Jon Gruebele Regional Vice Chair Local Group Newsletter Articles from 2021
December 2021 – Bravely Enjoying Mensa
Having now been triple Pfizered and an owner of many masks, I’ve been venturing out to enjoy Mensa events across the Region and beyond. Many of our Local Groups are offering in-person events. Gary Lehman from Northeast Indiana Mensa regaled us with his exploits as a naval aviator. St. Louis Area Mensa had a terrific Labor Day Picnic, even though it rained. Restaurant lunches and dinners are reemerging.
Chicago’s flagship event, HalloweeM, was a rousing success – albeit with some fewer attendees than usual. Vaccinated attendees could get a stamp on their badge, thus helping the cautious among us decide where they wanted to sit. Hospitality was reimagined to avoid the hazards inherent with buffets. Attendees were generally good about respecting Illinois’ mask mandate. Amongst all that, presentations, our puntastic costume contest, pretentious drinking, contests, and games were available as usual. Our heartfelt thanks go to the organizing committee and all who volunteered to make it possible.
St. Louis is planning a Regional Gathering (RG) April 1-3 in Brentwood, MO and Central Indiana will have their OMG (Outdoor Mensa Gathering) May 20-22 at Versailles State Park. Minnesota Mensa is considering scheduling something next fall.
Beyond our Regional events, I’ll be attending the Sweet Carolina RG in Charlotte, NC and Brilliance by the Bay RG in San Jose, CA. I’m also signed up for Mind Games® April 28 – May 1 in Portland, ME and our “Sparks of Genius” Annual Gathering (AG) June 6-10 in Sparks, NV (near Reno). Anyone interested in speaking can submit a proposal on the AG website by navigating to Programming -> Submit Session Proposal.
Zoom and Discord haven’t disappeared from the Mensa experience, and I expect they won’t. It has saved me a lot of driving, but it’s just not the same as meeting face-to-face. Virtual meetings have nevertheless afforded people living away from major metropolitan population centers the opportunity to get more from their membership.
I totally get that not everyone is ready to venture back to in-person meetings. Concerns for our own health and the well-being of others are very real. For many, the risks are still too high. Each of us needs to decide for ourselves when the time will be right.
Some people have never attended an in-person event – even before COVID became a way of life. Personally, it took me 10 years before I attended my first Mensa event. For some, events may have been uninteresting, too far away, or at an inconvenient time. Some may have been intimidated, thinking our meetings consist entirely of computing asteroid orbits. As much fun as that might be, that’s not what happens. Chats about our daily lives, doing jigsaw puzzles, and trivia are much more common. Online or in-person, we’d love to have you join us!
November 2021 – I’m Told I’m Wrong, and About Nitpicky Logo Stuff Too
Being married, I am occasionally told I’m wrong – colossally, astonishingly, dead wrong. Sometimes it’s not quite that dramatic, but I’m still wrong. For a Mensa member used to being right about many things, this can be quite a shock, but I soldier on as best I can.
People read this newsletter column and also inform me I’m wrong. I appreciate that, as I can learn something from it and hopefully not repeat the mistake. Recently I noted that our Mensa administered admissions tests are not available to people younger than 14. Youngsters are admitted to Mensa, but they need “prior evidence”. I wrote that this could be a test administered by a psychiatrist.
While I suppose that could happen, it’s more common to have a test ordered by a psychologist and administered by someone else. This is the same model American Mensa uses for our testing. Our Proctors test candidates under our Supervising Psychologist’s license. As a Proctor I suppose I knew that, but somehow it didn’t come out right. My bad.
I also serve on the National Name & Logo Committee. This is important work; it helps to protect our name. Other organizations have lost the rights to use their name exclusively. One early example was Bayer. They had exclusive rights to “Aspirin”.
The National website has information about name and logo use. Most questions we get are about the stylized “M” logo, since members want to use it in fancy designs for their Local Group or Regional Gathering (RG). Some are very creative and cool, yet sadly unacceptable. Name & Logo are the bad guys who get to tell them that.
