culture change served to encourage other women to seek the office. It was not an immediate change, with several years before Pam Horner and Kim Mercier took office, but it demonstrated that the IES was open to different leadership models. And now, how wonderful to have had Shirley Coyle and Cheryl English in successive terms and now Jennifer Jaques as our next president.

Post-presidency letdown?
Heavens no! Unlike many of my predecessors in the role who were more senior in their careers or close to retirement, I was at best mid-career. I had a job continuing in the background while I was president—no sabbatical for me! Post presidency I was too busy for a letdown. My career also progressed and two years later I moved from the lamp industry to luminaires and the start of a new challenge.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
Feels like I never left! Seriously, past presidents always have the opportunity (and sometimes obligation) to continue to serve as part of past presidential responsibility or to be “on call” as an eligible member on certain committees. After involvement at so many levels of leadership in the Society I can’t imagine not wanting to be involved. But I broke the mold and overdid involvement. Six years after being president, I made a career change by leaving the industry and that of being an IES volunteer member to become an IES staff member, as its then technical director. That involvement occupied me for the next 20 years. What a great opportunity and one that was so rewarding.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
More than being an IES Member, there is a special bond among a group of people who have experienced some of the same responsibilities and challenges. “Once a PP always a PP” and therefore a member of this special circle. We don’t have the opportunity for frequent meetings but when several of the group members are together there is a renewed sharing or input on issues. In between those meetings members reach out individually or collectively for information and to ask for news about one another. It is a collegial group that has not found the need to be formalized. It has a tradition founded on the privilege and honor to have served the Society.


PAMELA HORNER • 2001-02

Pamela HornerLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
I believe that my legacy as IES president has more to do with pursuing the principles of “leadership by example” than it does with a single event or achievement. Furthermore, I am proud to be a “trailblazer” for women in the IES. Let me explain. When I was elected president of the San Jacinto Section in Houston, I was the first woman to hold that position. But it wasn’t because anyone had stood in the way of female leadership; it was because until then there had been very few women members in that Section. Being practical, I decided to jump in by teaching lighting classes and eventually running for Section and Region offices.

When I was president-elect and then president of the Society, I was frequently asked by many young women just entering the lighting profession how they too could become leaders in our Society. I was humbled each time someone asked me that question, and the answers I gave went something like this: Get involved in committees and fully participate. Do the work. Never join anything just to have your name on the roster. Listen to others and try to respect and appreciate their talents and points of view. Think longterm, but understand the breadth and depth of the Society’s rich history. Carefully think through the goals you wish to achieve in an IES leadership position and match them to your own strengths. And always take full responsibility for your actions and decisions.

Post-presidency letdown?
I don’t recall feeling a letdown at all. Maybe some relief! Randy Reid and Ronnie Farrar were presidents after my term, and we had met several times throughout our collective terms to exchange ideas and keep one another informed about important issues. I feel that a close working relationship amongst those who are transitioning in and out of the office of president really helps the individuals and the Society. To give an example, it was important to me to get a good start on planning and executing a meaningful 2006 IES Centennial. That meant getting started on the details in 2001. Randy, Ronnie and other officers and volunteers who followed really drove that goal to a successful conclusion, creating a moment in time when we could reflect on the IES achievements of the past and look forward to the future.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
It has been 15 years since I served my final year in the three-year commitment of the presidency (president-elect, president, past president). For 10 of those years I have served as the “chair” of the past presidents group. While we are not officially a committee, we have in recent years been called upon by staff and current presidents for our expertise in such areas as history, international relations, educational programs and Annual Conference events. Apart from the past president group duties, I have chaired two of our research symposia and coordinated the work of the Strategic Research Advisory Panel that put forth a five-year research plan for the IES. I guess you can say I have continued to be actively involved in the IES since my presidency.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
The IES past presidents have the unique camaraderie born of shared experience. We all come from different professions, different parts of North America and different IES committee experiences. We differ in our communication styles and leadership approaches. But we respect one another for those differences. One thing I have enjoyed about being part of this group is that we also get to know many of the families, not just the past presidents. Spouses get to know one another and some of the children have “grown up” with the IES. But one thing that really stands out for me is what happens at each Annual Conference luncheon of the past presidents. At that meeting, we invite the current president to join us. From that point onward, particularly in recent years, the current presidents have not hesitated to call upon one or more of our group for advice or a sanity check. Continuity and perspective. That’s what we have.


