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NAEP History

NAEP History

Originally formed in 1921 for the betterment of higher education buyers, here you may review the organizations storied past.

Introduction: NAEP CHRONICLE

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We would like to introduce the NAEP Chronicle. The overall objective of this chronicle is to provide an admittedly fragmentary record of the people and happenings that have shaped the National Association of Educational Procurement and its relationships with the E&I Cooperative and other organizations. 

We have begun to collect bits and pieces of information that may help readers better understand the part NAEP and its Members have played in the support of higher education and the evolution of the role of purchasing on campus. We have adopted an open-ended and hopefully user-friendly format designed to facilitate the inclusion of additional items at any time by the initial team or others and to provide easy access.

Although we know of no Members able to provide personal recollections from the first two decades, we would welcome personal recollections from anyone who had been actively involved with NAEP over the years. 

Fortunately, we have located several sources of very useful input. To date we have relied mainly on letters and documents found in files apparently preserved by Bert C. Ahrens prior to his retirement in 1972. At that time, the Board invited Bert to prepare a history of the Association. Although he declined the file survived. Generally we have used these documents as we found them. You will no doubt notice some variance from current usage in abbreviation and other details.

In every respect, this is a DRAFT, a work in progress, and we invite comments, corrections and contributions! This chronicle was developed at the suggestion of Richard D. Scharff, C.P.M.. All data was compiled by Neil D. Markee at the invitation of NAEP CEO Doreen Murner, beginning September 25, 2001.

NAEP - The 1920's

Beginning at some time prior to 1920, some of the Purchasing Officers supporting higher education met during the annual convention of National Purchasing Agents Association (NPA), the organization that was to become NAPM. At the 1921 NPA Meeting (at the Severin Hotel in Indianapolis on October 10), a meeting of campus purchasing professionals was held that led to the forming of the Educational Buyers Association (EBA). Those who attended discussed a range of topics not very different from what you might expect to find on a current NAEB Regional Meeting Program. For example they discussed the "pool" buying of alcohol, a hot topic at the time. However, two of the major reasons for considering the establishment of a separate organization, was to share information and to enable "pool" buying.

By the time the new organization again met (probably during the 1922 Annual Convention of the National Purchasing Agents Association held in Rochester NY on May 16th and 17th), the list of commodities they hoped to purchase using "co-operative arrangements" had grown to include gauze, lamps, tires, alcohol and sheets, towels and pillow cases.

At a December 8th and 9th 1922 meeting in Ithaca, NY, the founders, with the blessing of the Association of University & College Business Officers of the Eastern States, decided to publish a Bulletin to facilitate the sharing of information. The first issue was dated January 1, 1923.

The "Eastern Association" later became a region of NACUBO when that organization later established a national office in Washington DC. Ironically, NAEB played a leading role in the establishment of a NACUBO National Office decades later.

Apparently, the pool buying of alcohol amounted to some significance as by the end of 1923, the Board Member handling the orders on a volunteer basis announced that the work had become a "real burden" and "pointed out the need for financial help." The arrangement was cancelled despite the benefits Members recognized.

By 1925, Cornell's George Frank had raised the possibility of forming a more permanent organization. Records of the May 20, 1926 meeting in Columbus, OH refers to the Educational Buyers Association as having been "formed five years ago in Indianapolis". At that 1926 meeting, the group adopted a resolution defining the purpose of the organization as "the study and comparison of supplies generally purchased by Educational Institutions" and set Membership dues at "$25.00 per year for all institutions except those having less than a thousand students regularly attending in which case it shall be $10.00 per year." Forty Members, mostly in the northeast and Midwest, were listed as dues-paying Members.

Although Cornell's George Frank probably cannot be credited with founding NAEB, he was clearly one of the short list of key players involved in its early development and served as President in 1927. The records available seem to indicate that Frank had a clear vision of what the Association could be and worked effectively to "sell" his vision to others and to grow the organization. George Frank later was the Founder of the Educational and Institutional Cooperative Service (E&I ), higher education's not-for-profit purchasing cooperative.

By the time its first decade ended, the basic structure of the organization was in place, a fairly clear vision of what the Association could be had emerged, a constitution had been adopted, and the formation of regional groups, one of the key elements of the Association had been envisioned.

NAEP - The 1930's

In this decade, the Association began providing much more formal reports and financial statements to its Members. Josephine Banks was employed as a full time professional secretary (no doubt working within the EBA office at N. Y.U.) and, in 1932, a dues increase for the 242 Members was hotly debated. The article of the Association's constitution stating the name and defining the purpose of the Association was amended. EBA Executive Secretary Robert B. Jenkins' report to the Members at the 1939 Annual Meeting held at Duke University is an absolute classic. In effect it was his valedictory address as he retired the next year.

