Executive Director's Report: 2008

This is a report on activity in the Association Office during 2008. It is intended to supplement information about Board and committee meetings and especially the reports of our very hard-working vice presidents that appear regularly in the Newsletter. The following paragraph appears, with few changes, in each of my annual reports, but it bears repeating at least once a year if not more often.

The APA is ambitious in that it operates programs that are similar to and sometimes even more sophisticated than those of much larger learned societies. Just a few weeks ago, a member told me that he had been bragging to his friends in the MLA that our Placement Service offered far more support and safeguards than theirs. If Classics is to continue to be a core discipline of the humanities, we have to do the kinds of things that MLA, AHA, College Art, and Religion do for their fields with a third or a fifth as many members. Volunteer labor, substantial amounts of it, is the only way we can provide the kinds of essential services that our bigger sisters do, and I am grateful to the many APA members who take on our work without compensation and sometimes without reimbursement of expenses.

In previous years I and my predecessors have delivered this report during the business meeting at the annual meeting, but it was Past President Ruth Scodel's useful thought to change the format of that session to make it less of a time when officers talked at members and more of an opportunity for interaction between members and the Board. We tried this new format last year, and I think it worked well. I will post this report on our web site a few days before the annual meeting in the hope that you will raise questions and make comments about it both in Philadelphia and afterwards.

Financial
Our fiscal year ends on June 30 of each year, and our auditors, Briggs, Bunting and Dougherty of Philadelphia, completed their audit of our financial statements for the 2007 fiscal year last Winter. The April Newsletter contained a summary of that report, and you can obtain the complete report on the APA web site (see link at bottom of this page) or from my office. If you look at Page 2 of this report, you'll see that our total assets increased by almost $450,000, which is, of course, a good thing. However, you'll also note that those assets fall into three categories: unrestricted (money we can use for any Board-approved purpose), temporarily restricted (money that that a donor has given us to spend over time for a specific purpose), and permanently restricted (money that a donor has given us to keep in perpetuity and invest so that we can use the proceeds of that investment for one or more of our programs). Depending on the terms of each endowment gift, the investment proceeds it generates can be unrestricted or temporarily restricted income.

In the 2007 fiscal year permanently restricted assets increased by over $200,000, all of which consisted of contributions and pledges to the capital campaign. Temporarily restricted assets increased by a little over $100,000 during the year. This figure is the result of a calculation (see Page 10 of the auditors' report) that adds new grant awards (e.g., from the NEH) and restricted investment income (e.g., proceeds from the Pearson Fund that can support only the Pearson Fellowship) and subtracts what the auditors call "releases", money spent in accordance with donors' instructions. Unrestricted assets also increased, by $150,000, and the following page (Page 3) of the report shows that we owe this positive result to our investments. Near the bottom of the page there are, in effect, two "bottom lines", showing changes in assets before and then after income produced by our investments and changes in their values are considered.

As you look at these figures, please keep in mind the following details about them. First, the "before" figure, which includes all program income and the "releases" described above, is a deficit while the "after" figure shows a surplus. That alone shows you that our existing endowment, built up since the early 1980's, generates income that makes it possible for us to do all the things we do without imposing much higher fees on members. Second, our auditors are required to show changes in the value of our investments as if they were actual gains or losses even if we have held on to our securities during the entire fiscal year. Third, the funds we do draw down from our investments to support our activities consist in part of interest and dividend income but usually also consist of proceeds from liquidated securities. Our portfolios do not suffer significantly when assets are sold for this purpose in rising or even flat markets. When asset values suffer major declines like the ones experienced in the last six months, however, we can be put in the position of selling securities originally purchased at a much higher price.