RANDY REID • 2002-03

Randy ReidLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
There were two accomplishments during my tenure that were meaningful to me. The first was that we began offering training online; this was a really big deal in 2002. We knew that the quality of Section training was good in most Sections, but struggled in other Sections. Online training was a way to offer consistency. Another accomplishment was reorganizing our Regional Vice Presidents. There were 12 RVPs and we rightsized to nine. This helped to make the organization more responsive, it saved a little bit of money, but it had an indirect benefit as well. With 12, the RVPs had an outsized voice on the Board of Nominations and many times they block-voted and our Board was RVP-heavy. Moving to nine helped to keep their influence in check.

Post-presidency letdown?
No, there was a post-presidency exuberance! The job is quite demanding and it was like a weight was lifted once it was over. Also, the relationships and friendships established are still important even to this day. So the post presidency has all of the benefits with none of the burden.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
I have remained involved through fits and spurts depending upon how my businesses are faring. There was a time when I was quite active in street and area lighting, but my business has moved away from street lighting recently. I used to complain a lot about the IES Annual Conference and found myself in charge of it in 2010. As I near retirement, I plan to be more active.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
It’s really good. Many of us were competitive with each other to some extent during the time of our presidency and we came down on opposite sides of issues, but all that is in the past. There really is a camaraderie, and we really just want to try to support the current president and help the IES continue to improve.


KIM MERCIER • 2007-08

Kim MercierLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
It’s been more than a decade since my presidency, and as time passes, the importance of the work that the Board performed at that time becomes more apparent. In my vice presidential year, the Board undertook a comprehensive reorganization and rebranding for the Society—a daunting task. All new programs, structure, branding and staff onboarding was rolled out and implemented during my presidential year. Specifically, the Technical and Research Committees were reorganized to streamline the reporting and approvals, thereby decreasing the frustration and perception of volunteer time lost for each of our members writing these important documents.

On the membership side, we created a structure that increased individual members’ access to the Society’s leadership; specifically, the number of Directors on the Board that were appointed by Regional Councils of Members (that is, the Regional Directors) was doubled and the number of Society leaders that were directly available to act as the conduit between everyday member needs and the strategic thinking of the Board was increased by more than 30%. The organization added its first education program director, who created a matrix for education and lifelong learning opportunities that, subsequently, became the springboard for leading edge market educational products and offerings. It was the first year of our EP program—a first of its kind for lighting organizations.

Post-presidency letdown?
This is an interesting question. As president of an organization like the IES there is confidence that the presidents you follow—and the ones you precede—have similar core values. Collectively, each of us has volunteered to lead an organization toward the Society’s clearly crafted mission while maintaining relevance and value for our members. The presidency is not a single year; it is several years of working with others in an everchanging role that ranges from support tasks to mentoring tasks. With the assurance that we are all working together and making steady progress, there is no post-presidency slump of boredom, feeling of depression, or discovery of weeks’ worth of “found time.” The time you gain in “retirement” from the role of president is seamlessly reassigned to your original passions or new areas of interest within the organization.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
This question is more relevant today, than it was a generation ago, as the Society has experienced the trend of members ascending to the presidency earlier in their careers. This is important because, as the career experience of the president approaches the median of our membership, there is a higher likelihood of apparent relevance of the leadership activities to each member…from EP to Emeritus.

Personally, I continue to mentor EPs as a member of the YP Scholarship Committee and participate on Leadership Forum and the Society’s Membership Advisory Panel. I have been a member on several IES Board Task Forces and am currently serving on the Light and Human Health Committee. I am a member of my local Section Board of Managers and have provided technical presentations at Sections, colleges, universities and Regional events. I enjoy my time with the other past presidents and first spouses of the Society as we discuss ways to assist the emerging leaders and members of the Society.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
We are individuals with disparate backgrounds and life experiences … but we are kindred spirits. We were each compelled to volunteer for the Society— and for the benefit of the lighting community— in ways that changed our lives. As a group of past presidents, there is a familiar understanding of what each has accomplished and a lot can remain unsaid.


