Eta Sigma Gamma has a rich history. The history of an organization provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished in the past which in turn provides direction for the future.
The honorary was fortunate in 1987, to have Brenda Smith, PhD, write the history of Eta Sigma Gamma for her doctoral dissertation. Her study was completed during the twentieth anniversary year and published in the twentieth anniversary edition of the Eta Sigma Gamman, (Vol. 19(2), 1987). The complete history (1967-1987) was published in the February, 1989, issue of the Eta Sigma Gamma Monograph. Information from 1987 to 1997 is documented in the historian’s annual reports as well as the annual reports and interviews of four presidents during this decade.
THE BEGINNING, 1967-1968
The idea of a health education honorary was conceived in the minds of Robert Synovitz, HSD, William Bock, PhD, and Warren Schaller, HSD, professors of Physiology and Health Science at Ball State University. Dr. Schaller’s and Dr. Synovitz’s membership in a professional honorary in the 1950’s at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse, and Dr. Bock’s experience in an honorary in education, influenced their vision for a similar organization for health educators. This vision led to the reality of Eta Sigma Gamma, a national honorary for the profession of health education, when the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Indiana on August 14, 1967.
Students and faculty at Ball State University developed the basic documents which provided guidelines for the structure and operation of the honorary as well as for collegiate chapters. The purpose of Eta Sigma Gamma, as defined by our forefathers, is to elevate the standards, ideals, competence and ethics of professionally trained individuals in and for the health science discipline through teaching/education, service and research. With the articles of incorporation filed, basic guidelines developed and the constitution and by laws written, the installation of the first chapter and the initiation of its first thirty members took place on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana on May 12, 1968.
THE EARLY YEARS: A PERIOD OF GROWTH, 1968-1977
As with any new organization, Eta Sigma Gamma’s major intent in its first years of existence was to expand by establishing new chapters and recruiting members. The first attempt at doing this was a reception in conjunction with the American School Health Association’s annual convention in Philadelphia in the fall of 1969. By the end of 1970, six new chapters were installed. National membership dues at that time were $2.00 per year.
In 1969, the first issue of The Eta Sigma Gamman, the official newsletter of the organization, was published. Over the years this has evolved into a professional journal called The Health Educator which is a refereed publication with its own editorial staff.
A rapid increase in growth occurred during 1973-74, with eighteen new chapters. In 1973, the first annual meeting took place in conjunction with the American School Health Association convention in Chicago. It was also the year the first A National Directory of College and University School and Public Health Educators, was published.
During 1975-76, emphasis was directed toward recognition of chapters and their members. The Chapter of the Year and Gamman of the Year awards were established. Cash awards were made available to the recipients by the generosity of the John P. McGovern Foundation. Dr. McGovern also provided funding for the John P. McGovern Scholarship award, which is given annually to a Gamman graduate student demonstrating high scholastic achievement and participation in chapter activities.
Significant growth continued with active members increasing to 1770 in 1977. During 1976 and 1977, fifteen new chapters were added to make a total of 40 chapters at the completion of the honorary’s 10th year, which was celebrated at the annual conference of the American School health Association in Atlanta, Georgia.
Memo from Warren Schaller with trillium picture.
THE YEARS OF PROFESSIONAL MATURITY, 1978-1986
Warren Schaller and John McGovern
Nineteen seventy-eight began a period of professional maturation for the honorary. During this time, there was greater participation of Eta Sigma Gamma in national health education affairs. These included representation at the Coalition of National Health Education Organizations, sponsorship of programs at national conferences and the first national Eta Sigma Gamma Conference held in Detroit in 1978. Other involvements were co-sponsorship of the National Conference for Institutions Preparing Health Educators, publication of Selected Sources of Instructional Materials: A National Directory of Sources of Instructional Materials in Health Education as well as publishing the Research Council Scientific Forum Abstracts, for the American School Health Association.
In the early 1980’s Eta Sigma Gamma was invited to serve on the National School Health Education Coalition. In 1985, the honorary became involved with the award for “Innovations in Health”, sponsored by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Herb Jones, ESG National Secretary/Treasurer, served on the department’s national award committee. The National Directory of Health Educators, in its 7th edition, became a major resource for the profession as well as for agencies, organizations and corporations with an interest in health education and health promotion. A further contribution to the profession was the publication of the Eta Sigma Gamma Monograph Series in 1982 funded by the John P. McGovern Foundation. The Monograph Series, which is published twice a year, devotes one of its issues to student-authored articles. Occasionally a third issue is published on a specific topic or issue.
A DECADE OF CONTINUED EXPANSION AND NEW LEADERSHIP, 1987-1997
The year 1987 was significant in celebrating Eta Sigma Gamma’s twentieth anniversary. The event was commemorated by a special issue of the Eta Sigma Gamman (Vol. 19 No 2) and a national two day convention, held in Indianapolis on October 9 and 10. In 1998 Dr. Smith published the complete history (1967-1987) in the February issue of the Eta Sigma Gamma Monograph.