The auditors report discussed above describes financial activity between July 2006 and June 2007, a period during which our investments gained in value. In the subsequent twelve months, i.e., through June 2008, they lost about 10% of their value, and in the last six months, an additional 22%-24%. On Page 6 of the October 2008 Newsletter, I described the way we use income from our endowment (drawing down a maximum of 5% of the average value of a fund over the previous three years) and the steps that the Board of Directors, with the advice of the Finance Committee, is taking to respond to current financial difficulties. The first step, one that will save us about $16,000 during the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2009, is to send the printed Newsletter only to members who request it, effective with the February 2009 issue.

Barring further major declines in financial markets, our investment advisers at BNYMellon feel that we can continue to draw down funds from our investments at the same rate as before. Of course, the 5% formula will produce a smaller figure to be withdrawn, and our substantial holdings in bonds, whose value has declined far less than our equity holdings, can be sold at a smaller loss. However, the more we can restrict our draw on the endowment to dividend and interest income and the less demand we make on depreciated securities, the better our position when financial markets recover. At the upcoming annual meeting, therefore, we will make a number of decisions about reducing expenditures in our budget. A few of these may be implemented during the current fiscal year, but our focus will be on the next (starting July 1, 2009).

I can report that in the fiscal year that ended June 2008, our basic operations generated a surplus of around $40,000, but that this figure includes our usual 5% draw on investments. A preliminary statement that I have just prepared for the current year projects a similar surplus, and, if these projections seem to be accurate as we approach the end of the year, we will decrease the amount we withdraw from the General Fund to preserve the value of its principle as much as possible. We may be able to limit withdrawals from the Pearson and Coffin Funds as well, but this is less likely.

Capital Campaign and Annual Giving
In the discussion above, I have made no mention of our fourth invested fund, the Research and Teaching Endowment which holds contributions to our current Gatekeeper to Gateway campaign. For at least the next two years, several positive events that took place this year are protecting this fund from much of the impact of the recent severe declines in financial markets.

First, this past March, we learned that the NEH's Division of Preservation & Access would award a final three-year grant to the American Office (AO) of l'Année philologique. (This is the grant mechanism that has supported the AO for over 40 years.) This NEH decision, which provides funding for the Office through June 2011, means that we will not have to draw on the new Endowment for this purpose until the Summer of 2011. All the other programs that the new Endowment will support (such as our digital portal and increased teaching awards and minority scholarships) were always scheduled to begin after the capital campaign concluded in 2011; so, the likelihood that we will need to liquidate securities in this fund at a loss has declined significantly.

Second, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made the largest gift to date to the campaign at a critical moment for both our NEH challenge grant and for our investments. We received Mellon's major gift of $325,000 in late September, just before the date (October 1) when the third installment ($250,000) of NEH matching funds became available from our challenge grant. At that point, thanks to very generous pledges from Roberto and Alison Mignone ($100,000) and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation ($50,000), we had just gone past the $1 million mark in total pledges and were just $40,000 from the figure ($1,090,000) we needed to claim the entire challenge grant installment. The Mellon grant obviously put us well past the amount needed for our matching grant claim and, in fact, put our total pledges at nearly $1.4 million, or over half of the amount we need by December 2010 ($2.6 million) to claim all NEH matching funds. The timing of the Mellon grant was also extremely favorable because the funds arrived when the troubles in financial markets became obvious to everyone. Our investment advisers have therefore kept these funds in very short-term securities since receiving them although I hope that we can soon start to consider placing these funds in more long-term investments.

About a month later we received the $250,000 in matching funds from the NEH. At the beginning of 2008 the Board accepted the Finance Committee's recommendation that we retain $90,000 of this amount to offset fund-raising costs. We sent the remaining $160,000 to our investment advisers who kept it, like the Mellon grant, in short-term securities.

