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Reflections on ֱ Being 50

Reflections on ֱ Being 50

By Steve Smith

For 50 years, ֱ has helped associations “Achieve What You Believe.” It all started in 1974, when Art and Dagny Engle followed a hunch and created a business plan.

They believed that a growing number of volunteer-led and managed professional associations could benefit from administrative support, a shared staffing model, financial services, and meeting planning expertise. The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) was formed and soon became ֱ’s first association partner. ARN remains a valued, full-service client partner today, along with 26 other organizations.

In addition to being the year ֱ was founded, other notable events occurred in 1974:

  • The U.S. government faced uncertainty, following the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
  • On the world stage, unrest and war impacted the Middle East as well as parts of Europe.
  • In sports, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's long-standing home run record.
  • On the roadways, a speed limit of 55 MPH was imposed to preserve gas usage.
  • The first computer floppy disk drive was introduced, allowing data to be more easily transferred and transported.
  • And, Chicago’s Sears Tower became the world’s tallest building.

In comparison, in 2024:

  • Economic concerns, ranging from the affordability of health care and the budget deficits to drug addiction and gun violence, are the issues of public concern and ongoing political debate.
  • In regions throughout the world, violent contests for power have resulted in tragedy and loss of civilian lives, most significantly in Gaza, Sudan, and the Ukraine.
  • In sports, Caitlyn Clark, a student athlete at the University of Iowa, became the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer, passing Pete Maravich’s record from the 1960s.
  • More than one million drivers purchased a hybrid car in the past 12 months, choosing an environmentally compatible vehicle option.
  • AI is rapidly generating new technology breakthroughs, increasing data availability, and impacting how we live and work.
  • Chicago’s Sears Tower—now the Willis Tower—is the 25th tallest building in the world.

One of my favorite American authors, business leader and futurist, Alvin Toffler, spent much of his career studying society and change. In his seminal book from the 1970s, titled Future Shock, he noted,

The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don't give up in the middle.

As we enter ֱ’s 50th year of service, I believe we are, indeed, entering our middle age—or second act. I was recently asked what is my vision and prediction for ֱ 50 years from now? It’s a good question but not an easy one to answer.

Today, we remain deeply committed to supporting our client partners and their core purposes. Our job is to ensure they are sustainable, growing, and successful. ֱ’s core values of collaboration, compassion, and commitment to high performance and quality service have never wavered. They guided Art and Dagny Engle—and later their sons, Scott, Jeff, and Mark—when they were leading the business. It is what continues to inspire me, and others, to nonprofit leadership and association management.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am convinced ֱ will always remain committed to helping associations “Achieve What You Believe.”

Alvin Toffler provided insights on how one can predict the future. He said:

Life is the fusion of past and present which gives birth to future.

I believe this is true. As CEO of ֱ, I look forward to continuing the legacy of leadership that was established by the Engle family and is carried forth by more than 150 amazingly talented colleagues. We are inspired and committed to advancing the mission of the associations we are honored to support—now and in the future.

Steve Smith, MS CAE FAAMSE, CEO of Association Management Center

Note: ֱ will be celebrating and acknowledging its anniversary with “50 points of pride” shared throughout 2024.