FRED OBERKIRCHER • 2009-10

Fred OberkircherLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
During my presidency, the importance of lighting quality came to the fore and resulted in conversations between three organizations and people: John Martin of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Terry McGowan of the American Lighting Association (ALA), and Rita Harrold, Ron Gibbons and myself from the IES. These conversations resulted in a Memo of Understanding (MOU) between the three organizations concerning the importance of lighting quality, the publication of a brochure and the first of several trips to Washington, D.C. to speak to congressional leaders concerning this topic. As both the IALD and the ALA already had staff members responsible for public policy matters, it seemed reasonable that the IES should have one too. Discussions with then Executive Vice President Bill Hanley resulted in the creation of a staff position on public policy and the hiring of Bob Horner. Today, it’s difficult to think how our Society worked without that position and the accomplishments of Bob Horner.

Post-presidency letdown?
Being on the IES Board is both a demanding and a rewarding time, and even more so during the VP, president and past president rotation. Thus, for me, the void (and that’s exactly how it felt) was most pronounced when my past president year was over and I was no longer a Board member of the IES. No longer being in the immediate “know” almost felt like I was no longer a “real” member of the IES.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
Happily, the IES always seems ready to provide opportunities. First was as chair of the Research Committee which morphed into a staff position led by Brian Liebel. Next was the Education Committee which morphed into a staff position lead by Tom Butters (do you note a trend here?). And finally, as the LD+A book review editor. I am quite proud of this assignment as I have been privileged to share 46 books with our readership since 2011.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
The past presidents are a club in that this experience is only shared by those who have “been there and done that.” Having said that, past presidents are also IES Members who, through their professional experiences, have gotten to know each other and in some cases become personal friends. The “club card” is also, especially with past presidents of significantly different ages, an introduction to shared conversations that can sometimes lead to increased friendship. However, an often overlooked and enduring beauty of the IES is that this “club card” is held by all members and can be played at any time.


DANIEL SALINAS • 2013-14

Daniel SalinasLegacy or achievement you’re most proud of?
This is always hard when people ask me this question as I have always believed that it is up to others to evaluate a person’s “legacy” as they are the ones affected by the decisions you make. So I will answer toward the latter part of your question: “the single achievement.” During my presidency, we made a point of taking the IES out of the background and moving it into the forefront of involvement with a number of partnerships, MOUs and a Friendship Agreement with other organizations to gain assistance on some of our own work as well as to help influence the decisions of associated organizations where the work of our members and committees could be of value. But the event that I was happiest with was our first ever official leadership visit to Washington, D.C. where we met with legislators and various organizations to discuss how the work of the IES could be an asset in their decision-making.

Post-presidency letdown?
At the end of my three-year commitment (vice president, president-elect, president), the final vote I had was that of the Executive Committee on my final day in the past president’s chair, June 30, 2015, where we interviewed the final candidates for Executive Director of the IES and voted to forward Tim Licitra’s name to the Board of Directors. At the end of that vote, I remember turning to everyone and saying, “That was my last vote as a Board member, after many years of involvement on the Board, I am worn out.” I was very tired and ready for a change. There was no letdown for me, more one of relief, but I do miss the camaraderie and excitement of the challenges we faced.

Involvement in the IES, post presidency?
I am on several IES committees, both local and national, and have increased my involvement outside of the IES with other associated industry organizations.

Camaraderie with fellow past presidents or sitting presidents?
The past presidents are in a rare-air situation because very few attain that position. I value the times we can see or hear from each other and look forward to events such as Annual Conference to reconnect. Because we all carried the mantle for a while, we have a respect for each other that goes beyond words. We each had our good times in the seat but always the hard times and things we wish could have been different. When I became president I remember telling several past presidents that a call from them would always be answered because I needed their input and experience of the chair. After I left the office I have made a point of stressing to each incoming president that they have the right to call on me or other past presidents anytime they need us; we are at their disposal. We hold the history, but more important, the concern for the position and the Society that goes beyond our terms.

Contributor(s)

Paul Tarricone

Paul Tarricone