The grant from Mellon, like the major gift we received last year from the Classical Association of the UK, is designated to support the American Office of l'Année. But the campaign is about more than scholarly resources. The American Office is at its core because l'Année is the place where Classicists start their work whether they are producing scholarship, lesson plans, or materials for lay audiences. It is a vital resource, but members and especially lay persons are also supporting our effort because of its promise to share our knowledge as widely as possible. In the twenty-first century, "as widely as possible" means a strong presence on the Internet, and this year, thanks to much hard work by Ward Briggs, we posted on our web site a demonstration video that shows how we will use scholarly resources to produce materials not just for ourselves as scholars but for teachers and students of Classics at all levels and for anyone interested in our field. This video has recently been revised and professionally produced, and if you come to the annual meeting, you will find a copy of the DVD bound into your Program. It will also appear on our web site, and can be obtained at no charge from the Association Office. Ward's video brings our gateway promise to life.

From May to December 2008 we received over a hundred new or additional pledges worth more than $41,000 in response to our first mailing to all members about the capital campaign. This was a gratifying response, and we will need to ask our members to be even more generous in the few years remaining in the campaign. At the same time, while we know it imposes an extra burden, we need to ask members to continue to support our annual giving campaigns as well. As I have tried to explain in the previous paragraphs, the capital campaign is about our future, not just the American Office, but all of the scholarly, teaching, and outreach work that APA members do. Meanwhile, we need to maintain our current activities at a time when - as described above - it would be prudent to reduce our draw on our existing endowment. Your annual giving support makes this possible.

We are having this fund-raising success in large part because of the work of the Campaign and Development Committees led by Michael Putnam and David Porter, respectively. We are very fortunate that they and their colleagues on the committees are willing to devote so much of their time and expertise to this important effort. After just 18 months in her position (minus a few for maternity leave) Julie Carew has quickly become familiar with the Association, its members, and its potential donors. This past year she installed new fund-raising software that has made it easier for us to issue pledge reminders and to prepare reports for the committees, the Board, and our auditors.

Membership
Our total membership remained essentially constant this year, 3,170 as compared with 3,166 at this time last year. This is the third consecutive year of either lower or flat membership numbers, and it is important that we reverse this trend, not just for the obvious financial reasons but because we need the intellectual strength that a larger membership can provide. I have worked closely with Kurt Raaflaub during his year as President to identify close to 200 Classicists in departments across the country who are not APA members although many of them hold senior positions, and he has kindly agreed to write to them just after the annual meeting and invite them to join or (in most cases) rejoin the Association.

The new departmental membership program not only enjoyed growth during 2008 (from 50 to 62 departments), but a larger number of departments participated in this program at the optional Sustaining and Supporting levels. This valuable program generates income that the NEH will match for both the American Office of l'Année and our TLL Fellowship. This is particularly important in the case of the American Office because the new Preservation and Access grant referred to above, the one that will make it possible for us to defer withdrawals from the new campaign endowment for almost three years, comes with a much higher requirement for matching funds than in previous years.

Interactions with Other Organizations
I continue to benefit from my participation in the ACLS' Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) and in the National Humanities Alliance (NHA). Please see my article on Page 23 of the October Newsletter about NHA's Humanities Advocacy Day this coming March. This is a program designed to inform members of Congress about the NEH and other issues of importance to the humanities. With many new faces in Congress this year and a new federal administration, this is a particularly important time to make sure that the needs of the humanities are not lost among the many other issues now confronting the federal government.

This year Heather Gasda or I attended all of the other Classics meetings that are regularly on our calendar: CAAS in the Fall, CANE and CAMWS in the Spring, and the ACL Institute in early Summer. Our most important interaction with ACL, however, took the form of a joint task force that our two societies formed this year to develop standards for secondary school Latin teachers, an effort that complements our work together a decade ago to develop standards for Latin students. Our Vice President for Education, Lee Pearcy, and ACL President Sherwin Little are the effective leaders of this project, but Heather and I arranged this group's meeting in Philadelphia in May, and I have made some modest contributions to its deliberations. The APA Board and the ACL Executive Committee have approved the first draft prepared by the task force, and it will soon be published for comments by the members of both associations.

