These are remarks I made earlier this week at the STC Carolina chapter’s 50th anniversary celebration (with some local color edited out). I offer them as a salute, and an encouragement, to everyone in the technical communication profession.
Fifty years ago our forebears brought forth a new organization, dedicated to promoting and cultivating the profession of technical communication in this area.
It’s a testament to their vision that this idea – cultivating the profession of technical communication – sounds perfectly normal to us today. In 1967 it was crazy talk: technical writers were often an afterthought, subservient to the engineers and scientists they worked with. At universities, technical writing, when it was taught at all, was usually a little enclave within the English department.
The founding members
When I got here in 1983, I got to know three of our chapter’s founding members. Dr. Edmund Dandridge, professor of English at NC State University, made a name for himself as a teacher and researcher.
Richard Russell – Dick Russell – retired from IBM just about when I arrived. A whole generation of technical writers regarded Dick Russell as a trailblazer and a mentor.
Austin Farrell without a doubt was the chapter’s father figure. I don’t think he actually smoked, but I can picture him wearing a cardigan sweater, holding a pipe in his hand, offering fatherly advice and wisdom to the people who followed him as leaders in the chapter.
I was privileged to know these founding members, but here’s what I want you to know about them: they were pretty much the same as you. They believed that technical writers, designers, illustrators, and managers should be recognized as professionals – just like the engineers and scientists they worked with. They believed in sharing knowledge and helping people grow in their careers.
The legacy they started
Fifty years later, we look on the legacy they started, the legacy that you all have helped build. I’m grateful and proud that the Carolina chapter has always had strong programs and events, strong competitions, and, of course, strong people.
I keep coming back to the people. If this chapter has a proud history it’s because of its people. Because of all of you who cared. You cared about the profession. You cared about each other. You cared enough to share your skills and knowledge, to mentor, to celebrate each other’s achievements.
You cared. You served.
Even though I said we’re not subservient, our profession really is built on service. We serve our audience – the people who use the information we create. Service is the heart of what we do as technical communicators.
Some of you were active in the chapter many years ago. Some of you are longtime members and have played vital roles. Some of you are relatively new: your hard work, your inspiration, your caring and serving will write the history of our next 50 years.
So, from today onward, how will we serve our profession? Continue reading