My fellow fraters, honored guests, friends and family, it is with great pleasure that I stand here before you as I begin my term as your International President for 2013, and it is my honour to do everything in my power to care for and represent this organization in the best possible way. As your President, my role is to serve as the head of the board of directors, and lead in the direction of the agenda as defined by our guidelines.
As I began to prepare my words for this evening, I happened to listen to a song that I love on my iPod by Debbie Friedman, of recent blessed memory, and the lyrics seemed perfectly poignant for this evening and appropriate for our beloved Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity. Debbie chose to use a phrase from the Book of Joel: “And the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions and our hopes shall rise up to the sky. We must build for today, we must build for tomorrow, give us time, give us strength, and give us life.”
At the two regional leadership meetings that I helped plan this year as President-Elect, I had the direct chance to talk to over 100 fraters, both students and Alumni. I set out to ask what our membership visions and dreams are for the fraternity of the future. One Past President told me that he just hoped we would be around for the future. I would like to share with you three areas that we are working on that address some of those hopes and dreams.
The Las Vegas leadership meeting brought together 30 bright and energetic women to talk about their role in the fraternity, their dreams and their visions. They were actively looking for guidance in their careers, opportunities to network, and how to manage to do it all, while working, volunteering, having a family and still finding some time for themselves. Our amazing speakers shared information on how to find balance in your life, how to manage your office, and how a defined mentorship program could really help develop members personally, professionally, and build leadership within the fraternity.
The second leadership meeting, was held in the fall in Chicago, and was geared towards our Regents, Student Chapter advisors, and Student Leaders. They too had similar dreams and visions for the fraternity. They were also looking for a place to grow, network, and find the balance between work, volunteering and family. At this meeting, our new Mentoring program was presented. We are just in the beta testing phase now, and we are currently matching the initial mentors with the first mentees. I would like to thank our Executive Director, Heidi Weber, for her key role in developing this important program for the future.
Here is why this program is so vital to our fraternity’s growth. I was shocked to hear at our fall leadership meeting that often over 30% of many graduating seniors have not completed their graduating clinical requirements by the time their actual graduation takes place! They are then required to pay additional tuition and continue for an amount of time to complete those requirements. It was suggested by our Board Member, Steve Anderson, who facilitated a day of that meeting, that if we could mentor all of our students, such that we could say that we would ensure to the best of our abilities that our AO students would finish all requirements on time, then any student would consider an AO membership. Further to that, it has been documented, that any recent graduate dentist will be definitely more successful in their career if they have a mentor/mentee relationship.
This new program will provide a service that gives reason to belong as a student, and to continue that membership as an alumni member. The beta test will be completed in the first quarter of this coming year, and rolled out fully thereafter. When your turn comes to participate, I urge you to consider this wonderful chance at building new relationships with our members.
At this time, I would like to thank Steve Anderson for his gracious offer to those attending, to participate in his Crown Council mentor of the month program. With his matching contribution, he raised over $25,000 for our Foundation between the Chicago leadership and last year’s convention. Thank You Steve!
This past year the Board of Directors, under the able guidance of our Past President Michael Spektor, were asked to read two books published by the American Society of Association Executives: one called the Race for Relevance and the other The End of Membership as We Know It. These two books discussed the challenges that are facing all organizations across the world, and offered suggestions on how we must position our organization for success in these changing times. The goal is to develop some clear visions and plans for the future. To this point, the Board will be meeting in February 2013 to specifically review our long-term strategic plan.
We realize that we have a graying and changing demographic of our members. We have a vast amount of members being baby boomers and many of our current services and programs have been tailored to how the boomers, which includes myself, well just barely, like to receive those benefits.
Our Fraternity, however, is struggling to maintain our Generation X and Y members, whose values, interests and wants are slightly different then those before them. These younger members are technological thinkers, feel entitled and are family thinkers. They want clear and concise communication, lots of feedback, and use technology to solve their problems. They like and want opportunities to learn from each other and a sense of a professional community, venues to further their careers and opportunities to provide humanitarian aid. They want structure but don’t like to be micromanaged, and they are always asking “What’s in it for me?”
So how will Alpha Omega Fraternity embrace these challenges of changing values of the younger generation, but continue to stay rooted in our history and traditions of our organization that was founded over 100 years ago in 1907! We need to be careful that we don’t fall apart and be prepared to withstand the winds of change and stay relevant amid an aging leadership and potential declining membership.
Benjamin Franklin said, “When you are finished changing, you’re finished!”
Not wanting to be “finished”, over the last 4 years as I served as Secretary and now President Elect, the board has changed and accomplished much. Under the guidance of then Treasurer, PIP Michael Tenenbaum, and continued by David Schneider, we began the task of becoming financially stable again and now have the funds to implement new programs and improvements. We have changed how we govern to a Carver based board of directors, and are now working more effectively with our headquarters and staff.
