The STC Florida Chapter … Then and Now
This is a decade-by-decade summary of the history of the STC Florida Chapter. Details are available in the Chapter History Chronology as well as the archives of the award-winning chapter newsletter, Memo to Members and its predecessor Tech Trends. What you read in this summary and the detailed chronology is a mere nugget compared to the gold mine of our community’s trailblazing accomplishments from 1997 to the present, which you will find in the collection of more than two decades of newsletters. We encourage you to explore it. An earlier chapter history provides an in-depth treatment of our chapter’s accomplishments from 1997 through 2005.
The STC Florida Chapter’s history dates to 1977, when the Society granted a charter to the Greater Orlando Chapter in response to a petition from 23 Orlando-area technical communicators.
Despite the efforts of three early leaders from three different Central Florida technology companies, the fledgling STC community struggled from 1977 to 1981. We remained an official chapter, having 20 or more members, but there are no records of regular activity such as chapter meetings and no officers or committee chairs beyond the “chapter chairman,” as the chapter president was then called.
The 1977 effort to form a new chapter distinct from the existing “Central Florida Chapter” (based on the Space Coast) was led by chapter chairman Roger Lombardi of Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin). Unfortunately, Lombardi was consumed with a major effort on the U.S. Army Pershing Missile Project at Martin Marietta, and the fledgling community was unable to gain traction.
Next to take up the cause, in May 1979, was John D. Browne at Florida Software Services. Despite Browne’s efforts and the encouragement and support of STC President Stanley A. Higgins, an STC Fellow who later became a member of the Orlando Chapter, the chapter still did not complete its formal organization, nor did it hold educational meetings.
The third industry communicator to take the chapter helm in 1980 was Richard Perrone of Westinghouse’s Electrical Division. Still, the chapter continued to show no signs of activity on the Society’s radar screen beyond its membership roster.
Accordingly, in October 1981, STC Executive Director Curtis Youngblood notified all registered members of the Orlando Chapter (the “Greater” was dropped) that unless they showed clear signs of organization and activity before the Winter 1982 Society Board of Directors meeting, the community would be dissolved.
That’s when Stuart E. Omans, chairman of the English Department at the University of Central Florida (UCF), which was about to launch a minor in Technical Writing and Editing supported by a significant IBM donation of computers for its tech-writing lab, stepped in to appeal to Youngblood to give the university a chance to reorganize and activate the Orlando Chapter.
That Youngblood did, and on November 10, 1982, the chapter held an organizational meeting and elected its first full slate of Administrative Council (AdCo) officers, under the leadership of UCF technical writing professor Gloria Jaffe, who became chapter chair. Her teammates on the first full AdCo were Pat Molnar, technical writer at Florida Software Services, vice chair; Dr. Peter Kincaid, project director of the U.S. Navy TAEG Project, secretary; Barbara Asadi, technical editor, Polaris Project, Martin Marietta, treasurer; and Richard Perrone, director, Technical Writing and Marketing, Westinghouse Electrical, programs manager.
The Orlando Chapter’s first activity was a December 11, 1981, holiday social entitled “Bring a New Member” at Jaffe’s home. The first official educational chapter meeting came on January 12, 1982.
Records from then to 1986 are sketchy, but it is apparent that UCF was the driving force as the Orlando Chapter began to coalesce and establish a presence in the Central Florida tech-writing community.
In 1985, under a $750 Merit Grant from the Society, the Orlando Chapter and UCF co-sponsored a Florida seminar on technical writing—believed to be the first of its kind in the state.
In 1986, STC Orlando hosted the 1st Annual Florida Technical Writing Regional Conference, Tech Trends, based in Orlando, which went on to a successful 13-year run.
Through the rest of the 1980s, the Orlando Chapter was led by a series of presidents representing Martin Marietta (Doug Kerr) and other Central Florida companies (Ray Connally and Bruce Cone).
UCF, Martin Marietta (soon to become Lockheed Martin), and other Central Florida technology companies continued to play key roles in sustaining the chapter’s growth through the early 1990s.
UCF professors Drs. Madelyn Flammia and Dan Jones led UCF tech-comm students in editing and producing the Orlando Chapter’s monthly newsletter, Tech Trends.
Cone and Gary Loftis carried the chapter president baton before passing it on to Bill Brown and Bill Paskert of Lockheed Martin.
In 1995, under Paskert, the chapter successfully petitioned Florida Governor Lawton Chiles to declare February 27 to March 5, 1995, Technical Communication Week in Florida.
Paskert then passed the torch to Dick Hughes of Camp Dresser & McKee (now CDM Smith), who became the longest-serving chapter president in STC Orlando’s history, taking the helm and serving 4 years from 1996 through 1999.
Under Hughes’ steady hand, in addition to sponsoring the annual Tech Trends regional conference, the chapter launched two major educational outreach initiatives in 1997: the Florida High School Technical Writing Competition and the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Technical Communication at UCF. During this time, both initiatives benefited from four Society Merit Grants totaling $4,500 for the scholarship fund and $1,000 for the high school writing competition.