I have also been learning about how best to use the “Mensa” name. In theory, it should always be used by itself or as an adjective – not a noun. Thus, we should say “The Mensa Annual Gathering”, not “Mensa’s Annual Gathering”. Similarly, “Mensan” is inappropriate; instead, we should be referred to as “Mensa members”. That’s one reason why the SIG Handbook says in part: “no SIG can use the name “Mensa” – or any inflection thereof – within its title without first receiving special permission from the AMC’s Name & Logo Committee, which they almost never extend to SIGs because the Committee seeks to continually maximize the integrity of the Mensa trademark.”
I counted the number of times I used “Mensa” in my newsletter articles since I started writing them in 2017. Prior to this month, I used it 379 times, and managed to do it incorrectly 44 times (12%). Oops, my bad – again. Mostly I used the possessive “Mensa’s”, although somehow a “Mensan” snuck in there too.
Someone will probably write to tell me I counted wrong. Par for the course.
October 2021 – Report from the World Gathering
In celebration of Mensa’s 75th anniversary, we held a World Gathering (WG) from 24-29 August, 2021 in Houston, TX. This was the first World Gathering since our 2006, 60th anniversary held in Orlando FL.
Sadly, COVID-19 put a dent in the festivities. We had only a handful of international attendees due to travel restrictions. Many other attendees canceled, leading to a much smaller event than in “normal” years. Several speakers also cancelled, including our Gala Dinner keynote LeVar Burton. He was replaced by Frank “Catch Me if You Can” Abagnale, Jr. talking about fraud. I particularly enjoyed listening to Houston’s former mayor and Mensa member Annise Parker talk about her time in office. There was also a full set of Leadership Development Workshops, including one I led about onboarding new local group board members.
A highlight of the WG was the Misster Mensa contest, a pageant (of sorts) that raises money for the Mensa Foundation. The event raised nearly $40,000. A generous member then matched those contributions dollar for dollar, leading to record total contributions. This was a terrific way to help the Mensa Foundation celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.
American Mensa’s Board of Directors (AMC) met during the WG. The agenda was short, but included two main motions:
Proposed by me and seconded by Ian Strock, we updated the method used to select American Mensa delegates to the Mensa International Board of Directors (IBD). For good governance, it now requires IBD delegates be elected AMC members, and appointees must be approved by the AMC.
After consultation with Chicago Area Mensa’s board, the AMC selected Chicago IL for the 2025 Annual Gathering. Final negotiations for a downtown hotel contract are underway. We are excited to bring the AG back to Region 4, seven years after Indianapolis. Next year will be in Sparks (Reno) NV, followed by Baltimore MD and Kansas City MO.
We also tried to hold our Annual Business Meeting. Despite making it available on-line for those not there in person, we were unable to achieve the required 100 member quorum. This prevented us from approving the minutes of the prior meeting or transacting any other business including potential bylaws amendment proposals submitted by members. We were nevertheless able to hear reports from various officers and review the audited financials. Those showed a remarkable improvement from the prior year due to aggressive cost management during the pandemic and a dramatic stock market recovery.
Finally, don’t forget that Chicago Area Mensa’s HalloweeM 45, “The Vinyl Frontier” is still planned for October 28 – 31, 2021 in Wheeling, IL. Early registration rates ($85 for adults, $55 for ages 9 – 20) end October 13th. We’d love to see you there.
September 2021 – Board of Directors (AMC) Update
Every board member has three specific responsibilities:
On July 9th and 10th, the AMC met at our new national office in Hurst, TX. The first day was spent orienting the new AMC members to our roles and responsibilities. We reviewed the strategic plan and spent some time prioritizing potential projects to help achieve our goals.
The meeting itself was fairly short. We approved:
We also approved the audited financials, which will be presented to the membership at the Annual Business Meeting at the World Gathering on August 27th. Fortunately, we ended the fiscal year with a favorable operational result and our investments recovered smartly from their March 2020 lows, so we cut our net asset deficit almost in half.
It was my first visit to our new national office in Hurst, TX. You may recall that the Mensa Foundation, owner of our old office in nearby Arlington, TX, decided to sell the old building and purchase a new one. American Mensa leases those spaces from the Foundation. The new facility is nice and has enough space for the AMC to meet. We can now avoid renting meeting space in a hotel when we meet there.
