Thursday Morning Roundtable had 65 members in 1965-66. The most frequent attendees included 11 from governmental offices, 10 from civic groups, six from business, and four from educational institutions. At the conclusion of the 1965-66 season, the director prepared an annual report listing members, programs, and statistics, including attendance records. This practice was followed every year.
Beginning with the first full season, I started an attendance-taking practice which amazed TMR members. I prepared a roster of members, observed the group from several perspectives during the formal presentation and checked those who were present on the roster. It was said that no one could recognize more people by the backs of their heads than I. Some observers attributed my proficiency to my experience as a school teacher.
The importance of attendance increased as membership grew rapidly and the desired mixture of members became more complex. From the beginning, it seemed important that members attend TMR regularly, regardless of the personal appeal of a particular topic or speaker. To serve its function as a catalyst for community development, it was essential that TMR become a weekly habit for governmental officials, civic leaders, agency professionals, board members, and others who were involved in a particular project, proposal, or development within the community. It became customary for many of these people to meet after the TMR session to work on their own agendas.
Members who did not attend on a regular basis were eventually asked to relinquish membership to others requesting membership. Regular attendance was generally considered to be one-third of all sessions. Over the years, members often commented on the "attendance letter" sent out to clarify this requirement.
The program year 1967-68 was notable with regard to the future development of TMR. As already noted, the initial invitation to membership was sent to 80 well-known men. There were no female members until the spring of 1968. In the summer of 1967, the Executive Director of the local Human Rights Commission wrote to the Dean of University College complaining about the systematic exclusion of women members. After pointing out that the law prohibits such discrimination, Millicent Allewelt claimed "that a program of such importance to the planning and decision-making process of the community should not arbitrarily exclude all members of any particular group."
In March 1968 I wrote to Karen DeCrow, president of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, informing her that formal membership invitations were being sent to several women. The first were two Syracuse City Councilors and the head of the local League of Women Voters. In time, many League of Women voters members became active in TMR and one of the city councilors, Norma Coburn, remains a very active member.
Several programs during this year were prophetic of later TMR developments. There have always been a few political officeholders within the membership. More have been county officials than city officials, and in general, county participation and leadership has been more important. One prominent exception was a city councilor named Lee Alexander. In 1967, he spoke at TMR about his "Vision of the Syracuse of Tomorrow." Two years later, following his election as Mayor, a TMR program was devoted to drafting a letter to Alexander outlining specific recommendations for his administration. For many years, there were close programming relationships with the city administration.
Program emphasis was not limited to city and county matters. In 1967, there were four programs examining issues before the State Constitutional Convention. The results of these discussions were sent to all Central New York delegates to the Convention. In future years, many state legislators, department heads, and the Governor were frequent speakers at TMR.
Certain local problems and issues recurred regularly as TMR topics through the years. In 1967-68, the problems of school integration, Onondaga Lake cleanup, solid waste disposal and major highway construction were discussed, as they would be many times in future years. Community planning and health issues have also been recurring themes in TMR history.
TMR program scheduling was usually arranged on a monthly basis and distributed to members. Occasionally, there was reason to make a last minute schedule change. A dramatic example of this occurred following the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. That week, a special program was presented at TMR featuring a tape recording made at the Croton School (later renamed Martin Luther King school). The tape featured student reaction to the assassination, in addition to comments made by the Syracuse Chief of Police and the principal of Croton School. This highly emotional session convinced the leaders of the local Community Chest (later United Way) to develop the Urban Crisis Fund as an effort to improve racial discrimination and poverty situations. These two social issues were the subjects of TMR discussion many times in the future.
Also during this year, the Roundtable received its first national recognition when the National University Extension Association awarded TMR its "Creativity Award." This was the first of dozens of awards, citations, and other forms of recognition that have marked TMR history.
By the time TMR reached its tenth anniversary, several significant changes and innovations had taken place. Increases in membership numbers, as well as average attendance and longevity of membership, were significant. TMR's popularity, reputation, and variety of activities also increased greatly during the first decade.
Membership grew to 136, including 25 women. Fifteen had been members for all ten years. About one-half had been members for five or more years. Average weekly attendance was 81. Major affiliations of members changed during this time. Social agencies and civic organizations still provided the most members, but more business people got involved. Government offices and educational institutions were also well represented.