The Orlando Chapter, with the support of the Suncoast Chapter and other Florida chapters, hosted the “Y2K” international STC conference when it came to Orlando in 2000. STC Orlando Chapter President and Conference Support Manager Lori Corbett received a letter from STC Executive Director Bill Stolgitis commending Corbett and her Florida team for its “gracious hospitality” to the 2,400 technical communicators who attended the conference, the third largest attendance in Society history. As might be expected, however, “burnout” from the Y2K host chapter effort took its toll in the 2000-2001 chapter year as activity in the chapter sharply declined.
Following the June 2001 chapter year-end awards banquet, W.C. Wiese, Mike Murray, and Dan Voss (now all STC Fellows), met on the steps of the Winter Park Country Club clubhouse to discuss how best to recharge the chapter’s batteries in the upcoming 2001-2002 chapter year. Wiese agreed to serve as chapter president if Education Committee manager Dan Voss would “give him” a key committee member, Mike Murray, as chapter vice president.
The deal was sealed, and the rest was history.
With Wiese strategically allocating the chapter’s remaining volunteer resources and Murray setting up a dynamic series of educational chapter meetings, the chapter rebounded from its lean year to capture a Merit Award in the Society’s Community Achievement Awards competition in 2002. A key factor in Wiese’s success was his establishment of the chapter’s Active Member Program, wherein chapter members were rewarded with chapter-logo polo shirts for their participation in chapter meetings and for volunteering for chapter programs and activities. Wiese also resurrected the chapter newsletter, Tech Trends, which had folded after nearly 20 years of regular publication, creating Memo to Members. That first year, the newsletter was really a 1- to 2-page memo limited mostly to promoting chapter events and attracting new members. It subsequently blossomed into an award-winning STC publication.
In addition to initiating the Active Member Program, in 2002 Wiese also introduced the Gloria Jaffe Award for Outstanding Technical Communicator in Central Florida, honoring our community’s founder by recognizing the first of 13 Central Florida technical communicators to receive the award through 2019.
That was just the start. Murray went on to assume the chapter presidency in the 2002-2003 chapter year. At the first chapter meeting, he boldly asserted, “Welcome to the Orlando Chapter—the most dynamic and fastest-growing chapter in all of STC.” At the time, while the chapter was definitely on the upswing, that was hardly the case.
By three years later, it had all come true.
Under Murray’s inspiring leadership, the Orlando Chapter won three consecutive Community of Distinction Awards as it launched one innovative program after another. Notable among the chapter’s accomplishments during this period were the following:
Orlando Chapter’s Summit (conference) position of prominence was secured by numerous opportunities for chapter leaders to present programs each year. In addition, several chapter members, including Gail Lippincott and Karen Lane, participated in conference Program Committee deliberations that selected speakers from submitted proposals Society-wide.
In 2002-2003, led by Education Committee Manager Dan Voss and student member Bonnie Spivey, the chapter established a student mentoring program, partnering with the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) Club at UCF, which became an internationally emulated pacesetting program in the Society and continues today. Over the next 10 years, the mentoring program went on to “produce” several chapter presidents (Alex Garcia, Bethany Aguad, Erika Higgins, and Kelli Pharo), two vice presidents (Sarah Baca and Nick Ducharme) and several other chapter officers, committee managers, and newsletter editors. The steady pipeline of new talent the mentoring program has brought to the chapter’s leadership team year in and year out has been a key factor in our community’s sustained success over the past 17 years.
Also in 2002-2003, the chapter applied for and received an $8,000 Special Grant from the Society to develop educational materials on technical communication in support of the annual Florida High School Technical Writing competition. UCF technical communications graduate students Cindy Hauptner and Bob Stultz, under the direction of Dr. Dan Jones and Education Committee Manager Dan Voss, developed two multimedia presentations using an early version of Authorware. These presentations were key elements in the toolkit of Education Committee members who visited English and science classes at Central Florida high schools to promote the writing competition, under Jon Kessler’s outstanding leadership.
In 2003-2004, Murray introduced yet another pacesetting activity, hosting a summer Leadership Retreat at his home both for team-building and strategic planning for the upcoming chapter year. The tradition of annual Leadership Retreats continues unbroken to this day and has been a key factor in the chapter’s ongoing success.
In 2004, the Education Committee conducted a highly successful fundraiser dubbed “Operation Rising Stars.” Launched to ensure funding to further its educational outreach in Central Florida via the Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship and the high school technical writing competition, Operation Rising Stars raised nearly $2,000 in corporate and personal sponsorships in its first year.
Also in 2004, Memo to Members won a Merit Award in the STC newsletter competition.
In 2005, Bonnie Spivey, Gail Lippincott, and Alex Garcia developed a comprehensive public relations package that earned the chapter an Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Relations from the Society.
In 2006, Memo to Members won a Merit Award in the STC newsletter competition.
Also in 2006, at Leadership Day at the 53rd STC international conference in Las Vegas, our chapter distributed a CD entitled “Get the Sizzle,” containing information on several of our innovative programs as well as turnkey-ready administrative tools to establish and sustain such programs for other STC communities to adapt to their own initiatives.