This was our first in-person meeting since December 2019. While GoToMeeting can accomplish much, it’s also important for the board to meet one another and form good working relationships. That’s difficult to do on-line, particularly for people who haven’t yet worked together. Our next meeting is scheduled for the World Gathering on Thursday August 26th. Members are welcome to attend.
August 2021 – Know Any Smart Kids?
I’m guessing you have some smarter-than-the-average-bear kiddos in your life somewhere. They may be your own children, grandkids, or first cousins once removed. Whether nature or nurture, Mensa members tend to have smart relatives.
We all have experiences about growing up as a gifted child. In school, I was totally bored until I was put in a gifted classroom. My parents didn’t let me skip a grade, so I just had to endure listening to material I had already mastered – while unsuccessfully trying not to fidget too much.
Fortunately, Mensa has resources to help. Many Local Groups have Gifted Youth Coordinators who provide opportunities for enrichment and interaction with their gifted peers. If your Local Group doesn’t have a Coordinator, you might want to contact your LocSec to ask about volunteering. [Note: A background check is required for at least one leader at each event, and other safety rules apply. A parent need not be a member to coordinate events. See the National website for more information.]
The Mensa Foundation (mensafoundation.org) also has many links to youth resources on its website:
As a Proctor, I’ve tested many youths. Our Mensa admission tests are only normed for people ages 14 and older. Younger members can gain admission by testing with psychiatrists, schools, or elsewhere. When a parent drops their kid off for a test, I always encourage them to also take a test. If their kid qualifies, they might too.
Providing support for our gifted youth is indeed important. Enrichment helps them grow into their full potential – and might help keep them from fidgeting so much. I know of one adult member who said that growing up in Mensa “saved his life”. The support and belonging he found with us helped him through some tough times.
July 2021 – Changing of the Guard
On July 1st, a new American Mensa Board of Directors (AMC) will take office. Almost 11% of members voted, which isn’t a lot but was up significantly from years past. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who cast their ballot.
The AMC will have a healthy mix of new faces, incumbents, and several officers who changed roles:
(5) New to the AMC since last term: Chair, 2nd Vice Chair, RVC1, RVC2, RVC7
(6) Incumbents reelected: 1st Vice Chair, Treasurer, RVC4, RVC6, RVC8, RVC10
(1) Incumbent retained (no candidate for the position): RVC5
(3) Changed offices within the AMC: Secretary, RVC3, RVC9
This will give the AMC an influx of new ideas while still providing some continuity. From a diversity perspective, only one-third of the AMC will be white males.
Within Region 4, our election participation was well above average, with nearly 18% of our members voting. I am honored to have been chosen to represent you for the next term. Thank you for your support!
The referendum to change the AMC’s term from two to three years passed with 76.5% voting in favor, exceeding the required two-thirds majority. This reduces how often we must pay to conduct elections and keeps us in synch with International’s elections. It also reduces how often new officers must experience a learning curve, hopefully making the AMC more effective.
Every election brings enthusiasm and hope for improvement. We still have big challenges in attracting new members and providing good value. What suggestions do you have?
Back to “Normal”? Stuff’s Happening!
As I write this, state and local governments are planning a return to something akin to a pre-COVID world. Hopefully enough of us are getting vaccinated to make that sustainable.
In response, Mensa Local Groups are restarting activities that were paused and are also offering some brand-new ones. Check your Local Group’s event calendar and join us for something. If you’re traveling, you can also join events hosted by other Local Groups. You can find them by reading any newsletter on the National website. Simply navigate to Read -> Local Group Newsletters.
The August 24-29 World Gathering in Houston is going forward with tours, speakers, games, a gala dinner with LeVar Burton as keynote speaker, and much more.
Planning for in-person Regional Gatherings (RGs) is also underway. Chicago’s HalloweeM 45 will be held October 28-31 at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, IL. As usual, it will feature multiple speaker tracks, 24-hour gaming, tournaments, pretentious drinking, dances, a kid’s track, babysitting, and of course the pun-tastic costume contest.
