Highlights of the 2001 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting
As is the case every year, the Sigma Xi annual meeting brings together representatives from a large proportion of the Society’s chapters to receive an update on changes at the national level, exchange views on the direction of the Society, learn ways to make their own chapters more effective, and exchange a little gossip.
This year the meeting was held at the Sheraton Capital Center in Raleigh, North Carolina over the weekend of November 9-11. Vice President Richard Peterson attended as delegate from the Quinnipiac Chapter and President Alfred Notation participated as the newly elected Associate Director for the Northeast Region. In all, 152 of a total of 520 chapters were represented at this meeting.
The main business of the meeting is conducted in three sessions of the Assembly of Delegates. President Marye Anne Fox (Chancellor of North Carolina State University) welcomed all delegates at the first session at 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon. The Report of the President painted a generally healthy picture for the Society as it seeks to expand while at the same time protect the "vitality and semi-independence of the Chapters of Sigma Xi." The report referred to the proposed Sigma Xi Center, which will occupy the new Headquarters Building in Research Triangle Park. Construction of the new building is to begin during the coming year. The precise function of this Center is still being discussed. A consensus is growing that it should be devoted to "chapter based activities." The Presidents Report states that it will house programs to promote (1) ethics and honor in science and research, (2) science education, (3) public understanding of science, and (4) the overall health of the research enterprise. We shall all watch closely to see just what happens as this project develops.
The treasurer’s report for the meeting was basically positive. The Society has $23 million in total assets for 2001. This is down by $2 million from year 2000 due, unsurprisingly, to market conditions. Dues for the next fiscal year will increase by no more than the Consumer Price Index, which has been the formula for setting dues for the past few years.
A major issue centered around a resolution offered to the Assembly by the Ottawa Chapter. Many are concerned about the persistent drop in membership that has occurred over the past ten years. The resolution read that the "highest priority" of the Headquarters staff should be increasing and retaining membership in the zociety. "Nurturing and supporting chapters" should be the next highest priority. Many in the Assembly opposed this resolution because it seemed to put the "cart before the horse" by failing to stress the core values of the Society that should serve as an attractor for new members. This resolution was amended so as to merely place a "high priority" on membership without hierarchical reference to other duties of the Headquarters staff. The resolution was actually intended to serve as a friendly mandate to the, as yet, unnamed Executive Director who will replace Dr. Peter Blair who resigned last summer after several years of excellent service to the Society. In no way was the resolution to be taken as a criticism of the Headquarters staff who continue to do a superior job in meeting the needs of the chapters.
An important function of the annual meeting is to recognize achievement and talent. This year’s Young Investigator Award went to Dr. Henry Rodriguez who is Project Leader for the Biotechnology Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He spoke on "Oxidative Stress Diagnostics/Therapeutics and Tissue Engineering: Standards for Tomorrow’s Preventive Medicine." The 2001 John P. McGovern Award went to Dr. Roald Hoffman of Cornell University. Dr. Hoffman entitled his address "Once Culture: The Commonalities and Differences Between the Arts and the Sciences." Dr. Alexander Rich of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was awarded the 2001 Procter Prize for this work with Z-DNA. Seventeen Sigma Xi chapters were recognized activities during the year. The Quinnipiac Chapter received a Certificate of Excellence for hosting seminars on medical advances with special emphasis on the presentation by Ronald Bechett and Gerald Conlogue of QU on their research on mummy remains. A newly established Sigma Xi Diversity Award was presented to three chapters for achievements in the area of diversity.
Delegates cast ballots for national officers. Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden was elected to serve as Society President for the term of 2002-2003. Dr. Richard L Meyer of the University of Arkansas was elected to serve as Treasurer during this term.
Each geographical region of the Society held meetings to elect officers and discuss issues pertinent to their constituency. The Quinnipiac Chapter is a member of the Northeast Region, which is led by Director Christopher Lange of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. Associate Director Albert Notation (Quinnipiac Chapter) co-presided over the regional meeting. Much of the discussion in these meeting centered on refining the wording of the Ottawa Resolution. More substantive discussion ensued about how we as scientists might more effectively communicate our efforts to the public. The office of regional chairman was up for election this year. Incumbent Christopher Lange edged out challengers Robert Frederking (Ottawa Chapter) and Richard Peterson (Quinnipiac Chapter) to serve another term.
The meeting was adjourned after a few remarks by President-elect W. Franklin Gilmore of Montana Tech of the University of Montana. All delegates thanked the Headquarters staff and conference planners for their efforts in hosting a highly successful 2001 annual meeting.