From 2001 to 2006, Mike Murray and Dan Voss held key leadership positions in the Society’s AccessAbility SIG, now the Accessibility SIG. The SIG began in 1998 as the Special Needs Committee under Judy Skinner and became the Special Needs SIG. Redubbed the AccessAbility SIG, under the leadership of Voss, Murray, and the late Fabien Vais, the organization grew into an internationally recognized advocate for accessibility in technical communication.
In 2006, Murray moved on to a position on the Society’s Board of Directors, but there was no lapse in STC Orlando’s achievements going forward under the leadership of STC Associate Fellow and Chapter President Gail Lippincott and two new chapter presidents emerging from the student mentoring program: Erika Higgins and Kelli Pharo.
Another major milestone came in December 2009, when a $9,000 corporate sponsorship from PBS&J to be distributed over the next 3 years propelled the Pellegrin Scholarship Fund toward the threshold of a perpetually endowed fund to benefit technical communication students at UCF. It reached that landmark milestone in 2012.
The overall pattern of the 2010s has been a gradual shifting of the chapter leadership “reins” from veteran chapter leaders to young leaders emerging from the student mentoring program at UCF.
The 2010s also saw a major surge of activity at the Society level by several chapter leaders:
- Karen Lane, who served on the Community Achievement Awards Evaluation Committee (CAAEC), the STC Communities Task Force, and as STC Synergies Liaison to the American Society for Indexing.
- W.C. Wiese, who served as Society treasurer and director
- Dan Voss, Sarah Baca, and Bethany Bowles (now Aguad), in leading STC’s Student Outreach Task Force on the Community Affairs Committee (CAC) and presenting on student mentoring programs at three STC international conferences
- Alex Garcia, who served on the CAC as director of the East Region
- Bethany Aguad, who served on the Society Board of Directors and as lead of the CAC.
The chapter’s activity at the Society level from 2000 to the present, as well our local initiatives, was reflected in a remarkable string of nine STC Community of Distinction Awards, including STC Community-of-the-Year Awards in 2012 and 2014 and Pacesetter Awards in 2014, 2015, and 2018.
A less-encouraging pattern in the 2010s was a steady attrition in STC’s overall Florida constituency. One by one, once-thriving Florida STC chapters dissolved. The STC Orlando Chapter stepped up to merge with the Space Tech Chapter in 2010 and then merged with the Suncoast Chapter in 2016 to form the Orlando Central Florida Chapter.
Following the Suncoast merger, in 2017 the chapter applied to the Society Board of Directors for a name change to the STC Florida Chapter. The initial appeal was denied by the Board, but a follow-up request was approved in 2018 with the support of STC Vice President Ben Woelk.
The new STC Florida Chapter embarked on a mission to rebuild STC’s Florida constituency by building a virtual network linking technical communicators across the state via Local Interest Groups (LIGs), focusing on the areas where STC geographic communities had dissolved. This effort continues today.
In May 2018, the STC Florida Chapter hosted the 65th STC International Conference in Orlando (now called The Summit) with one of the most extensive support efforts ever supplied by a host chapter. This endeavor included not only staffing the host chapter table “24-7” in the role of conference welcoming team and “Central Florida tour guide,” but also several other elements. Leading up to the conference, chapter professional and student members co-authored six articles in STC’s intercom magazine promoting the conference. At the conference, the chapter sponsored two highly successful social initiatives: the Pub Crawl and the Diner Crawl. And throughout the conference, several student volunteers from UCF were key to supporting Society staff members at the registration table and in supporting the technical sessions.
Most significantly, four of the chapter’s up-and-coming “Rising Stars” from the Leadership Development Program (LDP), coached by veteran chapter leaders, provided the main program at Leadership Day, presenting and conducting interactive progression-table talks on 10 community-building initiatives. They also published a comprehensive online Community-Building Resources Toolkit that remains available on the chapter website for other STC communities wishing to adapt these initiatives to their own chapters’ programs.
The four Rising Stars—Bethany Aguad, Alex Garcia, Nick Ducharme, and Crystal Brezina—not only presented to Society community leaders at Leadership Day, they also conducted a technical session in which they discussed the manner in which STC leadership opportunities translated directly to leadership growth and advancement opportunities on the job. At the conference, Alex Garcia, the chapter’s immediate past president, volunteered for service on STC’s Community Affairs Committee (CAC) and was assigned as director for the East Region.
In the 2018-2019 chapter year, Chapter President Bethany Aguad ran for, and was elected to, the Society Board of Directors—one of the youngest STC leaders ever to achieve that honor. Bethany now leads the CAC, with Alex as her deputy.
In the Spring of 2019, the STC Florida Chapter earned recognition as an STC Platinum Community for our ongoing innovative programs in Florida and our robust support to the Society.
In December 2019, after a major effort involving the entire core leadership team of the chapter, we published a long-in-the-works chapter history. You’re reading it!
Of course, the chapter history is a living document, to be updated with each chapter year’s officers, committee managers, and our community and individual accomplishments.