The Full History of American Humanics Program
by Richard M. Potter
Milestone 1: A visionary leader, an idea ahead of its time.
Milestone II: Replicating the program and taking the idea to scale.
Milestone III: Curriculum developed, competencies defined by successful leaders in the sector and a professional capstone learning experience (AHMI) was initiated.
Milestone IV: Perseverance – Sustaining the Vision
Milestone V: Going national in a BIG way!
Milstone VI: The Next Generation of Nonprofit leaders….PASSIONATE, PREPARED and PROFESSIONAL
A Boy Scout professional for nearly 30 years, H. Roe Bartle was increasingly concerned about the lack of educational opportunities available to young people desiring careers in service to the community. He saw the typical nonprofit professional as dedicated yet poorly prepared to meet management responsibilities such as board development, budgeting, fundraising and financial accountability. According to Bartle, too many nonprofit agencies were “being led by consecrated ignorance.” Shortly after the Second World War he set about correcting the problem.
On November 19, 1948, Bartle convened several seasoned Scouting professionals to launch the American Humanics Foundation. The term “humanics” was adopted from the YMCA-affiliated Springfield College in Massachusetts. Although the true origin of the word remains uncertain, it has come to describe the education of the whole person – mind, body and spirit.
The first AH campus director, W. Hobart Hill, was recruited in April 1949 to serve as “Chief Counselor and Associate Professor” at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. American Humanics was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the state of Missouri on May 12 of that year. By October, forty men and one woman were enrolled in the program; the first AH graduates became available for employment in the spring of 1952.
With the Missouri Valley College program firmly established and graduates realizing early success in the field, American Humanics turned its attention to expansion. Salem College in West Virginia added the program in 1953, followed by the University of Redlands (California) and Oglethorpe University (Georgia) in 1955. While Boys Scout of America (BSA) remained the only organization to endorse the program (even that was “unofficial”), students interested in all types of youth development were encouraged to participate. By 1960 AH graduates could be found employed in youth organizations such as BSA, 4H and the YMCA; as well as probation offices, youth ministry, children’s homes, social services and hospitals.
Duplicating the success of the Missouri Valley Humanics program proved both challenging and elusive. The Redlands program was phased out in 1959, followed by Oglethorpe in 1965. Undeterred, AH channeled its resources into Salem College and new programs established at High Point College (North Carolina, 1965) and Indiana Central University (Indianapolis, 1966). By 1970 the American Humanics format was well established on these four campuses, with a Resident Administrator (precursor to the AH Campus/Executive Director) raising financial support, recruiting students and teaching classes in the Human Relations Department. With funds raised from the surrounding communities, AH paid all expenses related to the program including the salary of the Resident Administrator.
As the organization grew, American Humanics became recognized as a valuable resource for both college campuses and nonprofit organizations. In January 1973 the first Winter Term conference was held at the Schiff Boy Scout Reservation in Mendham, New Jersey. AH students from all campuses came together in what is now recognized as the inaugural American Humanics Management Institute. In January 1974 John D. “Jack” Armstrong was selected by Bartle to serve as AH’s first full-time President. In addition to the BSA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Inc., Camp Fire USA, Girl Scouts, YMCA and YWCA officially endorsed the American Humanics program. At the same time, AH campus administrators began to restrict enrollment to students interested in preparation for careers in Youth Agency Administration (YAA). Sadly, AH’s dynamic founder passed away in May 1974. Spurred on by Bartle’s original vision, American Humanics entered into its first period of significant growth.
From 1975 to 1979, American Humanics programs were established on the campuses of Pepperdine University (California), University of the Pacific (California), Pace University (New York City and White Plains, NY campuses) and Rockhurst College (Missouri). Georgia State University, Texas A&M University and Colorado State University joined the alliance with financial assistance provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In addition, Junior Achievement, Big Brothers Big Sisters and American Red Cross added their endorsement of the American Humanics YAA program. In 1978 AH organized the Agency Professional Needs Committee (now the AH Curriculum Review Committee) to develop curricula and determine entry-level competencies needed by youth agency administrators. All affiliated campuses and nonprofit partners were represented on the committee.
