By Lee Smith, Founder

The Reverend Walter Welsh, loved by community activists, the poor, and minorities, once said that, “The Thursday Morning Roundtable is Lee Smith’s church in the community.” I’ve always treasured Walter’s characterization of my work, which may have been inspired partly by my lack of involvement in any traditional church, but also by our objectives for TMR. It has always been our hope that the project would be good for the community and that its members would be inspired to do good things in the community.The Roundtable, a weekly civic forum, was started at Syracuse University in March 1965. It followed a similar forum I conducted at the University of Akron, involving a mixture of University faculty and community civic leaders.The purpose and nature of the Syracuse project was framed by three remarkable local leaders who participated in the project’s initial planning. Clifford Winters was the dean of University College, the continuing education division of Syracuse University. John R. Searles was head of the Syracuse Metropolitan Development Association, an organization representing the largest business and industrial interests of the area. Irving Berman was head of the largest private foundation in the area, and was most influential in contacts with social agencies and programs. These men envisioned the concept of a weekly civic forum as a vehicle to bring together a mixture of business, social agency, educational, and civic leaders to learn about and discuss community issues and problems. They saw it as education for community development and problem solving. It was also viewed as a way to capitalize on the University’s expertise and prestige in the community. Searles and Berman developed a list of eighty well-known Syracuse area men who were invited to become members of the University’s Thursday Breakfast Roundtable. The rationale for this project reads as follows: “One of the major obstacles to rational and progressive community development is the lack of effective and continuing communication among those most directly responsible for the various phases of the process. This is a fundamental problem, well recognized in all rapidly growing urban communities. It is especially critical and basic with regard to the conduct of local and regional governmental affairs, and the interrelationships of government to the unofficial agents and agencies involved in community decision-making. “The mushrooming expectations and actual responsibilities of local government in our urban centers complicate the traditional problems of communication among governmental offices and officials, as well as between them and their various publics. The urgent and hectic work life of modern governmental officials makes effective intercommunication almost impossible without the intervention of an artificial element, an “institutional” break in a routine, an “excuse” to communicate. “The University, as “neutral ground” and as the respected source for bringing reason to the discussion of public affairs, is the logical social agent to provide this opportunity for communication and clarification of issues. As convener and programmer of an ongoing series of informal discussions on community and regional problems, University College would be making a continuing contribution to the improvement of local government and to the orderly development of the entire community.” It was expected that the actual membership roster would ultimately number 50-60 men with an average weekly attendance of 25. Emphasis was on continuity and regularity of attendance to establish a sense of group identity and to encourage the interaction necessary to fulfill the program’s purpose. The original invitation for membership resulted in a roster of 76 names during the first season. Of those, 33 attended frequently enough (ten or more of the 27 meetings during the first full year of operation) to be listed as regular members. They represented a broad cross-section of leadership within the community. Included were the head of the local NAACP, the county executive, several local government department heads, a newspaper reporter and editor, representatives from several state offices located in Syracuse, social and cultural agency executives, business representatives, educators, and clergymen. The “regulars” included 11 governmental personnel, 10 from civic agencies, six from business, four from education, and one each representing religion and culture. The structure and routine of the project as established in 1965 has remained very much the same throughout its history. Members received a printed schedule of meetings for the first abbreviated season, March 4-April 29 (nine programs). Meetings were held in a snack bar room in the classroom building of University College. That location proved very important for the future growth of the project. It provided ample free parking and was situated in downtown Syracuse, near many participants’ offices. Members assembled around 8 a.m. each Thursday morning, paid for coffee, tea, donuts, and juice at the snack bar, and socialized at tables scattered throughout the room. Programs began about 8:30 with a presentation by a well-known local person for 20-25 minutes, followed by questions, comments, and discussion. Sessions ended promptly at 9:30, when most members left for their offices. Some stayed to discuss their own agendas, and this practice grew throughout the years. Programs were determined by the project director with suggestions from active members. The first two-month season featured presentations from the city mayor, county executive, a Syracuse University vice president, and several leaders of community and business planning groups. Two subjects discussed which proved popular in years to come were public welfare and social action programs. Other than the individual cost of “breakfast,” there were no fees for membership or participation. That policy has remained in effect throughout its history. TMR (the “Breakfast” misnomer was soon dropped in favor of Thursday Morning Roundtable) was a community service provided by Syracuse University. During its first full year of operation, 1965-66, TMR began following a function often repeated through the years. Many new community organizations, social programs, and planning ideas were first introduced and promoted at TMR programs. Early examples were the University Hill Corporation, integration in the public schools, a new Regional Planning Board, a new cultural center, the University Regent Theater, and the Canal Museum. There were 28 weekly sessions that year. Subjects which were revisited many times in future years included community planning, the public schools, various arts and cultural developments, health problems and developments, and several local governmental departments and activities. Included in the latter category were the Syracuse Police Department, the new metropolitan transportation network, the new Parks and Recreation Department, the city airport, water and air pollution controls, and community renewal. Onondaga County Executive John Mulroy gave his annual report to TMR-a feature every season for 25 years. The plan for a local educational television station was introduced, and TMR supported that station, WCNY, in years to come. Later, WCNY’s FM radio component taped and broadcast TMR programs. Another feature of that first full year of programming was a short series of related programs. In this instance, four sessions were devoted to “How Syracuse Looks to Me,” featuring a labor leader, civil rights activist, business leader, and government planner. In later years there were programming themes, usually presented as one program each month.
