Mary K. Schmidl

The weeks and months are flashing before my eyes, and by the time you read this, I will be halfway through my year as IFT President, and halfway through my three years as one of IFTs “Three Presidents,” a unique team consisting of the President, President-Elect, and Past President.

In addition to my presidential tasks relating to the Global Strategic Plan, the Tactical Plan, the Executive Committee, and other IFT Committees, I have visited 22 IFT Regional Sections and 38 food science and technology bodies and events on behalf of IFT, primarily in the United States events but also in other countries, including Chile, China, Egypt, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Above all, I have enjoyed two-way communication with many IFT members.

It may come as a surprise to most readers, that the president of IFT wants to be directly accessible to the members. IFT is a member-driven organization, and the president is elected by the entire membership. IFT presidents try their best to be responsible and accountable to the membership and are willing and anxious to keep in touch with the “grass roots.” 

Like past presidents of IFT, I listen to all ideas of every member because I want to serve the membership. I value the views, opinions, and contributions of the volunteers who are elected or appointed to serve on our Council, the Executive Committee, Committees of the Institute, and Task Forces, as well as Section and Division officers and those members working in IUFoST, Codex, and other bodies to which IFT contributes. Without their dedication, IFT would collapse, and I take this opportunity to sincerely thank each and every one of you. Likewise, I recognize and pay tribute to the valuable resource of knowledge, commitment, and organizational skills residing in IFT’s Chicago and Washington, D.C., staffs. 

But let us remember that the leadership volunteers still constitute only a very small percentage of the membership, and if I or other leaders talk only to each other and to staff, and cut ourselves off from the grass roots, we would be making less than effective use of the vast resource of creative ideas and expertise available and thereby doing a disservice to the Institute. 

So, members out there, please let me hear from you. What do you think about the challenges and opportunities now and in the future for food scientists and food technologists? What would you like the Institute to be doing that it is not? What would you like it to be doing better than it is? Have we got the balance of various activities right, or should we be giving greater emphasis to some and less to others? Or, if you support what IFT is doing and just want us to go on doing it, tell me that, too—how will the Executive Committee and I know whether we are doing the right things if you don’t tell us? 

Last year, while I was President-Elect and was trying to develop Vision 2020, which in June 2000 became the IFT Global Strategic Plan, many of you offered your thoughts and ideas which greatly helped to shape that Plan. 

This year while being your President, many of you have contacted me. Some of you have been very complimentary, but some have been highly critical, and passionately so. Some well-founded criticisms had been previously identified and are being addressed, and all new ones are being seriously considered. But above all, I want your ideas and suggestions for improvement, and your participation in executing the improvements. We all would like the desired improvements to occur overnight, but even with the best will in the world we know that will not happen. Nevertheless, please lend your ideas and a hand to help it take place as quickly as possible. Needless to say, all of this adds to the range of opportunities, with the rewards being high if together we are able to meet those challenges. 

What I have been able to achieve so far has been built on determination plus the solid foundation of the many contributions by you, the members, and the previous leadership of IFT who contributed to Vision 2020 and the many programs of IFT. My deepest thanks to you all. 

I do hope you will continue to contact me, and let me assure you that every idea, suggestion, complaint, or whatever, receives serious consideration—you may even have noticed some of this reflected in my President’s Pages in Food Technology

Please keep those e-mails ([email protected]), faxes (651-483-3302), and phone calls (651-481-9216) coming! Remember, too, that President-Elect Phil Nelson is now actively preparing for his year as President, so please copy him at [email protected] with your thoughts and ideas, as well. 

IFT President, 2000–01