Although attendance was low (10 people including the ESU Executive Director), delegates from Seattle, Portland, and Denver participated in a lively and informative meeting in Tucson AZ on March 29th Executive Director Chris Broadwell lauded Seattle once more for the outstanding national conference last September. He has visited a number of branches. Many of these branches have excellent programs that appear to be well kept secrets! National wants to get information about various programs from the branches so that they may be highlighted on the national website. Despite the closing of some branches (National is administering their Shakespeare programs), one branch actually got revived through the Shakespeare Competition. A student from Ogden UT participated in the Denver Competition, and the student's teacher is considering starting a branch in Ogden. So new branches can indeed get started from our activities.
Highlights from the Director's Vision Statement: ESU finds itself at a turning point. Our centennial is in 2020, a mere six years away! ESU has a rich history and over 30 years of educational activities. We have financial resources, including owning our building outright. We partner with the Folger Library and are making ourselves known to teachers through having a booth at meetings like the Modern Language Association. ESU will examine the branch structure to see if there is a way to keep educational programs (e.g., Shakespeare, English-in-Action) going in various locales without a formal branch. We need to stay relevant and look toward the future while honoring our past. We can do this by being "champions and advocates of English education" and by supporting teachers and students. Branches are encouraged to increase their educational programming, consider sending BUSS scholars (British University Summer School), and either begin or update their branch websites. One way to provide material for a branch website, which Chris uses for input into his bimonthly newsletter, is for committee chairs to write "newsy reports" for the local branch newsletter.
Regarding the Shakespeare Competition, the ten finalists at the national level are now put on YouTube. We viewed a newsclip of a recent winner, interviewed in New York. One suggestion for branches is to bring back previous winners to talk to the contestants at the branch competition.
The document "Straight Talk: Guidelines and Tools for Best Practices in ESU Branches" is on the website; every member should read this and send information about "things that work well in our branch" to Chris and to Grant Hamel so that they can pass the word on to other branches.
Chris' replacement as Deputy Director is Edward Mohylowski, a seasoned nonprofit administrator and adjunct professor at Columbia University. Fundraising will definitely be a major focus for the ESU. A committee will  review the nature of the National board structure as ESU moves into the future, and  write position descriptions for Chair, Vice Chair(s), President, and Executive Director; the committee will report to the national board in May.
The Denver branch, with nearly 70 members, hosts an annual Shakespeare Competition. This year they also had a workshop prior to the competition, led by the chair of the English Department at the University of Denver. Local papers advertised the competition, which drew enthusiastic neighbors to the event. It also finances BUSS scholars (the two 2014 winners are going to the Globe Theatre), hosts Page Scholars, and has an annual writing contest for high school students. Denver partners with organizations like the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (attending outdoor plays at the UC campus), Evensong at St. John's Cathedral with an ESU reception, and a Burns Supper with the St. Andrew's (Scottish) Society of Colorado. They look forward to a performance by a UC professor as Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Queen's Birthday Tea in June.
Now that Portland branch has "stabilized", President Susan Farris will do a fourth year and then turn over the reins. Both she and VP Tom Stevens came to Seattle for the 2013 National Conference. Portland has just over 50 members, with a goal of 75. They have good monthly programs, varying between lunch and dinner events. Susan also coordinated the Shakespeare Competition, whose winner hailed from Grant's Pass. They will host a "Shakespeare Night" in May for contestants and their families and friends. Their active English-in-Action program is at least twenty years old, and they are hosting a Page Scholar this spring. They also have an annual Summer Party.
Patricia Haggerty reported for Seattle, with 122 members (92 households). We put on nine members' receptions each year. We also have a fundraising Christmas Ball and the Summer Garden Party (this year again at Sahalee Country Club). Our Annual General Meeting is May 16th three ESU scholarship winners, be informed about the work of various committees, and enjoy a talk on Seattle's famous "Mercer Girls". 2013 was also a big year for us as we hosted the National Conference last September. Our Annual Appeal brings in more funds. Presently we have committees to update the bylaws and provide job descriptions for branch officers. We have an active English-in-Action program that meets Tuesday mornings at University Lutheran Church when UW is in session. There is also a Bridge Group that meets every other month. Region VIII branches do a lot!
Finally, the following slate of officers was put forth for 2014-2016 Region VIII officers. Bill Maschmeier, Chair; Laura Phelps (San Francisco), Vice Chair; Bruce Haefner (Denver), Treasurer; Susan Farris (Portland), Secretary. Finally, Region VIII's finances are in good order, with a balance of over $1100, with dues still to come in.
The attendees did enjoy some "R&R "time, of course. Outings included a winetasting, a visit to the famed Arizona Inn (a mission-style grand "pink palace" that hosted Western movie stars), shopping for cowboy boots, and a visit to the Arizona History Museum. Fred K. got to fly in a private plane with a college classmate (Loveday opted for a serious study of local consignment shops).
The 2014 National Conference will be held in magnificent Newport RI, October 17-19; the Saturday Patrons' Party will be in a fabulous mansion. Chris would really like to see all the branch presidents at the presidents' meeting on Friday October 17th Saturday morning around breakfast. Watch the website and mailings for more information, and join us in Newport! --
The ESU celebrates English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members.
To find out more about our programs click here.