The surviving records of the Ohio Section indicate that, for more than fifty years after the birth of the Section in 1915, the primary, if not the only way members learned what was going on in the organization was through brief notices from the secretary. Generally there was a preliminary announcement of the time and place of the annual meeting, coupled with a call for papers. As a meeting date approached, the secretary sent a second announcement, consisting essentially of the detailed final program. Of course the secretary carried on an extensive correspondence with individual members about specific items, but the general communication was limited to the two meeting notices.
Apparently the pattern in the Ohio Section was typical of what went on in other MAA sections. As early as 1926, however, the Louisiana-Mississippi Section published a newsletter for the purpose of recruiting members. By 1934 this newsletter had evolved into the National Mathematics Magazine. This, in turn, became the Mathematics Magazine in 1947 and was taken over as an official MAA journal in 1959.
In 1960 the Southern California Section issued a newsletter, consisting of a single mimeographed sheet, not vastly different from the kind of notices which the Ohio Section had for years been sending out. It did, however, contain some information other than meeting notices. In January, 1961, the Associate Secretary of the Association, acting in his ex-officio role of Chairman of the Committee on Sections, sent to all section secretaries a copy of a small newsletter published by an unnamed section. This mailing was described as "part of an effort to establish better communications between the sections." Also during 1960-61, both Illinois and Northern California Sections published newsletters. There is nothing in the Section files to indicate that the Associate Secretary's effort was discussed in the Ohio Section.
In August 1972, following his election that spring as Ohio Section Chairman, Professor Will Hahn (Wittenberg University) attended the annual meeting of section officers at Dartmouth College. At that meeting a representative from the Texas Section described with much enthusiasm how useful his Section's newsletter had been in stimulating interest in the MAA and in the Section's activities. He also distributed sample copies of the Texas newsletter. The more Hahn thought about the Texas experience the more he thought it might be worth a try in Ohio. Immediately, of course, there was concern about financing, because the Ohio Section treasury had never been so full that the officers had to agonize over ways to reduce the surplus. Preliminary discussions with the manager of the Wittenberg Print Shop, together with the discovery that the institution's bulk mailing permit could be used, indicated that the cost of producing and mailing an 8 to 16 page newsletter should not be prohibitive.
Armed with this information and the Texas sample, Hahn proposed to the Executive Committee at its November 1972 meeting in Toledo the publication of an experimental edition of an Ohio Section Newsletter and volunteered to produce it. The committee gave its blessing to the idea. The only uneasy moment came when one person examined the Texas sample, did some mental arithmetic, and estimated that the cost of producing and mailing 750 copies would run from $250 to $300. Subsequently the first issue appeared in January, 1973, followed by a second in April. For the next sixteen years the pattern of three issues per academic year (fall, winter, spring) was followed. In 1989, however, the Section Executive Committee decided to publish only two issues per year, corresponding to the spring and fall Section meetings.
Any initial qualms about funding of a newsletter soon disappeared. As it turned out, for the first nine issues, the total cost per issue never exceeded fifty dollars. Thus from an economic standpoint, the project proved to be a bonanza, because the first class postage for mailing one or two page meeting announcements easily exceeded the total costs of the newsletter, which typically ran sixteen pages (reduced type) - front, back, and fourteen pages of information.
As the years passed, inflation took its toll, of course. The bulk mailing rate for non-profit organizations went from 2.4 cents per piece in 1978 to 8.5 cents in 1986, an increase of more than 250%. This was accompanied by increases in the costs of paper and printing and the growth of Ohio Section membership, from 750 to approximately 1100. As a result, the total cost of publishing a single issue of the Newsletter had risen to $125 by 1983, $250 by 1987, and over $400 by 1990. This was one reason for the decision to cut back publication to two issues per year. Nevertheless, at less than 40 cents per member, the Newsletter is still a bargain.
Technological advances in word processing and offset printing have made an impact on the outward appearance of the Ohio Section Newsletter. Nevertheless, its current format is very similar to that of the first issue. Typical contents may include reports from the Section President and Governor, editor's remarks, reports from one or more standing committees, program and registration information for the forthcoming Section meeting, a calendar of upcoming events of interest to Ohio Section members, and campus news.
In the early 70's the Executive Director of the MAA, A.B. Willcox, put together at irregular intervals a collection of reprints of items of potential interest to the mathematical community. These were sent to various MAA sectional and national leaders under the title "Math Clips". One issue of "Math Clips" included photocopies of the cover and part of the text of the first Ohio Section Newsletter. This publicity, combined with encouragement of the Committee on Sections and the Ohio Section representative to the summer meetings of section officers, led to a steady increase in the number of sections publishing their own newsletters. By 1983 twenty-four of the twenty-nine sections reported that they regularly publish newsletters. In addition, following the success of the sectional newsletters, the MAA established Focus, the national newsletter which all MAA members receive as one of the privileges of membership. Although Ohio cannot claim priority in this whole area, it is clear that many of the section newsletters, as well as Focus, are direct lineal descendants of the Ohio Section Newsletter.
In its first seventeen years the Ohio Section Newsletter has had four editors. Will Hahn held the post for the first four years. He was succeeded by Professor Richard Little (Baldwin-Wallace College), who served as editor from January, 1977, through January, 1982. He, in turn, was followed by Professor David Kullman (Miami University), who served from February, 1982, through May, 1987. The current editor is Professor Carol O'Dell (Ohio Northern University).
Since about 1978, at the suggestion of the Committee on Sections, all newsletter editors have been asked to send copies of their newsletters to each of their counterparts in other sections, plus a number to the Washington office for distribution to national officers. Section officers report that they have often picked up ideas for programs and projects in their own regions as a result of this inter-sectional exchange of information. What started out as an effort to improve internal communications within the Ohio Section has evolved into a valuable mechanism throughout the MAA.
Copyright 1990, The Ohio Section, MAA, All rights reserved.