I am honored to be IFT’s 2002–03 President. My term will be a year of navigating change so that IFT will be a better, stronger, and more responsive organization for our members. IFT will be more than an association—we will be a community, one that will change to meet the needs of our members.
The success of this process will be ensured not only with my hopes, dreams, and wishes but also with those of my predecessor Philip Nelson and my successor Ann Hollingsworth. It may sound strange for an incoming president to hinge his success on his predecessor and successor, but I do. In IFT’s Three Presidents model, the three of us form a team. We consult, guide, and debate with each other to arrive at decisions. I am privileged to carry the lead this year with these two extraordinary leaders as teammates.
Phil Nelson was the right man for a challenging time. He walked us through a difficult financial crisis. In early 2001, investments plummeted—yours, mine, and IFT’s. You and I lost part of our retirement, and IFT lost a big part of its flexible resources. Then September 11 happened, and confidence fell, travel stopped, and association expos started a tailspin. By November, Phil was tracking a steep decline in reservations for floor space at IFT’s Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Anaheim the next June. By spring, we knew we had a major decline, as did virtually all association programs following the crisis of September 11.
Phil walked us through a program of budget cuts unprecedented in IFT. Between the fall 2001 tailspin in the market and the September 11 shock to the expo business, we found ourselves scrambling to reduce our budget by almost $3 million. Phil cut 20% of IFT’s staff, slashed program budgets, and brought the problem under control.
Some claim that our financial problem was due to IFT’s Washington, D.C., office. Not so. The staffing of the DC office is precisely what our science communications has looked like in the past. IFT has always had and will always maintain a strong staff to support its science communications efforts. The DC office space itself adds a $100,000 annual space cost to a budget of almost $15 million and puts us in the middle of the Washington dialogue on a daily basis. It has been worth it. At a cost of far less than 1% of our budget, our space in Washington has been a very effective way to place IFT’s name at the discussion table. We are a chief advocate for sound science in the policies of our nation and the world when they deal with the food system.
Phil Nelson had a slightly busy agenda last year. You and I are lucky he was there.
Ann Hollingsworth is a glimpse into our future. She is keenly focused on the needs of the IFT individual member, and she carries a big commitment to making the community of IFT function. She sees the opportunity for IFT to truly function as an interconnected and supportive network modeled after the very best of corporations and the most intuitive of families. She has a passion for mentoring, for each of us to pass on the very best of ourselves to our colleagues, thereby ensuring that we improve not only as scientists but also as leaders, communicators, managers, and innovators. Ann sees a new IFT, one that seeks to elevate those who wish to learn by exercising our role as a community that cares.
We, the Three Presidents of IFT, are committed to a new vision of IFT, as embodied in IFT’s new strategic plan (see the article, “IFT’s Strategic Plan: Changing Direction,” on p. 62 of this issue for more information). We will flex every muscle and focus every insight to achieve a community that each of us can be proud to belong to—a community which adds, without question, indispensable value to our lives and careers.
by ARK R. McLELLAN
IFT President, 2002–03
Director, Institute of Food Science & Engineering,
Texas A&M University, College Station