We have significantly upgraded our website this year with a new look and feel that it is more appealing not only to the younger members, but to all of our members. The information is up to date and timely. You can now find our current and back issues of our world-class scientific journal, the Alpha Omegan, online. It is now easy to find and use our member directory, member services, calendars, best practices and resource materials. We are continuing to work in this area of technology to better communicate with our members worldwide. We want to be able to share our knowledge, our struggles and our victories. We are also embracing the social media realm, and our facebook page has over 1300 members. There is even now a chat area, and a discussion group for case studies and other issues, all within our Facebook groups.
The possibility of using electronic media to reach out to Jewish Youth groups and college organizations needs to be considered. It should be possible to provide links from these student organization websites to a section in our website dedicated to engaging youth to consider dental careers. This would engage youth in a technological way and mirror our Choices program. This may finally be the way to get kids to start here in AO in their pre-dental years and follow that through to the ultimate choice of a dental career, which has now been ranked by US News as the number one top job in their 100 best jobs list.
We have engaged the services of a marketing director for our European chapters to help reach out to potential members. There are now 15 European chapters, and a new virtual chapter to allow International members to belong to a specific European chapter. I would like to recognize the outstanding help of our French Regent, Philippe Levy and the European Regent Albert Fessel for all of their work in helping these chapters grow.
Once again, rising anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head across the world, and Jewish Dentists across Europe are joining AO, because they want to belong to an organization that is the voice of the Jew in dentistry. We were shocked and dismayed when the niece of an AO member was gunned down outside her school in Toulouse. Unfortunately, the voice of tolerance in the dental profession is one that we continue to have to make heard! While that voice has changed from the time of Dr. Perry Brickman at Emory University that voice still needs to be heard loud and clear.
Community Service/Tikkun Olam projects and a chance to make a difference in the world, mattered to many fraters. We are thrilled to show off our programs like the Global Oral Health Initiative Chapter Challenge Prize that began during the term of PIP Charlene Berkman. This award has been won by both student and Alumni chapters and showcases their excellent GOHI programs.
Our convention GOHI program this year had 50 of our fraters and their family members helping out at Phoenix’s Salvation Army Christmas dinner serving and ushering those in need. We have found that our students love to volunteer, and more work is needed in this area to provide the resources to find and fund programs that they can participate in. The symbol of these programs continues to be the Tree of Peace. In conjunction with our worldwide Foundations, funding continues to be collected and distributed to many worthy causes.
To further our GOHI outreach, this year our Fraternity became a charter signing member of the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders, an organization which Promotes Peace through Oral Health. The Alliance’s purpose is to promote peace and well being through oral health in countries and regions of the world characterized by social, economic and political unrest. The goal of this alliance is to bridge a common understanding of health through oral health, and is independent of any political agendas, to foster, create and sustain collaborative relationships in the cause of peace and harmony among peoples. Service of others is a definite and vital tangible benefit for our members.
Many students and fraters felt that the family caring feeling of the fraternity is an important area. It definitely played a role for me getting to this evening. I remember our first convention in Washington, DC in 1986. I had talked Larry into considering going because we had never been to Washington and the room rate was cheap. There wasn’t an AO student chapter in Vancouver, and we really had no idea what to expect. I was busy attending the CE, and Larry headed off to the spouses Tea and Fashion show, with the ladies who lunch. You remember that group, in all their afternoon suits, hats and gloves. So imagine Larry arriving in his vacation wardrobe of jeans and a sweater. Off they sent him to get dressed in something more appropriate. I would like to personally thank Donna Spiers, Eileen Kessner and Margie Myers, who went out of their way to take a rare male spouse and make him feel so comfortable amongst the ladies. From that first year, we have made friends from around the world. We have travelled together, shared in their simchas, their sorrows, and watched our children grow up together. I know that I can count on people from around the world if I need to, and that network of dental friends is truly an immeasurable benefit of Alpha Omega membership.
So this year, my focus will be to make sure the Mentor program is a success, ensure the growth of our GOHI opportunities for our members, and encourage networking in various venues.
I could not have made it to this evening without the help and support of my family and some special friends, who have travelled here specifically for this evening. I would like to have them stand and be recognized. In particular, representing my Vancouver AO family: Marty and Janet Braverman, and Aaron and Monica Berant. I would like to thank my parents; Ralph and Elaine Schwartzman who travelled from their winter home in Palm Dessert to be here. Thanks to our special friends, Stewart and my adopted sister, Mirelle Gales for being here to share in this special evening.
For many of you here, you have watched my two children grow up before your eyes. I am so proud of both of my children, Leatt who is graduating this year from UNLV in hospitality. A true sorority girl, she made sure that her Fraternity President Mom would be properly attired in Letters- thanks Leatt and Max, well most of you know him as Moishe. He actually just flew in from Whistler B.C., to be here this evening from his first real job at Powder Mountain and hasn’t been able to attend a convention in 22 years.
This journey would not be complete, without my life partner and friend, Larry. You make every day a thrill, and I am so looking forward to represent Alpha Omega with you by my side.
It is going to be a great year, I am surrounded by a great Board of Directors, a wonderful Executive Director, and I am most pleased to be your president.
2013 International President