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Joe Aldridge spoke about the path that lead him to the presidency of USITT in remarks at the USITT Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photo/Tom Thatcher

Carrying on a Legacy

Joe Aldridge
USITT President

Remarks delivered at the 2010 Annual Conference

What an honor it is for me to have been elected to serve as the 25th President of this great organization. Please accept my sincere gratitude for your confidence in entrusting this responsibility to me.

Wow! Fifty down, and at least 50 to go! Was it really 10 years ago, in Denver, that we celebrated 40 years of existence? Now we’re 50, and looking to the future to see what is in store for USITT. I thought that we should get a jump on planning for the next big milestone for USITT, so, if you are interested, we are beginning to plan for our 100th anniversary. The Centennial Planning Committee sign-up sheets are available in the lobby. I encourage you to be the first in your Commission or Section to volunteer!

I have to admit that I was wondering how I came to be in this position in USITT, and I realized that it probably began in March of 1991, on a stairway in the Seattle Convention Center. It was then that I realized that my anonymity had been blown. (Yeah, right! How do you hide an 800 pound gorilla under the sofa?)

It recently dawned on me that the events of that day had a very profound affect on my professional life, and it was affected in a very positive way. Up until then, except for a brief stint as a presenter at the Annual Conference in Boston in 1991, I was happily minding my own business, partaking of the programming and socializing that the Conference had to offer but without any real responsibilities whatsoever, so to speak. Then it happened.

Leon Brauner approached me as I was headed to a session at that Conference in Seattle and asked to “have a word” with me. Well, I was impressed. I knew who Leon was, I knew that he was involved with Conference planning or programming, I knew that he was important, but how did he know who I was? What could be so important that he needed to have a word with me? As it turns out, he had been in a Conference Planning Committee meeting, and Las Vegas had been discussed as an option for an upcoming event. It seems that one of my colleagues from Las Vegas (in 1991 there couldn’t have been more than a couple of dozen of us) had lobbied for Las Vegas as a good Conference location. I wasn’t sure what that meant for me, but I was willing to listen.

Leon asked whether or not I would consider serving as local committee chair for the Annual Conference if it were to be held in Las Vegas. Well, I was flattered and said I’d consider it. Consider it! How in the world could I refuse? What an honor! My shot at my 15 minutes! (My lack of military training should be apparent. I didn’t know any better than not to volunteer).

For better or worse, that was my introduction to leadership in USITT. Through that encounter, I have had many wonderful experiences and made many, many friends. I want to thank all of those who have supported my participation and encouraged me to continue to grow in USITT and professionally.

I would especially like to thank my wife, Sherry, who has had to endure my absence while volunteering for this organization. I think that this year is the first in over 19 years that I have actually been home to help celebrate her birthday. I have to tell you, I was at a total loss for a suitable gift since I didn’t yet have the 2010 Syracuse Scenery and Stage Lighting pot holders, apron, or bag to give her. I have always relied on the Conference to furnish me with gift-giving ideas and options for this occasion. Anyway, I have been able to make that up to her this week. In fact, she got to choose her own colors for the pot holders! Her collection is intact!

Although he isn’t here, I want to thank my friend and mentor, the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at UNLV. Jeff Koep has provided strong support and encouragement over the years. He recognized the value of my involvement in USITT and has helped to sustain my activities as a volunteer. In fact, he proudly touts USITT membership to other administrators on the UNLV campus as the type of professional organization that faculty should be involved with.

I would also like to thank my many USITT friends. I have had the great honor and privilege of working with you over the past 19 years. Too numerous to name individually, my sincere appreciation goes out to all of you.

This is a truly humbling experience. To remind me just how humbling, I have asked that the names of those who have served as President before me be displayed on the screen, so that I am ever mindful of the standards that have been established for this office. It is one heck of a burden to have to bear and an absolute honor to have the opportunity to attempt to uphold those standards!

USITT has had the good fortune to be stewarded by dedicated and caring volunteers, allowing us to reach this milestone, our 50th anniversary. With careful planning and deliberation we should be able to grow and be strong for the next 50 years and beyond.

As I hope you are aware, we have recently undergone an extensive assessment and review process. This is allowing us to make constructive decisions about needed organizational tweaking and changes that will keep us relevant for our members and the industry.

Change can be good, if done in a judicious manner. Organizations such as USITT need to be proactively engaged in organizational reviews and revisions on a regular basis. I believe that USITT will emerge from these assessment and re-organization efforts as a more efficient membership organization. One of the most important and encouraging things that I have witnessed through this process is the rekindling of passion for the Institute from many of our esteemed past leaders. It is my intent to utilize this passion for the further good of the Institute. I, for one, appreciate their willingness to continue to serve the organization. They represent a vast body of knowledge that is an invaluable resource, and their offers of assistance are gratifying. I intend to take advantage of their kind offers and, with their counsel, I will be able to make considered and informed decisions as we go forward.

I encourage you, as members, to seek out those of us elected to represent and lead you. Ask questions if you need information about anything that has been transpiring. Find ways to become involved in the growth and revitalization of USITT as we embark on our next 50 years. Encourage your colleagues and students to join and become involved with the good work being done by USITT. This is a volunteer organization. Volunteers have made the past 50 years possible and our future promising.

I would be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to the hard-working volunteers who have made this conference a success. As you may know, my roots are with the Conference Committee. I know first hand of the sacrifices that they make to ensure that our Conferences are as seamless and enjoyable as possible. This celebration is clear evidence of that dedication.

I also know that the Commissions and the Commission leadership have had a strong hand in ensuring that we have quality programming at each Conference. We also owe a debt of gratitude to our Sustaining and Contributing members, whose support enables us to survive throughout the year. And a great big thank you to the ladies in the National Office. They make volunteering easy! They collectively have our backs! And finally, thanks are in order to each and every one of you for your support and participation. You, the members, are USITT.

I relish this opportunity to serve you as President for the next two years. Exciting times lie ahead!

Thank you!

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