During the twentieth anniversary year, Dr. Warren E. Schaller, National President and Co-Founder of the honorary, passed away. This ended twenty years of leadership as the honorary’s president. His commitment to the honorary has been unsurpassed. In honor and recognition of Dr. Schaller’s influence, the Warren E. Schaller Presidential Citation is presented annually by the president of the honorary to a distinguished contributor and scholar in health education. In addition, the 1988 annual meeting was devoted to recognizing Dr. Schaller’s contributions to the honorary and the profession.
After Dr. Schaller’s leadership, Dr. Robert Synovitz, another co-founder and national vice president, became the second president of the honorary. Assisting President Synovitz was Dr. Herb Jones, national Secretary-Treasurer. Dr. Jones had also helped Dr. Schaller with administrative duties during his illness.
Nineteen eighty-nine was a remarkable year for the honorary for several reasons. Foremost, the first election was held and on September 1, 1989, Dr. Richard Eberst became the first elected president of the organization. Secondly, a $208,000 grant was awarded to the National Office for the development of educational materials for the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse on college campuses. This effort was to become known as Project Direction and was directed by Dr. Gordon Lindsay of Ball State University. Several outstanding national leaders in substance abuse were employed by Project Direction to develop the materials. Thirdly, the Eta Sigma Gamma National Office hired a full-time Executive Director to provide support for the organizational activities. This was a major step for the honorary in making it independent from Ball State University’s Department of Physiology and Health Science and its support of twenty-two years.
During the academic year of 1991-92, Eta Sigma Gamma celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. In celebration of this event the honorary sponsored a special meeting in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Health Education in Indianapolis, Indiana. Two hundred Gammans, representing several chapters, were present. It was also in 1992 that the Eta Sigma Gamma Historical Library was established for the preservation of historical books, documents and audio and videotapes. During the silver anniversary year, Amy Bernard, a graduate student at Ohio State University became the first student representative elected to the National Board of Directors. She served as the editor of The Vision, the national newsletter which was published for the first time in the spring of 1993. The silver anniversary year found the title of the official journal of the honorary, The Eta Sigma Gamman, changed to The Health Educator: Journal of Eta Sigma Gamma. The first issue was also the last issue for Dr. Denise Amschler, who served as its editor for fifteen years. President Eberst, in his 1992-93 annual report paid tribute to Dr. Amschler, when he stated, “She effectively elevated The Health Educator from a small, photocopied newsletter to a high quality, peer-reviewed publication, which is significantly respected within the health education discipline.”
On 1 September 1993, Dr. Steve Dorman became the fourth national President. This concluded the presidency of Dr. Eberst who, along with Dr. Synovitz, had served the honorary with distinction during the transition period following the death of Dr. Schaller. By this time the honorary had grown to 82 chapters. President Dorman brought to the office of the presidency a strong commitment to students and chapters. The concept of chapter development, along with the appointment of a director for its responsibility, became a reality during his term of office. President Dorman was also instrumental in increasing the number of student members attending national meetings. This was partially due to the establishment of chapter grants to assist Gammans with travel to the ESG annual conferences. The first regional conference for Eta Sigma Gamma was held in Muncie, Indiana in 1993. This was attended by representatives of seven chapters from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The success of the conference served as a model for future regional meetings.
DIVERSITY AND COLLABORATION 1998 – 2017
During the past two decades the board has been expanded to become more representative of the demographics of its membership. The first female President of Eta Sigma Gamma was Kelli McCormack-Brown (1991-1993). Under McCormack-Brown’s leadership, with the second female president of Eta Sigma Gamma the first five year strategic plan was proposed. The plan outlined a number of strategic areas and provided direction and guided the organization to a purposeful direction. The goals and objectives of the strategic plan provided a framework for subsequent organizational activities for growth, development, and leadership. Dr. Susan Ward’s presidency (1999-2001) led the organization to participate in the National Coalition of Professional Health Education Organization planning. Under the leadership of Dr. Malcolm Goldsmith (2001-2003), Eta Sigma Gamma was a participant in the Progress Report – Health Education Profession in the 21st Century. This led to Dr. Kathleen Conley’s (2003-2005) effort to increase Eta Sigma Gamma’s role in the National Coalition of Health Education Organizations and promoting professional ethics among our Gammans. The organization continued to expand its collaboration with other professional organizations. In 2007, Eta Sigma Gamma joined with the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) for its annual meeting and to celebrate the 40th anniversary. As of August 2012, there have been 127 chapters installed on university/college campuses.
