William Calder, 1990 Society President, ISA Fellow

1990: A stellar year of advancing the profession

The 1989–90 Society year got off to a great start with an almost ready-made agenda. The executive board had just culminated more than two years of effort by adopting the Society’s first strategic plan. It was clear that in the coming year the first priority was to address the implementation of the plan. The Society had just ended the most successful year ever in terms of growth, income, and enthusiastic member participation in the many benefits offered by the Society. So, our second priority was to keep this ball rolling.

The Society had also recently purchased Programmable Controls magazine. This provided a flagship publication with an audited readership of 45,000 and the potential of adding significantly to the Society’s membership. Developing and implementing a plan to take advantage of this became the third priority. The fourth priority was expanding our international membership by generating additional sections and entities we dubbed “regions” to take in expanded geographical areas. The fifth priority was a catch-all for any issues that arose in the course of the coming year.

The president’s winter meeting in San Diego kicked off the strategic plan implementation. Attendance at this meeting was the highest ever and was accompanied by a report that membership in the Society was on the rise. In addition, it was reported that the annual conference and exhibit to be held in New Orleans had already sold out, the earliest in history, and had been expanded an extra 10,000 sq. ft. (to 220,000 sq. ft.) to accommodate the overflow.

In the meantime, recognition of ISA practitioners as professionals was making great strides due to the efforts of one member, Thomas Stout, PhD, who had initially organized an effort to have states recognize control system engineering as a separate discipline in the professional engineering realm. The going was slow, but Stout was patient and progress was being made in Texas and several other states. This work led to the certification program adopted by ISA to certify three levels of technicians and create the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) designation through an examination process. Stout’s efforts at the state level were ultimately successful: All but three states now recognize the control systems engineering discipline.

The president’s summer meeting in June, held in Williamsburg, Va., saw further development of the strategic plan implementation. The board adopted a set of goal clarifications and plans on how to proceed. Further, there were intense discussions about how to attract “computer-based” process control practitioners to the Society (priority 3). Should they form a sister Society, a division within the Society, or something else? The debate was heated at times, but there was progress toward making a specific proposal.

In the meantime, work on the expansion of ISA continued through international outreach (priority 4). At that time, District 12 vice president David Morrow had his hands full, since this work encompassed the U.K., Europe, the Middle East, and India—a rather large and diverse collection for one person to manage.

The first steps to expand and to restructure began that summer. Trips to India resulted in issuing three charters in different geographical areas of the country and also the start of the notion to consider forming regions, with India being one of them. This idea eventually took hold, and the European Region was created, with others to follow in time. Additional efforts to organize Finland and Singapore were also pursued. In the meantime, membership moved toward 50,000.

The year culminated with the largest ISA Conference and Exhibit ever held, with the number of exhibitors and attendees breaking all records. The executive team of the Society was most thankful to the membership for their efforts in making this a banner year, as well as to the ISA staff who had done a stellar job of carrying out the will of the membership.

William Calder, 1990 Society President, ISA Fellow

This article is part of September/October 2020 InTech—the ISA 75th Anniversary Special Edition