From the start, there was discussion concerning the appropriate geographic size of "sections" or "chapters' or "regions" and that debate continues. Initially, the trend was toward smaller groups. Some argued that small groups would allow/encourage Members to meet more frequently. In fact, it was one such small group in central New York State that, in effect, tested the approach to cooperative purchasing proposed by George Frank that became the E&I Cooperative. More recently, there have been mergers creating fewer larger groups. The same issues that drove the debate sixty years ago are still with us today.

In 1934, the E&I Cooperative service was organized by a small group led by Cornell's George Frank who was an EBA Past President and one of the most influential and able leaders within the Association. The cooperative purchasing scheme proposed by Frank and others was tested within a small group of central New York EBA Members including Cornell, Colgate and Syracuse Universities in 1934 and then offered to all EBA Members in 1935. A close working relationship between the Association and the Co-op was established when the two organizations decided to share office space in 1937 and the recently hired Manager of E&I was named Assistant Secretary for the Association. Although there had been some debate within the Association over the usefulness of EBA managed pool buying, and some saw it as a distraction, they clearly embraced the benefits of cooperative purchasing when conducted by a separate but allied organization.

The first record of a "Code of Ethics Advocated by The Educational Buyers Association" was found in a proposed document date stamped March 5, 1937. The format and individual articles are remarkably similar to the current version despite many amendments over the years.

Earlier correspondence disclosed a spirited debate over the propriety of sharing information related to price and conditions among purchasing officers. Apparently this had been a hot button issue. Some felt this was confidential information between buyer and seller. Others pointed out that state law required them to disclose this information and some thought secrecy benefited only the seller. In any case, there is no mention of this issue in the draft code of 1937 and the general support of cooperative buying suggests that the issue had been settled on the side of transparency and disclosure.

Toward the end of the decade, retrenchment is the order of the day on campus as the effects of the 1929 stock market crash and worldwide depression takes hold. However, higher education seemed to have been somewhat insulated from the worst of the economic collapse, as there is little mention in the records available of the dire conditions that gripped much of the nation.

NAEP - The 1940's

Just as deciding what EBA/NAEB would be had dominated the '20s, and founding the Co-op and the Great Depression the '30s, World War II dominated the affairs of the Association in the 1940s. In 1942 William S. Price, the Co-op's Manager and Assistant Secretary of EBA went off to serve his country in the U.S. Army, George Frank relocated to Washington, D.C. to work with the War Production Board and Bert C. Ahrens, who had succeeded Robert Jenkins as Executive Secretary of the Association when Jenkins retired, also became Manager of the E&I Cooperative service "for the duration".

During the war, a key concern among campus purchasing professionals was the shortage of the supplies needed to keep higher education in business and a shortage of workers as well. The file contains letters from Ahrens to E&I Suppliers, including Steelcase, Inc., asking about the current and likely future availability of merchandise. In most cases, the answer was that nothing much would be shipped for civilian usage until government restrictions were lifted. However, some institutions had become government training centers and experienced rapid growth. Others were involved in government sponsored research.

All through the war, Price kept in touch with the National Office and various Board Members remarkably well using hand-written letters from all over the U.S. and at least a few from Europe. By 1945, Price was an Army Captain in charge of the rail, barge and truck freight traffic through an unnamed hub in Belgium and thinking about getting home to rejoin the Co-op and start a family. In a letter dated "28 Feb 45" he congratulated Bert Ahrens and his wife, Margaret, on the birth of their twin sons.

Interestingly, the letters written by several people throughout the war were unfailingly optimistic. There was always the assumption that the U.S. and its allies would win the war and things at home would get back to normal once the then current "unpleasantries" were over. This contrasts with a lack of optimism during the prewar depression decade.

As the war drew to an end, Bert Ahrens became one of the key players in what was to become the Federal Surplus Property Program. Basically, Ahrens formed an alliance with the American Council on Education (ACE) and represented higher education in his dealings with the Surplus Property Board in D.C. With ACE, EBA initiated a newsletter to inform institutions of surplus property opportunities likely to be available after the war. Clearly, Ahrens representing higher education was a key contributor.

By 1947 the war was over, NAEB had a new name, Major Price was home and the GI Bill had brought a time of near explosive growth and change to higher education. Both NAEB and the Co-op experienced rapid growth and found it necessary to relocate to more appropriate quarters. The file contains a classic letter from James J. Ritterskamp describing the run down building currently occupied and strongly suggesting a move.

