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JACC No. 6: Creative Thinking: Conversations with Wil and Timi

April 21, 2017

A series of my most memorable moments with the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

Ever think of how your epitaph would read. I think I would like mine to read, “He was a creative thinker.” I think it goes back to my childhood, as evidenced by the attached image my mother preserved in my childhood scrapbook. I sometimes like to color outside the lines, to be creative in my expression, even if I am not an artist, musician, or actor (some would say I act like a fool, though).

When I think about my elementary and high school days I can remember lots of times where I distinguished myself by coloring outside the lines with creative ideas.

Some of my fondest memories of my work with JACC were conversations I had with former Modesto College journalism instructor Wil Sims and former JACC Convention Chair Timi Poeppelman.

WILL SIMS

Wil was the organization’s executive secretary before I joined in with JACC. Later he served as a convention chair when the organization moved its conventions to the Fresno State University campus.

In the 1980s and 1990s the board of director met in different parts of the state for weekend business meetings. The meetings usually started Friday afternoon, ran all day Saturday, and wrapped up by noon on Sundays. In the evenings, especially on Fridays, we’d be free and Wil and I would squirrel off to some quiet corner and come up with all kinds of innovative solutions or initiatives for JACC that we’d be back to the board the next day.

He ran three JACC conventions and the innovations we came up with saved the organization so much money that the organization soon had a $30,000-$35,000 nest egg … a lot of money in those days. With the high interest rates banks were paying we were able to start a generous scholarship program by tapping only into the annual interest earned.

Another conference chair came along a couple years after him and in three years that nest egg had resulted in a goose egg savings account. Journalists are not good accountants and no one fully understood how we lost so much money. There were increased costs for running conferences, interest rates went down and we ate away at principal to maintain the scholarship program, but there were probably poor accounting practices taking place as well.

Costs kept going up, boards refused to raise rates, budgets shifted, weak accounting took place, some bad spending decisions were made and eventually the organization was hovering on bankruptcy. It had to borrow money, and more recently had to employ some austere measures to stay afloat.

TIMI POEPPELMAN

I first met Timi when she served as my assistant to the 2000 convention in Sacramento as we transitioned back to the hotel setting and took the convention out of Fresno. She took over as the organization’s permanent chair for the next 15 years.

Timi, too, is a creative and hard worker. Even though we live at different ends of the state we communicated regularly, first at the on-site board meetings –some of which were held at her Lake Tahoe cabin to save the organization some money– and more recently with l-o-o-o-n-g phone calls in the evening. Those phone calls might well last an hour and a half to two hours as we tackled complex problems and developed innovative solutions. I loved those talks and did not mind when she got credit, or blame, for our solutions. Sometimes we’d start with one problem and end up solving another.

She turned our conventions into first-class conventions that benefitted students immensely. But the organization could not sustain them as costs climbed and organizational accounting slipped.

Today’s newer faculty have more demands on them than we had in my early days of teaching and it is harder to get someone to step up and take on the tough task of planning a convention. They are willing to take a small part, but not jump in whole hog. JACC needs to rebuild the volunteer spirit in the organization. That is why the organization might want to consider re-configuring the 1980s approach and marrying it with the 2000s approach.

Hmmm, I already have some ideas that need to be hammered into something practical.

Previously: No. 10: The swimming race and the photo darkroom, No. 9: Getting a thesis topic, No. 8: Stories: Yosemite, The Shooter, Handcuffs, West Valley Rules, 7: Clearing out the Holiday Inn

Next: Legal updates and the Blue Heron

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