American Humanics’ future appeared very promising as Jack Armstrong retired in 1980. During his tenure the organization had more than doubled in size, increased its academic stature and built an endowment worth nearly $700,000. Regrettably, as the organization entered its second quarter-century, nonprofit management and leadership education remained a foreign concept on most college campuses. The academic community was slow to embrace Bartle’s ground-breaking vision and “consecrated ignorance” remained all too common in the ranks of nonprofit sector leadership.
Edmund Hughes was recruited to the presidency of AH in 1981. He established a long range planning committee to conduct a detailed study of the future of the organization, which led to AH board endorsement of a six-year strategic plan. Then the national economy entered into recession and AH’s growth slowed to a standstill. Hughes resigned in 1986 and was replaced by John Claerhout, who was replaced by Michael Lenaghan in 1987. Despite the turnover in leadership, demand for AH graduates was at an all-time high. The board agreed to transfer funds from the AH endowment to support operational growth and continued expansion.
The bright spot in this chapter of history was a growing appreciation for American Humanics on its affiliated campuses. The value of the program was frequently affirmed by students, faculty, alumni and the community. In response campuses began to shoulder associated costs. In 1988 AH asked each campus to support the national organization with an annual affiliation fee of $8,000, to be invested in building a national presence and increasing the collective impact of the alliance. Most complied, a few did not. Those that remained in the alliance established a sense of solidarity that still exists today. Twenty years later the AH affiliation fee remains at $8,000.
When Michael Lenaghan resigned in 1991, America’s nonprofit sector was growing at a faster pace than either the government or corporate sectors. The AH board of directors agreed that AH’s mission was more critical than ever. Unfortunately, the organization was not in a position of strength to respond to the opportunities at hand. AH lacked the dynamic financial support of its zenith in the 1960s and 1970s, and its accumulated debt was approaching $600,000.
Dr. Constantine Curris, president of the University of Northern Iowa, assumed chairmanship of the AH Board of Directors in June 1992. He was the first academic president to serve in that position, and his first task was to fill the vacancy left by Michael Lenaghan. The board’s directive was clear: the new president must either lead the organization through a successful turnaround, or manage the process of shutting it down.
Kirk Alliman had been President of Hesston College (Kansas) for ten years when he learned of the opening at American Humanics. An experienced academic and fundraiser, he was hired at the end of 1992. Hope for the organization was rekindled. Robert Long, director of the University of Northern Iowa’s AH program, was hired by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as program director in philanthropy and volunteerism. Curris and Alliman met with Long in 1993 to discuss ambitious plans for AH’s future, which included goals to diversify the pool of graduates available for nonprofit employment. Their proposal was ultimately accepted and from 1994 to 2001 the Kellogg Foundation invested nearly $2.5 million in expansion of the American Humanics program in nonprofit management and leadership.
With the short-term financial future of AH secured, Alliman set about the task of recruiting a talented staff with the experience necessary to meet AH’s expansion goals. His first hire was Phyllis Wallace, a former executive with the YMCA of the USA. She accepted the challenge of leading the campus expansion effort and immediately established volunteer task forces in communities targeted for expansion. These included Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Kansas City. Alliman’s next challenge was to diversify the sources of revenue to fund AH operations and special projects. Richard Potter, then Director of Development for the University of Dubuque (Iowa), was hired in 1996 as Vice President for Development and Communications.
In 1995, 15 colleges and universities offered the American Humanics program. Today the alliance includes 70 academic partners with more joining each year. In 1996, gifts and grants (not including Kellogg funds) totaled $357,000. Today American Humanics raises over $1.5 million annually, the $600,000 debt was retired in 1998 and the AH endowment totals nearly $3.5 million. In addition, the students of color consistently make up 35 to 40% of the AH student body.