Some time prior to 1948, the Co-op established "Group Representatives" to provide input to the Board and staff. The file contains a very well written memo from William S. Price to these groups providing a brief history of the Co-op and its association with NAEB. Obviously he felt it was important for Members to understand the unique relationship between the two organizations. That need continues.

NAEP - The 1950's

Maturation may be the single best word describing the history of NAEB and other organizations serving the business side of higher education at mid-century. Clearly, NAEB was a key player in the evolution of the National Federation of College and University Business Officer Associations, the organization that became NACUBO, the National Association of College and University Business Officers. For example, many of the organization's early leaders had substantial previous experience within NAEB and the records show that the Association provided some of the early funding. Bert Ahrens, Henry Doten, D. R. Kimrey and other NAEB Members served on the initial Board of Directors of the "Federation."

At the same time, the E&I Cooperative was growing rapidly and becoming a substantial organization. In 1951 the Co-op posted a banner year. Sales to Members were up 34%, and expenses were under budget. E&I was involved in a serious and frustrating, but ultimately unsuccessful, effort to be classified as a nonprofit organization by the IRS. To avoid the need to pay corporate income taxes on that portion of revenue retained after expenses and used to operate the business, they adopted certificates of indebtedness that, in effect, identified the dollars involved as the property of Members who were tax-exempt organizations.

There were substantial changes within higher education as well. Comments recorded in the proceedings of the NAEB Annual Meetings of the decade suggest that institutions were beginning to see students as customers. Purchasing professionals were becoming more involved in a variety of business activities in addition to buying. Acquisition of surplus federal property and disposition of surplus institutional property were issues that were discussed.

Correspondence suggests that the Association's Board of Directors appreciated the quality of service that Executive Secretary, Bert C. Ahrens, provided. They voted to increase his salary soon after they learned that Bert had been contacted about possible employment with The Fund for the Advancement of Education, a New York-based philanthropic organization. Bert stayed with NAEB. Speaking of salaries, the results of a government-conducted salary survey were reported at the 1958 NAEB Annual Meeting.

During the decade of the 50's, the Association increased Membership every year and its income grew tenfold. Bert Ahrens recognized that individual involvement was the key to both Member retention and recruitment.

In a footnote to history, the files contain a press release mentioning John A. Pond's service as wartime Procurement Officer of the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago. That top-secret program produced the first nuclear bomb. Pond later served as President of NAEB in 1968.

NAEP - The 1960's

If a one word summary of NAEB in the 1960's were required, the word would have to be "transition". William S. Price, who had been the first employee and was the well-established General Manager of the E&I Cooperative, died in December 1968 and was succeeded by F. Gerard Perrine. The long and successful career of Bert C. Ahrens as Executive Secretary of NAEB was drawing to a close as the decade wound down and the Board was discussing his succession. The Co-op was growing rapidly and Marvin R. Sheere, who would later succeed Jerry Perrine, and Neil D. Markee, who would succeed Bert Ahrens, were both working with Members representing the Co-op.

As the decade opened, the role of women in society was changing and men were struggling to become comfortable with a new reality and the vocabulary that went with it. The role of purchasing on campus was changing as well. Although some still saw purchasing as a gatekeeper protecting the institution's resources from threats, both external and internal, Dartmouth's John Rhilinger was already talking about how to effectively sell purchasing on campus. The Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum in the U.S., and minority-purchasing professionals were beginning to gain prominence outside the historically black segment of higher education. The role of NAEB within higher education was changing as well and becoming more specialized as NACUBO gained strength as the professional association serving Chief Business Officers. NAEB had been a key player in the organization of NACUBO.

In the early 60's, workshop topics frequently included discussion of handling the choking blizzard of business process paper that had accompanied the rapid growth of higher education. Instant Money Check With Order Systems were pioneered on campus by Hank Nelson, the Purchasing Agent at Columbia University. Dick Mooney had an easy-to-use "Short Form Order" at Cal Tech that covered a majority of the orders placed on his campus. At Cornell, Wally Rogers had a streamlined stores system that was state of the art. But by 1967 the University of Iowa's Ainsley G. Burks had what may have been the first rudimentary computerized system working and the seeds of revolution had been planted.

In 1960, the Association published a hard covered text expertly crafted by James J. Ritterskamp, Forrest L. Abbot and Bert C. Ahrens that quickly became the standard text defining purchasing in support of higher education. Before the end of the decade, computerization and other changes had produced an ever-increasing rate of change within the profession and had made it all but impossible for a hard covered publication to stay current.

As the decade closed, the Association's budget exceeded $100,000.00.

NAEP National Office, 8840 Stanford Boulevard, Suite 2000, Columbia, MD 21045

Phone Number: 443.281.9901 • Fax: 443.219.9687

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