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2013-02 Monthly Message

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What is the NASPA Advisory Board

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One of the many ways NASPA conducts its operations is by carrying forward the Advisory Board, originally established by the National SCRABBLE Association (NSA).

Way back when in 1987, John D. Williams, Jr., Executive Director of the National SCRABBLE Association, decided that the Advisory Board would be a great way to get players involved with the organization, while providing a way for members to have their voices more easily heard and get salient advice.


JDW: Watching how Scrabble Players, Inc. -- the NSA predecessor -- was run, I was always struck by one thing. There were no serious players involved in the day-to-day running of the organization or the decision-making process. I was determined to change this as soon I was asked to take over the organization. (The second thing I did was to change the unwieldy name of the organization to the National SCRABBLE Association). I was also aware that because we were only a two-person office at the time, we were going to have to rely on volunteers to help us grow. However, my chief reasoning in starting the AB was two-fold:

Firstly, to give players a sense of involvement and representation that they did not previously have.

Secondly, to be perceived as more democratic. The last thing I wanted was for me -- or Joe Edley and I -- to be operating in a vacuum in regards to all issues. Some players -- experts primarily -- already perceived me as nothing more than a suit, a corporate minion, with no understanding or appreciation of the game and its players. Joe Edley, by his own admission, had his detractors who were either jealous of his perceived power in the organization or who felt -- incorrectly -- that he had some sort of competitive advantage by virtue of his position. So the AB was a measure to make sure it just wasn't John and Joe.

I remember the first AB meeting took place in NYC, all expenses paid by then-owner COLECO. It was on September 18, 1987.

The original members included: JOE EDLEY (CA), MIKE BARON (NM), MIKE WISE (TORONTO, deceased), ROBERT MULET (FL, deceased), BOB SCHOENMAN (KY), JAN CARDIA (nee JARRELL) (DE), PAUL AVRIN (NY) and EDITH BERMAN (MA). The idea was to have a board that was diverse geographically, gender-wise, skill level, club/tournament directors, etc.

I don't recall the agenda for that first meeting other than establishing ourselves. The one item I do remember was to try to keep the momentum going for the first World SCRABBLE Championship. The real highlight of the day was special guest, Alfred Mosher Butts, inventor of SCRABBLE. Albert joined us for lunch and also autographed Scrabble boards for all of us, which we all treasure to this day.

Today, the Advisory Board’s tasks are to:

  1. Represent the players by bringing the membership’s ideas forward for discussion with the Executive Committee and other Board members.
  2. Hear appeals and decide on disciplinary actions as a result of Incident Reports filed by players and/or directors.
  3. Decide on major changes to the game.
  4. Determine policies on standards for committee members and directors.
  5. Advise the Executive Committee on issues of policy.
  6. Communicate with the membership on behalf of the organization.

Your Advisory Board Members, past and present, including Emeritus Members Matthew Hopkins and Robert Kahn, are all currently listed by name with contact information at:

Advisory Board

For the first 22 years, Advisory Board members served no specific term and replacements were chosen by the outgoing members. Today, NASPA uses a balanced approach of elections and appointments to fill Advisory Board positions. Elected positions are for terms of two years, while some positions are appointed for indefinite terms. This dual approach allows a regular influx of new ideas and different perspectives, while also providing for continuity and institutional memory.

Do you have a question, answer or concern? Please avail yourself of these extraordinary individuals.

Chris Cree