In 2007, ESG celebrated its 40th Anniversary in Alexandria, Virginia at its annual conference in partnership with the 2007 SOPHE annual meeting. The Eta Sigma Gamma Annual Meeting included the presentation of awards, student poster sessions, panel presentation and a social event for the 40th anniversary celebration. The panel presentation included a DVD presentation of interviews with individuals involved in the founding of the organization followed by a panel discussion. The panel included Rick Eberst (past president), Brenda Smith (historian – author), and Jodi Brookins-Fisher (faculty advisor), Amy Thompson (chapter president), and Colin Dean (student chapter president). The social event included a genealogy tree of Gammans, a timeline of events, and a short presentation by President-elect, Kelly Alley (2007-2009). In 2008, Ranjita Misra (2009-2011) became the 12th president of the honorary. Under her leadership, the second strategic plan for the organization was initiated in 2009. Phase I (key leader’s survey) and phase II (membership survey) of the strategic planning activities was conducted by Dr. Michael Kelly from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation. The ESG membership survey analysis provided impetus to the ESG board members to develop the short-term (5 year) and long-term (10 year) goals and activities. Although ESG’s Facebook page was initially launched by Jeffrey Clark, Secretary in 2009, ESG revised its Facebook page (national) in February 2011 to use social media as a medium to connect with its local chapters and members. The page was administered by the student representative to the National Board, Brittany Rosen.
Eta Sigma Gamma’s 50th anniversary was celebrated throughout 2017, with the culminating celebratory event being the Green & Gold Gala, held in Denver, Colorado. At this event the first Eta Sigma Gamma fellows were announced. These individuals were instrumental in the formation and development of the Honorary. Below is a list of the fellows:
Dr. Amos Aduroja
Dr. Denise Amschler
Dr. Trent Applegate
Dr. Loren B. Bensley, Jr.
Dr. Jodi Brookins Fisher
Dr. Kelli McCormack Brown
Dr. Jeff Clark
Dr. Kathleen Conley
Dr. Randy Cottrell
Dr. Carolyn Cox
Dr. Steve Dorman
Dr. Rick Eberst
Dr. Judith Luebke
Dr. Beverly Mahoney
Dr. James McKenzie
Dr. Elisa (Beth) McNeil
Dr. Ranjita Misra
Dr. Holly Turner Moses
Dr. Irene O’Boyle
Dr. Roberta Ogletree
Dr. Sheila Patterson
Dr. Morgan Pigg
Dr. Keely Rees
Dr. Barbara Rienzo
Dr. Denise Seabert
Dr. Debra Sutton
Dr. Amy Thompson
Dr. Mohammad Torabi
Dr. Joseph Visker
Dr. Susan Ward
Dr. Kelly Wilson
A second important event related to Eta Sigma Gamma’s 50th anniversary was a panel discussion entitled Eta Sigma Gamma’s 50th Anniversary: A Reflection on the Past and a Vision of the Future, also in Denver. Panel members were Eta Sigma Gamma President Kelly Wilson, Leigh Szucs, Mohammad Torabi, Beverly Mahoney and Judith Luebke; the discussion was moderated by Eta Sigma Gamma Historian Al Sofalvi. During this discussion panel members expressed views regarding the impact of Eta Sigma Gamma on the profession.
THE MODERN ERA, 2018-PRESENT
Eta Sigma Gamma enters its 2nd half-century 2018 – Present
In 2021 planning began for Eta Sigma Gamma 2.0, an initiative designed to bring the Honorary in line with the technological and other advancements that have been made since the founding of Eta Sigma Gamma. This year-long effort was spearheaded by Keely Rees, President, Bob Bensley, Vice President, Holly Moses, Past President, and Denise Seabert, Treasurer/Secretary, and culminated with a strategic plan and changes to the Eta Sigma Gamma Constitution and Bylaws, which were overwhelmingly approved in October 2022 by a vote of the members. The structure of the Board of Directors was changed as well. Directors responsible for specific functions of the Honorary (Memberships, Advisor Development, Chapter Development, Programming, and Publications) were approved by the Board of Directors.
Bill Potts-Datema was named National Director in 2022. Dr. Potts-Datema would be responsible for overseeing functions of the Honorary not covered by other directors.
In this brief summary of the history of Eta Sigma Gamma, we can appreciate the rich heritage and take pride in what has been accomplished. As we enter our sixth decade, we honor traditions of the past and blend them with the ideas and hopes for the future. By so doing, we perpetuate the mission and vision of Eta Sigma Gamma to promote the Health Education discipline by elevating the standards, ideals, competence and ethics of students enrolled in professional preparation programs that subscribe to and align with the national Health Education Competencies.
Eta Sigma Gamma Historical Library
The Eta Sigma Gamma Health Education Historical Library was created to preserve historical documents and make them available to students and scholars for research. Interested students and scholars can see a list of the print books in the collection here. Please contact the Historian, Alan Sofalvi, for a full list of the library’s contents.
Anyone who has documents they believe would be of historical value may donate them to the library. In the past, retired professors, teachers, professionals employed by voluntary and governmental agencies, professional associations, and societies have donated personal and organizational collections. Individuals donating to the library will be given a receipt of the monetary value of the donation for tax purposes. For more information about contributing to the library, please contact our Historian.