Minnesota Mensa is working towards its RG in Minneapolis next March, and we plan to host our first quarter AMC meeting at that event.
I hope to see you there!
June 2021 – Wherefore Mensa?
Our International Constitution states Mensa’s purposes are to:
We tend to focus on the social aspects. After all, they’re the most fun. The first two purposes are important too – and have largely been delegated to theMensa Foundation.
The Foundation was established as a separate entity, primarily for tax purposes. Contributions to the Foundation may be tax deductible, although Congress has made writing off donations harder in recent years. Having it as a separate entity may have inadvertently led some to feel the Foundation is less relevant or important to American Mensa.
American Mensa supports the Foundation in many ways. We usually donate about $1 per member per year to support their work. The Foundation’s Annual Report lists hundreds of donations from individual Mensa members. Many Local Groups donate, fund their own scholarships, and provide judges to evaluate scholarship essays.
Beyond the $150,000+ given away last year in scholarships, the Foundation also bestows a variety of awards, fellowships, and grants to support research, gifted education, and distinguished teachers. They host a Colloquium in conjunction with the Annual Gathering and provide significant support for gifted youth with the mensaforkids.org website.
The Foundation is governed by trustees elected by the voting members of the American Mensa Board of Directors (AMC). While the Foundation and American Mensa file separate IRS forms 990, we produce an audited financial report every year that combines finances for both organization. In 2020, the Foundation reported $4.3m in net assets.
Bottom line, the Foundation does a lot of good work and I’d recommend you do what you can to support them. Donations are always welcome.
Thoughts on the AMC Election
As I write this, voting is still underway for the AMC election, so we don’t yet know the outcome. Seven of the fifteen positions had only one candidate. The RVC5 (Southeast U.S.) race had no candidates, so the current RVC5 retains her position. Two AMC members will change jobs. Our nonvoting Communications Officer will be RVC3 (Great Lakes & Ohio Valley); RVC1 (Northeast) will be Secretary.
If all incumbents retain their seats, we’ll have six new voting AMC members; if none retain their seats, we’ll have eleven. Regardless, we’ll have new voices helping shape our decisions. Depending on the bylaws referendum’s outcome, they’ll have either two- or three-year terms of office.
If history is any guide, fewer than 1 in 10 members will vote. Some say low turnouts favor incumbents; others say it provides opportunities for upsets. However it turns out, many thanks to those who honored those seeking office by casting your vote.
May 2021 – Board of Directors (AMC) Update – and a Reminder to Vote
The last scheduled meeting of the AMC’s 2019-2021 term was held March 20th. As usual, it was livestreamed and the recording posted online.
We also reviewed the results of the February membership and Local Group leader surveys. Points of interest include:
Finally, American Mensa’s election runs from April 15 through May 15th. Aside from a referendum proposal, we have many fine volunteers running for positions on the AMC. Please honor their willingness to serve by taking a moment to vote. Thanks!
April 2021 – OK, That Was Odd
As a Proctor, I often asked admission test candidates why they were interested in Mensa. Once a guy said he wanted to be a sperm donor. Did he think Mensa membership would help propagate his DNA throughout the universe? Did he just want to pull my leg? Regardless, his answer was enough to immediately stop me from asking more questions.
We all join for different reasons. For me, I was frustrated with my career and networked with a leader at our company. He mentioned another employee who was “so smart that he’s in Mensa.” That motivated me to look up some old test scores and join. While my career advanced significantly after that, I can’t say my membership helped or hurt. Unlike the 73% of us who don’t tell our coworkers about Mensa, I never hid my membership.
Whatever our reasons for joining, anyone who isn’t a life member must periodically decide whether to renew. Many stay because Mensa is where their friends are.
Some have met their spouses in Mensa. Personally, my wife was not a member. She was quick to point out when I did things that weren’t all that smart. Hoping to deflect some of that, I suggested she look up her old scores and sure enough, she qualified too. She’s now an active Mensa volunteer, and I still lose all the arguments.
