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May/16

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Memorial Week: Jean King on Remembering Bob Ingle (1926-1998), Pioneer in establishing the annual AEA conference

This is part of a series remembering and honoring evaluation pioneers leading up to Memorial Day in the USA (May 30).

I am Jean King, professor at the University of Minnesota and, like my colleague John McLaughlin, who collaborated with me on this In Memoriam, an original AEA member. I met Bob Ingle for the first time in New Orleans, LA when I served as the Local Arrangements Chair for the 1988 AEA conference. Bob had charged me with purchasing bottles of liquor for the Conference Chair’s suite—free-flowing alcohol being one of the perquisites of the role at that time—and Associate Conference Chair John McLaughlin delivered the heavy box to its rightful place. Bob let us hire a jazz band for one of the big receptions and even let us serve shrimp. Bob Ingle knew how to put on a conference. He also knew the field of program evaluation because he helped to create it.

Pioneering contributions:

With Bill Gephart, Bob was one of the founders of the Evaluation Network in the early 1970’s, creating a national organization of professionals interested in advancing the practice of program evaluation. With the help of his ever resourceful assistant Nan Blyth, he soon became responsible for planning and managing the Network’s national meetings.

When the Evaluation Network joined with the Evaluation Research Society to become the American Evaluation Association in 1986, Bob became one of its founding members. For AEA’s first ten years, he served as the Annual Conference Chair in a manner that only he could, seemingly enjoying his role as in-house curmudgeon, often with a twinkle in his eye. In his role as Conference Chair, Bob sat on the AEA Board and became a relentless advocate for member services. In recognition of his contributions to the organization, AEA established the Robert Ingle Service Award, presented annually to a member who has provided exceptional service to the organization and been instrumental in promoting its interests and operations.

Enduring contributions:

  1. In the founding years of AEA’s conference, Ingle ensured that one of its signature features would be the opportunity for as many members as possible to showcase their practice, share successes and concerns, and reflect on the future of the field. Bob Ingle was dedicated to sustaining an atmosphere of openness and collegiality.
  2. Bob may have cultivated his gruff image, but he couldn’t mask his kindness. Despite his well-known harrumphing, he genuinely cared about people and wanted the conference to engage as many as possible. Attending one of Ingle’s conference dinners where he held court was an indisputable delight.
  3. Bob worked long hours with us as program chairs ensuring a well-organized conference. The original conference schedule was developed in pencil—with countless erasures—on large sheets of tissue paper. Imagine the increase in productivity when Post-it notes were created.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Memorial Week in Evaluation: Remembering and Honoring Evaluation’s Pioneers. The contributions this week are remembrances of evaluation pioneers who made enduring contributions to our field. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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