Kirk Alliman resigned in 2002 and was followed by Kala Stroup, then Commissioner for Higher Education for the State of Missouri and previously president of Southeast Missouri State University and Murray State University (Kentucky). Under Stroup’s leadership the board endorsed a new strategic plan and approved a revised mission statement, broadening AH’s focus from youth and human service agencies to include all nonprofit organizations.
In January 2004 Shelly Cryer, founder of the Initiative for Nonprofit Sector Careers, released the landmark report, Recruiting and Retaining the Next Generation of Nonprofit Sector Leaders: a study of the (missed) connections among nonprofit organizations, college seniors, and offices of career services. With support from The UPS Foundation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and others, American Humanics joined forces with Cryer’s Initiative and began an intensive series of national dialogues to draw attention to the workforce needs of the nonprofit sector. Additional reports followed, most notably The Bridgespan Group’s 2006 white paper, The Nonprofit Sector’s Leadership Deficit, predicting the need for 640,000 new nonprofit leaders within the coming decade.
Also in 2004, American Humanics and the Corporation for National and Community Service established a partnership to assist AmeriCorps members interested in careers as nonprofit professionals. AmeriCorps service hours apply toward the AH internship requirement, and National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) members can earn AH certification via online courses provided by Louisiana State University at Shreveport. In the fall of 2005 the Corporation approved a new program specifically designed for AH students. AmeriCorps*ProCorps combines the AH internship experience with a national service education award program in which AH students can earn up to $4,750 to apply toward future education or toward current student loans.
The rising cost of education is especially burdensome to students and recent graduates pursuing nonprofit sector careers. For AH students, the unpaid internship is the most significant barrier to completing American Humanics certification. In January 2007 the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced a five-year, $5 million grant to provide competitive internship stipends to AH NextGen Leaders. By 2012, one thousand NextGen Leaders will have completed the internship requirements for AH certification. The NextGen vision includes enhancement of academic/nonprofit relationships and establishment of effective internship programs in nonprofit agencies as a means of recruiting and retaining the next generation of nonprofit sector leaders.
In 2008 the nonprofit sector comprises more than 1.1 million registered organizations, employs more than 11 million people (plus the equivalent of 5.7 million full-time volunteers), manages annual philanthropic investments of nearly $300 billion and generates annual revenues exceeding $1 trillion dollars. Nonprofit organizations are essential tools for addressing 21st century community needs, advocating for community and social change and engaging citizens in democratic problem solving. Growth of the nonprofit sector continues to outpace government and corporate sectors. Vital components of our national economy, nonprofits supply the infrastructure for civil society and, at their best, the conscience of our society. The American public has high expectations and demands transparency and accountability from this sector above all others. This is as it should be.
Sixty years ago, exasperated by what he called “consecrated ignorance,” a big man with an even bigger vision established American Humanics, the premier college program dedicated to preparing next generation nonprofit leaders. Today American Humanics remains the only national organization dedicated to this noble cause, consistently on the leading edge of the nonprofit management and leadership education movement. For 60 years the torch of passion and leadership has been successfully passed from decade to decade, century to century, generation to generation.
American Humanics graduates are leading nonprofit programs, agencies and governing boards throughout the world. The future, we believe, is in very capable hands.
NOTE: Joseph B. Quick was not included in the 60 honorees nor the history of American Humanics prepared for the 60th Anniversary. Several BSA long-timers felt this was in error and so it is added here for future reference and whoever writes the 70th anniversary historical documents: Mr. Quick’s commitment and involvement with American Humanics began with his enrollment in the AH program at Missouri Valley College, during which time he also served as an American Humanics Field Representative in the summer of 1953. In 1975 Mr. Quick was awarded Honorary Life Membership in American Humanics. Toward the end of his professional career he served as Interim President of American Humanics in 1992.