Our hope is that these standards will influence organizations that assess teacher performance, and that they will serve as guidelines that academic institutions can use to develop teacher-training programs specifically for Latin teachers. There are many training opportunities for foreign language teachers in general, but the specific needs of Latin teachers are rarely addressed. The lack of such training opportunities in turn makes it harder for would-be Latin teachers to obtain certification for public schools. More training opportunities, however, will support the capital campaign's goal of eliminating the current shortage of high school teachers, and capital campaign funds will serve as a further incentive for the development of such courses by providing scholarships for participants and stipends for master teachers and scholars from outside of the host institution.

Amphora
Our outreach publication continues to thrive under new Editor, Davina McClain, and her successor as Assistant Editor, Diane Johnson. I am an active participant on Amphora's editorial board, believing that the twenty years I spent outside of the profession makes me more like the nonprofessional readers we seek. While the number of nonmember subscribers to Amphora remains quite small, discussions I have had, particularly at other Classics meetings, have convinced me that it has an enthusiastic audience, mainly on the web, about which we know relatively little. During the coming year I hope to find more about that audience and better ways to reach it.

Research Division
Last year I helped Lisa Carson and Kathleen Coleman write the grant proposals that resulted in the renewals of our American Office and TLL Fellowship grants this year. This year the Mellon Foundation offered us an opportunity to request a new grant to make further improvements in the online version of l'Année philologique. Thanks to a major grant from Mellon in 2004, searches for both ancient and modern authors now produce more useful results, fewer duplications appear in the database, and individual offices are beginning to post early versions of citations that will eventually appear in the official volumes. This March I attended a meeting at Mellon's offices along with Jeff Henderson, Dee Clayman, and Eric Rebillard representing the APA, and a number of Classics librarians from institutions around the country. Mellon's purpose in bringing us together was to identify areas in which the user interface of APh Online could be improved.

Those discussions were fruitful and during the Spring, I helped Eric to craft a proposal for a planning grant which we received at the end of June. At the end of this project he will be able to propose ways to improve APh Online's search interface and to link its citations to both ancient texts and modern scholarship. Actual improvements will be several years away and will undoubtedly require additional grant funding, but at a minimum the Mellon grant has gotten this work off to a good start, and I believe that our willingness to collaborate with Mellon on this project made the prospect of a major grant to the capital campaign more attractive to the Foundation.

Placement Service
The recent troubles in financial markets have naturally had repercussions in the Classics job market, but for now at least, the number of positions available, while down from significantly from last year, is about the same as it was just three years ago. There is no way of knowing how many jobs will be posted after the annual meeting; so, at this time of the year, the best way to compare markets in different years is to look at the number of institutions conducting interviews at the annual meeting:

  • Philadelphia (2009).....55
  • Chicago (2008).............85
  • San Diego (2007).........70
  • Montreal (2006).............55

In my ten-year experience the Chicago and San Diego numbers were the outliers as the number of interviewing institutions was typically in the 55 to 65 range. Also, this year the number of candidates registered before the annual meeting was about the same as last year, after two consecutive years of substantial increases. I do not present these numbers because I believe that this is a good job market for candidates but rather to point out that, at least so far, what we are experiencing is not a seriously depressed market but a return to a familiar level of opportunity after two unusually positive years.

Internally, the most momentous event in the Placement Service was Director Renie Plonski's medical leave in October and most of November. This made me Placement Director pro tempore, a post I was very happy to relinquish. With the help of a temporary worker, Pamela Braxton, I think we managed to maintain an adequate level of service, in part because Renie kept an eye on us electronically during her recovery. Given that disruption, I'm particularly grateful to Renie for following through on our plan to notify all candidates about interviews (or the lack of same) before the meeting provided that the candidate met our early registration deadline of November 17 (eventually extended to November 26).