The pandemic curtailed almost all in-person contact. Fortunately, many Local Groups quickly pivoted to provide fun virtual experiences. I’ve learned how to “speak Ozark” with St. Louis Area Mensa, crashed and burned during Chicago’s AGOG RG “Tipsy Trivia with Tim”, learned about sports broadcasting with Northeast Indiana Mensa, and heard about Alzheimer’s research with Central Indiana Mensa. Groups across the country have opened their virtual meetings to everyone, significantly expanding opportunities to get value from our memberships. You can learn more by reading other Local Group newsletters or checking the national events calendar.
Everyone is hoping we’ll be able to meet at the World Gathering in Houston August 24-29. Mind Games® was cancelled for this year but will be back next year April 28 - May 1. CultureQuest® was moved on-line; registration for this year’s event closes March 31st.
Even if all you do is read the Bulletin or participate on Facebook, I hope you can find plenty of reasons to renew your membership and will do so by the March 31st deadline.
“Meet the RVC4 Candidates” Opportunity
For Regional Vice Chair 4, three candidates have qualified for the ballot: Jon Gruebele (Chicago), Laura King (Sangamon Valley), and Barbara Kryvko (St. Louis). We’re cordially inviting you to attend a “meet the candidates” Zoom meeting on Tuesday April 6th at 6:30 pm (Meeting ID: 971 1254 7917, Passcode: 216 773). We’d love to see you there!
[Note: after this article was written, Laura King withdrew from the race.]
March 2021 – Enough Already!
I don’t know about you, but I really miss seeing my Mensa friends in person. 2020 was a year without an Annual Gathering or Mind Games®. RGs were cancelled. Local Group events couldn’t happen. While there’s hope for a return to some sort of “normal”, 2021 hasn’t started out much better.
Fortunately, many Mensa events moved on-line. CultureQuest® was postponed but was reimagined to allow virtual participation. In Region 4, Central Indiana Mensa pretty much moved their entire calendar to Zoom. Iowa-Illinois, Minnesota Mensa, Mensa of Wisconsin, Northeast Indiana Mensa, and St. Louis Area Mensa have changed their usual dinners or monthly gatherings to virtual events. Sangamon Valley has offered delightful get-togethers. Chicago moved the HalloweeM RG to Discord and had hundreds of attendees.
Mensa members are creative. We’ve shown it by offering totally new alternatives. We’ve had mixology classes. In two different murder mysteries, I’ve played a sleazeball casting director and “Cal Von Cline”, a world-famous designer from the 80s. For the record, I wasn’t guilty either time. And yes, I was wearing a mullet wig, but let’s not talk about that. We’ve seen speakers from across the country. Some Local Groups have opened their events to all Mensa members (see https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/calendar/).
For a card-carrying extrovert, these events have been a reasonably good substitute. I used to drive hundreds of miles to attend many of them. Now I just walk into my office and fire up my laptop. While it’s still nice to see everyone and is certainly more convenient, it’s just not the same. I sure look forward to attending events in person again, and hope we continue making some events available virtually.
Nationally, the World Gathering (WG) 24-29 August in Houston TX is still scheduled as an in-person event. It will be preceded by the Mensa Foundation’s Colloquium on “Advances in Food Science”. Registration for both is open now; rates for the WG go up again April 30th. I hope we can see each other there.
Election Eligibility Reminder – And a “Meet the Candidates” Opportunity
American Mensa and Mensa International elections are coming in April. To vote, you must renew your membership by March 31st. In contrast to other years, this election has many more contested races and a bylaws referendum proposal, so your election participation will be even more important. For Regional Vice Chair 4, three candidates have qualified for the ballot: Jon Gruebele (Chicago), Laura King (Sangamon Valley), and Barbara Kryvko (St. Louis). We’re cordially inviting you to attend a “meet the candidates” Zoom meeting on Tuesday April 6th at 6:30 pm (Meeting ID: 971 1254 7917, Passcode: 216 773). We’d love to see you there!
February 2021 – Board of Directors (AMC) Update
Moving into February, I hope those New Year’s resolutions have been working well for you. Many years ago, I made a resolution to not make any more resolutions. So far, it’s been working out splendidly!
Continuing our recent practices, the December 12th AMC meeting was held via videoconference and livestreamed. Some members attended “watch parties”; others shared updates via social media. When the AMC again meets in person, I’m hoping we’ll continue streaming deliberations for those not in attendance – an important step towards better transparency.
