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Voices of the Global Community


Margaret C. “Peggy” King, NACADA Past President
Thomas J. Grites, NACADA Past President

Peggy King.jpgPeggy King: I was working as a Counselor at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey when my boss showed me the flier for the First National Conference on Academic Advising in Burlington, Vermont.  I was excited because the major focus of my work at OCC was in the area of advising. Tom Grites’ name was listed as a contact person, and he worked at Stockton State College (now The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey) just south of OCC. I called Tom and asked if I could ride to Vermont with him. We, literally, met for the first time at a rest area on the Garden State Parkway – it was the start of a wonderful friendship!

Toni Trombley.jpgThat first conference was so exciting! There were 275 of us there. I registered late so ended up in a different hotel and took a shuttle back and forth for sessions.Toni Trombley was the woman with the vision. She and Tom Grites had talked at a previous ACPA conference.  Toni had realized the need for a national conference on academic advising, so she took the ball and ran with it.

Tom Grites.jpgTom Grites: It was not until we re-united with Toni in 2007 at the NACADA Summer Institute in Burlington that I actually knew why she planned that first conference. I invited Toni to say a few words at one of the Institute’s opening sessions.  She noted that her reason for having the first conference was that she had just been appointed as Director of the Advising Center at the University of Vermont, and she was tired of trying to contact people across the country to see what they were doing.  She had traveled to several campuses and realized how costly and time-consuming that was; she thought that it would be much more efficient and productive to bring practitioners to her. What a brilliant strategy!

Peggy: I remember particularly a presentation by Dave Crockett, then with ACT. His session, “Modes and Models of Academic Advising,” was so good and relevant. He presented that session at many conferences thereafter until he retired.

Tom: I co-presented two conference workshops with Joe Metz, a former colleague at the University of Maryland where I was employed when we submitted our proposals.  For the first conference all sessions were designed in a three-hour format, and ours were on “Developing a Model for Academic Advising” and “Maximizing the Use of Faculty Advisors.”

I remember the ferryboat ride on Lake Champlain, where conference participants enjoyed a buffet and dancing. I also remember that people sat around the hotel lobby, or anywhere they could find a comfortable spot, to discuss advising issues.

Peggy: By the end of the conference, there was much discussion about holding a second conference and the need for a steering committee that would look to the future. Individuals could join the steering committee if they felt they could potentially host a conference. Tom and I decided we could co-host one in Atlantic City, so we both joined. I was the only person from a community college on the steering committee, and for many years remained one of the few from that sector of the higher education community who took an active role in NACADA leadership.

Tom: Driving back to New Jersey after that First Conference was an interesting mix of exhaustion and enthusiasm.  I’m sure it was the latter that kept us awake for those ten hours. Soon the planning began for the second conference.

Frank Dyer and Carl Chando of (then) Memphis State University obtained approval from their Vice President to host the next conference in Memphis. As we planned for the second conference, I knew I wanted to be involved with the programming. I lobbied to be the Program Chair and continued in that role for the next three conferences. My thinking was always that a new professional association trying to make its mark in an area not previously recognized needed a very strong conference program to draw people to the conference and especially if a new national association was to be formed and sustained.

All volunteers worked out of their offices using whatever resources they could muster to make this work. The dedication was so obvious from so many people. Peggy volunteered to be a program committee member; during the next few months we put out a call for proposals. Since Peggy and I were located near each other, I remember meeting in a mall to review about 100 proposals for the second conference.

I also remember the discussions Toni and I had regarding a keynote speaker for the second conference. I wanted someone with recognition, but Toni was very budget conscious, as we only had the profits from the first conference for planning. My recommendation was Alexander Astin, so we called him from the Detroit Renaissance Center, site of the 1978 ACPA Conference that was attended by several steering committee members. Toni argued that his fee was too high; I argued that the recognition factor would bring attendees. Somehow, I prevailed, and Toni took the financial risk.

Another example of my financial discussions with Toni was in 1979 in Boston at yet another ACPA Conference, where we were approached by Ted Miller, chair of the Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS). He asked us to join CAS and develop the Standards for academic advising, since AcAfAd – an ACPA Commission and the only group that provided any previous support for academic advising – was not eager to do so. The cost to join was $100. However, we were not yet an association and had no membership income; we operated only from the conference profits. Again, somehow I prevailed on the rationale that if we didn’t write these standards, someone else would.

Peggy: Thinking back on those steering committee meetings, I remember very late night and early morning meetings as we worked on future conferences and to form a national association. It was exciting, and we didn’t mind the work. Early on there were strong feelings about making sure we had regional representation as well as representation by institutional type. When the first Board of Directors was formed, I served as the two-year college representative, and Tom served as the public college representative.

Grites2.jpgTom: In 1979, when NACADA was officially chartered, Toni was elected as the first president. By the next year, she had decided to return to graduate school to pursue her Ph.D. and asked that I run for the presidency. I had just published an AAHE-ERIC Research Report and Toni felt that the recognition of that publication would be good publicity for the new association.  At the time, I really wanted to be the editor of the upcoming NACADA Journal, but agreed and was elected as president for two one-year terms. 

One glitch that initially occurred with my election was that I was also approached to run for a national leadership office –Chair of ACPA’s Commission I– since I had been involved with that association for several years. I declined, but was persuaded to leave my name on the ballot so that an election would not go uncontested.  I WON!!  Now what?  Actually, I managed to hold both offices but always knew where my heart was.

King2.jpgPeggy: I later became NACADA secretary (with memories of typing the minutes, collating them, binding them and mailing them), vice president, and eventually president. Back then, Board meetings were large gatherings because of the desire to be inclusive. During my presidency, it was not unusual to have 40–50 people in attendance. I took great pride in becoming the first community college person to assume that role.

Tom and Peggy: In addition to lots of meetings, those early memories include lasting friendships, wonderful meals (particularly Mr. C’s in Omaha where one Board member entertained the entire restaurant by playing the piano), fun experiences like visiting Graceland when we were in Memphis, and being photographed sitting in a race car in Indianapolis.  As we got organized, Tom began the practice of holding Board meetings in the spring at the site of our next conference – a practice he had experienced in his leadership capacity in ACPA. This allowed wonderful opportunities to get to know different areas/cities with two visits. The first of these mid-year Board meetings was held in Indianapolis in the spring 1981, immediately after the ACPA Conference in Cincinnati. Again many Board members had also attended the ACPA conference which was relatively close by. 

Of course, we could write volumes about our NACADA experiences, but others have many stories to tell as well. These reflections seem to be the norm for those of us who struggled through some of the early, more difficult times. We loved every minute of it!

Margaret C. “Peggy” King
Associate Dean for Student Development
Schenectady County Community College
[email protected]

Thomas J. Grites
Assistant to the Provost
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: King, M., & Grites, T.J. (2009, September). NACADA memories: The early years. Academic Advising Today, 32(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.