We offered this incentive for early registration because we think it is a false economy for candidates to wait to see if they have interviews before registering with the Service. Registration costs $20 before the advance deadline and $50 afterwards. Registration means candidates receive job listings via e-mail twice a month instead of having to wait to see them posted on the APA and AIA web sites once a month. We are careful to protect the privacy of candidates. There's absolutely no requirement that a candidate submit his or her c.v. for the Placement Book, and the only people who will know that a candidate is looking for a position are the people to whom the candidate submits applications. The Service cannot schedule an interview with a candidate who has not completed its registration form, and it is the institution (not the Service) that has the task of getting in touch with the candidate to remind him or her to register. It is not a frequent occurrence, but institutions have simply dropped candidates from their interview lists rather than taking on this additional work just before the holiday break. Finally, of course, we encourage early registration because it makes it easier for us to operate the Service, but the most important thing it accomplishes is to gather the information that, in turn, allows us to keep the hiring process as fair as it is.

Annual Meeting
The meeting in Philadelphia will probably attract around 2,200 paid registrants. This is a lower figure than we had hoped, but it is still a good number in light of cutbacks in travel funds and the reduced number of institutions interviewing. Last year in Chicago, paid registration was just over 2,600, but, like the placement numbers in that year, this registration figure is an outlier. We had 2,450 paid registrants in Boston in January 2005, but in almost all other years the numbers have ranged from 2,000 to 2,300.

Members seem to be satisfied with the Board's decision not to mail the Program in advance of the meeting since it is posted on the web site. This obviously saves the APA considerable expense, and it also makes it easier for my office to produce an up-to-date document needing few last-minute changes in the Schedule-at-a-Glance handed out at the meeting.

Heather Gasda and I are extremely grateful to Joe Farrell of Penn and Robin Mitchell-Boyask of Temple who co-chaired the Local Arrangements Committee. I hope you saw and will make good use of the guide to Philadelphia that they prepared and that Robin posted on the web site about a month ago. We also very much enjoy working with the hard-working Program Committee, especially the Chair, Bob Kaster, who sometimes seems to understand our logistical pressures better than we do.

University of Pennsylvania
I continue to make annual presentations about the APA and the state of affairs for Classics in American academia to the entering graduate students and postbaccalaureate students in the Classical Studies Department. Partially because of these presentations, I am enjoying a greater level of informal communication with these students and with the faculty.

As I reported last year, we anticipate leaving Claudia Cohen Hall, as it is now called, this coming Summer. A society can hardly complain when one of its constituent departments becomes so successful that it needs to reclaim the space it had previously been able to provide. We do anticipate remaining at Penn for at least the next three years (see next paragraph), but the space available and the financial terms are not likely to be as favorable as they are now.

This coming Thursday the Board of Directors will vote on my request to extend my term as Executive Director for three years (until June 2012). My previous terms have been five years, but I asked for this shorter term because I hope the Association will conduct a major strategic planning exercise in early 2011 at the end of the capital campaign, and because it is unclear how moving our offices from Cohen Hall will affect our operations and finances. If the planning exercise recommends a different administrative structure, or if our new location becomes too burdensome, the APA will be able to make the necessary changes.

We established a procedure for reappointing an Executive Director in 2003 when my previous term was set to expire: the President reviews my performance with current and recent vice presidents and other volunteers at my request. In this instance, because fund raising has taken up so much of my time in recent years, I asked Kurt to discuss my work with David Porter and Michael Putnam who have been, in effect, our vice presidents for development over the last few years. The President then develops a file consisting of the comments of the vice presidents and my annual performance evaluations. The Executive Committee reviews that file and makes a recommendation to the Board. Kurt has informed me that the Committee is recommending my reappointment, and I look forward to continuing to serve the Association.

Conclusion
I want to conclude by thanking all members, especially those on committees and the Board, for their support of my office's efforts. I look forward to welcoming many of you to our home city later this week, and I urge you to let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about Association operations.

Adam D. Blistein
Executive Director
January 6, 2009

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