Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 21, Number 1 (Winter 1974/75)
Batt, James R.
Vis-à-vis: the plight of "prosperity", p. 2
Vis-a-Vis The Plight of ttProsperity " My good friend and Academy colleague L.G. Sorden made one of his welcomed v i s i t s to the WASAL office recently. Hot choc- olate in hand, and comfortably ensconced in the easy chair which he had contributed to the furnish- ing of the building, L.G. leaned forward and, in a conspiratorial manner, inquired, "I have that little blue booklet you mailed to members (On Behalf of the Acad- emy), and I was just wondering, does the Academy really need more money?" I rather believe that, with that question, L.G. spoke for many. Does the Academy really need more money? If so, why? Aren't you the people to whom Dr. Harry Steenbock bequeathed a substan- tial endowment? In the hackneyed words of a former forensics teacher of mine, the time has come to "talk cold turkey." Yes, emphatically yes, the Academy does need additional income. And yes, upon Dr. Steenbock's death in 1967 it became evident that he had remembered the Wis- consin Academy in an exception- ally generous fashion. All told, the bequest came to something on the order of one million dollars. With that single act, Harry Steen- By James R. Batt, Executive Dir Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, bock did more than any other individual or agency to assure the Academy of a financial foundation on which to build. Interest and dividends from the Steenbock Endowment account for just over one-third of the revenue required for Academy operations. Dues income, individual gifts, oc- casional federal and foundation grants for special programs, pub- lication sales, and conference fees all add up to a little more than another one-third of the income needed. And the balance? Until the stock market took ill, the Academy could count on a certain amount of capi- tal gains for operating purposes- and could still return a good por- tion for reinvestment. That has changed. Stock m ark e t values have declined materially; the Academy has no capital gains to fall back on and is hard pressed to protect an endowment principal already diminished significantly by the economic conditions of the day. To steadily eat into the corpus of the endowment is to imperil our future, particularly at a period when the market value of our securities is well below book value. What then are the alternatives? For one thing, you tighten the belt-an exercise many of us have had to practice on a personal basis. The Academy Council met twice this past autumn before finally approving a budget below the amount allocated in the pre- Arts and Letters vious year. Coming, as it does, in the face of inflation, this was no small accomplishment. But that won't be enough. We are going to need a considerable amount of income on an annual basis, unless the market takes a dramatic upturn. And even if that were to happen, we have reached the point where we must secure funds from other sources if we are to continue to progress. For one thing, we must become more conscious of the economies of scale and how this concept relates to membership growth. We can, for example, serve a member- ship twice as big as that we now have, and we can do it at a cost of far less than twice our current operating budget. There are hun- dreds, perhaps thousands, of persons in Wisconsin who are potential members. It may also be necessary to increase dues so that they contribute a fairer share to Academy costs. The Academy might also seek to explore the possibility of direct support from the state, an action for which there is historical precedence. Still, there is no escaping the fact that we must turn to members and friends for assistance. In so doing, we must confront our plight of "prosperity." The image, you see, is not the reality. We do not have one million dollars to spend. The Academy really does need your help. And it needs it now. L.G., I'm glad you asked that question. 2
Copyright 1974 by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.| For information on re-use, see http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright