P. E. MacAllister's "ASOR Valediction" Upon Election to Board Chair Emeritus
Most members of ASOR cannot remember a time when P.E. MacAllisterwas not an integral part of the organization. Mr. MacAllister has been involved in ASOR since the early 1970's, and he has been ASOR's board chair since 1994.
Mr. MacAllister decided that, as he will turn 95 this summer, the timing was right to transition to Chairman Emeritus. However, this does not mark the end of Mr. MacAllister's work with ASOR. He is ASOR's only life trustee, and will remain a member of the Executive Committee. Dr. B. W. Ruffner, a physician from Chattanooga, TN, and past ASOR treasurer, will become ASOR's new board chair on July 1, 2013. The entire ASOR family is thankful to P.E. for over four decades of service, and we are appreciative that he will continue to be active in our organization.
The April 2013 board meeting was held in P.E.'s home town of Indianapolis, and a gala to honor him was held on Saturday night following the board meeting. Future news articles will provide highlights and photos from that festive event. The following are remarks that Mr. MacAllister gave to the ASOR board at the end of the meeting on April 16, 2013.
An ASOR Valediction
by P. E. MacAllister
Although you have allowed me to assault you with my rhetoric and Republicanism through the course of the years, enduring same with patience and grace, these valedictory remarks prove to be a real challenge. I do not vacate the chair by leaving a “to do” list for my successor. Any recommendations I have to suggest will go through the appropriate channels. So rather than any message, maybe you will allow me a few reflections.
I came on the ASOR board under curious circumstances, with tangential connections which might be familiar to some. For an unaccountable reason, in the late 1960’s someone nominated me to serve on the McCormick Seminary Board to complete an unfinished term. I had served as the Moderator of my presbytery, and then served as Moderator of the Synod, so I had some familiarity with Presbyterians and the church. In time I got re-elected and served faithfully by nodding acquiescently through the meetings but told the Seminary president I had no interest in continuing for another stint. I was kind enough to withhold the reasons for departing, and rotated into anonymity.
Almost. Because a sort of acquaintanceship was formed with an Old Testament professor named Ted Campbell, important because it was he who forged the ASOR connection. You can guess how. He phoned one evening and chatted about the dig at Caesarea in which McCormick was a participant. The seminary share of the cost was $5,000, and they were $600 short. So would I contribute the money? “Sure." Next year: Second verse, same as the first, same $600. After the second digging season closed, Ted came to Indy with one of his diggers and about 300 slides to show us what they were doing. I had a dozen friends into the office, spread some cold cuts and beer and we all enjoyed the evening.
Not long after, another call: "How would you like to serve on the ASOR board?" After explaining what it was, I agreed. I was teaching the Old Testament to an adult church class; gathering data for a book; knew the difference between Assyria and Syria; knew that ‘UR of the Chaldees’ was a scribal blunder since the Chaldeans do not appear ‘til the 9th century while my dating for Abram was coincident with Hammurabi. (What‘s a mere thousand years among friends?) Ted’s reasoning to me was “ASOR has too many academics and not enough business people.” Conclusion to all this: I bought my seat on the ASOR board for 1,200 dollars. I then attended regularly since Becky and I used to listen to dig reports, which were far more interesting than board meetings. I do remember Phil King becoming the President the year I started; recall Mrs. Bechtel but never knew she had purchased the photos of The Scrolls; recall a distinguished lady with a long name ending in Ungerleyer-Meyerson; the furtive Mrs. Pat Moynihan; the irreplaceable Dick Scheuer; Gough Thomson, Kevin O’Connell.
I don’t think I missed many meetings, but did not find this is an easy group with which to become acquainted. The lack of any experience on ASOR’s committees was somewhat of a handicap when Charles Harris decided I ought to be the next Chairman. I first learned about it at the meeting when the change took place. Not much of a search process here. “What does the Chairman do?” “All you have to do is run some meetings and help them raise a little money.” The job description is still not all that specific, which is a good or a bad thing depending on how you operate. The uneasy person likes to see it all spelled out since that directs what he/she will do. The leader tends to like vague or imprecise descriptions since he has much more leeway to deal with events than inhibiting rules that block actions or change. I was most fortunate to start my meteoric career when Eric Meyers was president because he simply pulled me into the shaping and determining process. He was clear, aggressive, and open. He allowed me to help look at options, at issues, at needed changes and kept me in the game. Joe followed and I had the same good luck. He became a close friend and working with him was a lesson in patience and refitting. Joe Seger’s leadership was critical and his judgments correct as he handled the SBL flare up which could have blown us out of the water. So early on I had two good guys to break me in and became part of the movement to see ASOR quasi-independent and relevant to changing circumstances. Through the course of the years, I also had a great relationship with Rudy Dornemann, developed a close friendship with B.W. Ruffner, whose sub rosa work for ASOR was monumental. Simultaneously we had characters on the Board from time to time who created more problems than they solved including some roll over in the Boston staff. I got acquainted with Andy Vaughn during our fiscal crises and during the change in administration. His work the last two years have put ASOR in the best fiscal status it has ever achieved. Shake all this up we made some enemies, flunked on the “passing the torch” campaign, had a lot of grinding to do, but take a look at current status of ASOR. I might be stretching, but I have never seen it in better shape, publications-wise, dollar support-wise, nor has it had Annual Meetings, or more quality people working to see it even stronger.
I am delighted that B.W. Ruffner has agreed to accept this post [of Board Chairman], this challenge, this tribute and pledge him all-out support. I shall stay out of his hair and have no intention of proffering unneeded advice or second-guessing. And I have to tell you, as I amble off into the sunset, it has been a great honor to have held this office the past 19 years. You have treated me kindly and with respect; have been relatively easy to moderate in the rambling meetings; have submerged personal convictions in order to do what each thought was best for the order, win or lose stay loyal to the ASOR cause. I have a long lasting interest and affection for the ancient world and what I have learned about it and continue to learn about it comes from the work you have performed and are performing.
I will remember my association with you the past couple decades with great fondness and much pleasure. Thank you sincerely for permitting me to have been ASOR’s Chair and for the variety of experiences that has provided. Thank you for the associations, the memories, the roller coaster ride and the great pride all this has provided.
To each of you: God bless and good luck.