A motion I made to cap overhead costs for our 2021-2022 fiscal year budget was unfortunately defeated. Over the last 10 years, membership has declined by 10%, yet overhead costs increased 19%. That caused a 32% jump in overhead costs per member.
While some expense growth comes from Foundation operations, that’s not the whole picture. We’ve increasingly let overhead consume our dues dollars, meaning there’s less money for enhancing member value, providing local group support, marketing, or reducing our net asset deficit.
While the motion was defeated, I’m hoping the discussion will nevertheless lead to increased scrutiny of our overhead expenses, along with a renewed focus on using volunteers rather than staff.
All other motions were approved, including:
In our upcoming election, members will vote about switching from two-year terms for AMC members to three. There are good points on both sides of the debate. After careful consideration, I submitted this statement to the election committee for potential inclusion with our ballot materials:
If this amendment passes, then – including International – we would have two elections every six years instead of four. This would be a significant cost reduction for American Mensa.
If it fails, American Mensa and International elections will get out of sync. AMC officers might need to wait out a year after finishing their term before seeking an International role. If terms were instead on the same schedule, we might see more American Mensa members campaigning for International’s Board.
While the proposed referendum’s text is silent about RVC elections, existing bylaws Article V(2) says: “The Regional Vice-Chairmen shall be elected in a manner and for periods of time similar to the national elective officers.” This ensures that if the referendum passes, the entire AMC including RVCs would be elected on the same three-year schedule.
I therefore recommend a vote FOR this amendment.
January 2021 – 2021’s Got to be Better, Right? – And Some Election Info
Obviously 2020 wasn’t the best year for many of us. American Mensa had to cancel our Annual Gathering (AG) and in-person Regional Gatherings (RGs). Fortunately, many groups stepped up with Zoom events and online RGs. The CultureQuest® trivia contest went virtual. Several online Leadership Development Workshops were offered, and recordings are available on the national website. Interestingly, all these virtual offerings have allowed some members to participate who have never before attended events. Hopefully we’ll continue to have online offerings once things return to some semblance of “normal”.
The 2021 World Gathering (WG), August 24-29 in Houston, is open for registration. It will celebrate Mensa’s 75th Anniversary. Our Gala Dinner speaker will be LeVar Burton and is expected to sell out. The WG will be preceded by the Mensa Foundation’s Colloquium on Food Science. We’d love to see you there.
Election Season is Upon Us
American Mensa holds elections for our entire Board of Directors (AMC) every two years. Members vote for five nationally elected officers (Chair, 1st Vice Chair, 2nd Vice Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary) plus the Vice Chair for your Region. We also vote on any qualified referenda.
Those running for office would appreciate you electronically signing their petition so they can qualify for the ballot. National officer candidates need 250 signatures; Regional Vice Chair candidates need 100. That’s not as easy as it might sound, particularly when COVID restrictions limit the ability to collect signatures in person. If candidates don’t have enough signatures by January 31st, they won’t appear on the ballot. Links to sign petitions can be found here: https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/elections/candidate-petitions/
The window for submitting referenda closed on November 15th. We will only have one question to consider: whether to change our elections from every two years to every three years. If passed, we would then match Mensa International’s election schedule. Including International, we’d have two elections every six years rather than four under the current bylaws.
The proposal is a little confusing since it only changes the election of national officers, not the Regional Chairs. Fortunately, there’s already language elsewhere in the bylaws that says Regional Chairs shall be elected on the same schedule as national officers.
Members have until January 8th to submit pro/con statements to be published with the election materials. My February 2020 newsletter article detailed some of the arguments I’d heard. If you feel strongly one way or another, you can submit your thoughts via e-mail to email@example.com. The election will be held between April 15 and May 15th, with results available shortly thereafter. To participate in our election, you must have renewed your membership before April 1st. Mensa International will also be holding elections, and members will receive a separate ballot for that.
Feedback? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone/text at +1 309 693 1359. Region 4’s Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/americanmensaregion4.
Copyright © 2021 Jon W. Gruebele. All Rights Reserved.