Sputnik's launch by the Soviet Union in 1957 not only initiated the Space Age but also led to the creation of the Massachusetts School Counselors Association.
One of the reactions of the United States Congress was to enact the National Defense Education Act in 1958. The primary purpose of this legislation was to provide federal financial aid to strengthen elementary and secondary programs in science, math, and modern foreign languages. NDEA also provided for other educational programs including "counseling and guidance." This was the first time that our profession was specifically cited in a federal legislative act.
One of the provisions of the NDEA was that each state had to decide how they were going to implement the federal funds they were to receive. Some states elected to do research on the best way to organize guidance and counseling programs.
Fortunately, Massachusetts chose a more practical approach.
Warren Benson, head of the guidance section of the Massachusetts Department of Education, proposed that NDEA funds be sent directly to schools in the Commonwealth. Each school district was to decide how these funds were to be used to establish or expand guidance and counseling programs.
The funds could be expended for hiring professional and/or support personnel, for office equipment and/or supplies, for guidance and counseling materials, etc. Warren's hope was that the NDEA funds would act as seed money; and, indeed, they were. The "keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome took over as towns and cities did not want to be outdone by their neighboring school districts.
As a result, guidance and counseling programs expanded rapidly throughout the Commonwealth.
In the Autumn of 1960, Warren Benson invited counselors to a meeting. The sole subject was to create a statewide counselors association. He stressed the importance of taking action and the benefits that could result. Warren told the counselors present that the Department of Education would not play any role in the establishment of such an organization now nor in the future. Then, after his brief message, Warren left the meeting.
The first order of business was to see if those present were in favor of such a move. The vote to proceed was unanimous. The next order of business was to create a committee to write the By-Laws.
Counselors from across the Commonwealth volunteered to serve. The committee members chose Bob Berquist, director of guidance in Hopedale, and Oscar Krichmar, counselor in Winthrop, to be co-chairs.
At a later point in MASCA's history, Warren Benson was awarded Honorary Life Membership for the pivotal role he played in expanding our profession throughout Massachusetts.
How can a new state association present itself to an existing group of local associations without appearing as a threat to their identity or autonomy? Carefully. The MASCA By-Laws Committee decided that a Governing Board of Trustees should provide for statewide representation in addition to the constitutional offices. Obviously, having each existing local association choose its own representative would achieve that.
But MASCA was "the new kid on the block." Would local associations be willing to join? To ensure that a governing structure was immediately in place, it was decided that one counselor from each Massachusetts county would be chosen to be a Trustee.
Once MASCA was up and running, an informal recruitment program was initiated to have local associations volunteer for affiliate status within MASCA, while retaining their own identity and autonomy.
And, so it happened.
Why is MASCA's annual conference held in the Spring? In the Spring we can celebrate the year just passed, and we can look forward to the next academic year when we can apply the skills and information learned during a conference.
In the Fall, we can look back, celebrate the achievements of the previous year, and immediately apply the skills learned during a conference.
Although the Fall seemed a better bet, "the new kid on the block" syndrome reared its ugly head again. At the time, there was an organization known as the New England Personnel and Guidance Conference. Each of the New England states took a turn hosting its conference, which was held annually on Columbus Day weekend. The main participants were practicing school counselors and university counselor educators as well as other groups that were members of the American Personnel and Guidance Association.
The MASCA By-Laws Committee felt that school counselors would probably not be allowed to attend two similar conferences in the Fall. Hence, MASCA's annual conference has been held in the Spring.
The last two tasks for the By-Laws Committee were to create a slate of officers and, then, to present that slate and the By-Laws at a general meeting of counselors for approval. The meeting was well attended. The By-Laws were adopted and the slate of officers was approved. MASCA was born.
The first president was Bernie White, director of guidance in Framingham, and the first president-elect was Bob Laserte, director of guidance in Leominster. The first elected president was Charlie Murphy, director of guidance in Pittsfield, and Oscar Krichmar, counselor in Lexington, was elected as the first president-elect.
The above history was written by Ocsar Krichmar.
Want to know more about the early years (1961-1983) of MASCA? Read this document compiled by Louise Forsyth.