VIRGIL CARTER, BIDDING ADIEU
In some ways, it seems as though it was only yesterday. But it has been six years since I first interviewed Virgil R. Carter right after he was appointed executive director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Carter then was unknown in engineering circles, but had a strong résumé and plenty of good experience as an association executive. Carter has become a stranger no more to ASME. Since 2002, his accomplishments have been significant, and on the eve of his retirement next month he leaves ASME as a changed and financially stronger organization.
When we spoke together recently for this column, it was almost as though we picked up where we left off before his first day at ASME. Carter stresses now what he did then. "ASME is a unique organization," he said. "The past six years have confirmed what I thought coming in: that the strength of ASME comes from the level of dedication of volunteers and staff. It is like I've seen nowhere else."
Virgil R. Carter
Carter credits this partnership as the major catalyst in achieving greater financial stability for the organization. The current fiscal-year-ending positive-revenue variance—the best in years—assures ASME of sound fiscal footing for the future. And this is no small feat, considering the current state of the U.S. economy.
But Carter's guidance has led to more than a favorable P&L statement. He, with the Board of Governors' leadership, directed a major initiative called Continuity & Change, which changed the organization's staff and membership structure. Carter admits some of the decisions that faced him in his tenure were "painful" to execute. But he's proud to leave the Society "in a position to reach the high and noble role that was its core purpose [when it was founded] in 1880."
Under Carter's watch, ASME has made considerable gains in several areas. They include new initiatives aimed at enhancing engineering knowledge and education; an expansion of ASME's global recognition; membership growth at a time when general membership trends for organizations like ASME are declining; and an increase in the number of industry and government partnerships with ASME.
Although Carter will be retiring from ASME, he has no plans to slow down. Just as he has helped change ASME, Carter said that it is time to "reinvent myself." A former Army officer, Carter is a celebrated painter and a history buff. He said that in addition to teaching art, he hopes to work on a travel guide book project tapping his interest in history. He would also consider consulting work in association management.
Replacing Carter as executive director on July 1 will be ASME Deputy Executive Director Thomas G. Loughlin. You can read about Loughlin in my column next month.
ASME is "prepared for a strong and dynamic future," Carter said. As a leading global engineering community, "ASME will continue to work toward the well-being of engineers and the profession."
—John G. Falcioni, Editor-in-Chief
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com