Thursday Morning Roundtable had 65 members in 1965-66. The most frequent attendees included 11 from governmental offices, 10 from civic groups, six from business, and four from educational institutions. At the conclusion of the 1965-66 season, the director prepared an annual report listing members, programs, and statistics, including attendance records. This practice was followed every year.Beginning with the first full season, I started an attendance-taking practice which amazed TMR members. I prepared a roster of members, observed the group from several perspectives during the formal presentation and checked those who were present on the roster. It was said that no one could recognize more people by the backs of their heads than I. Some observers attributed my proficiency to my experience as a school teacher.The importance of attendance increased as membership grew rapidly and the desired mixture of members became more complex. From the beginning, it seemed important that members attend TMR regularly, regardless of the personal appeal of a particular topic or speaker. To serve its function as a catalyst for community development, it was essential that TMR become a weekly habit for governmental officials, civic leaders, agency professionals, board members, and others who were involved in a particular project, proposal, or development within the community. It became customary for many of these people to meet after the TMR session to work on their own agendas. Members who did not attend on a regular basis were eventually asked to relinquish membership to others requesting membership. Regular attendance was generally considered to be one-third of all sessions. Over the years, members often commented on the “attendance letter” sent out to clarify this requirement. The program year 1967-68 was notable with regard to the future development of TMR. As already noted, the initial invitation to membership was sent to 80 well-known men. There were no female members until the spring of 1968. In the summer of 1967, the Executive Director of the local Human Rights Commission wrote to the Dean of University College complaining about the systematic exclusion of women members. After pointing out that the law prohibits such discrimination, Millicent Allewelt claimed “that a program of such importance to the planning and decision-making process of the community should not arbitrarily exclude all members of any particular group.” In March 1968 I wrote to Karen DeCrow, president of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, informing her that formal membership invitations were being sent to several women. The first were two Syracuse City Councilors and the head of the local League of Women Voters. In time, many League of Women voters members became active in TMR and one of the city councilors, Norma Coburn, remains a very active member. Several programs during this year were prophetic of later TMR developments. There have always been a few political officeholders within the membership. More have been county officials than city officials, and in general, county participation and leadership has been more important. One prominent exception was a city councilor named Lee Alexander. In 1967, he spoke at TMR about his “Vision of the Syracuse of Tomorrow.” Two years later, following his election as Mayor, a TMR program was devoted to drafting a letter to Alexander outlining specific recommendations for his administration. For many years, there were close programming relationships with the city administration. Program emphasis was not limited to city and county matters. In 1967, there were four programs examining issues before the State Constitutional Convention. The results of these discussions were sent to all Central New York delegates to the Convention. In future years, many state legislators, department heads, and the Governor were frequent speakers at TMR. Certain local problems and issues recurred regularly as TMR topics through the years. In 1967-68, the problems of school integration, Onondaga Lake cleanup, solid waste disposal and major highway construction were discussed, as they would be many times in future years. Community planning and health issues have also been recurring themes in TMR history. TMR program scheduling was usually arranged on a monthly basis and distributed to members. Occasionally, there was reason to make a last minute schedule change. A dramatic example of this occurred following the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. That week, a special program was presented at TMR featuring a tape recording made at the Croton School (later renamed Martin Luther King school). The tape featured student reaction to the assassination, in addition to comments made by the Syracuse Chief of Police and the principal of Croton School. This highly emotional session convinced the leaders of the local Community Chest (later United Way) to develop the Urban Crisis Fund as an effort to improve racial discrimination and poverty situations. These two social issues were the subjects of TMR discussion many times in the future. Also during this year, the Roundtable received its first national recognition when the National University Extension Association awarded TMR its “Creativity Award.” This was the first of dozens of awards, citations, and other forms of recognition that have marked TMR history. By the time TMR reached its tenth anniversary, several significant changes and innovations had taken place. Increases in membership numbers, as well as average attendance and longevity of membership, were significant. TMR’s popularity, reputation, and variety of activities also increased greatly during the first decade. Membership grew to 136, including 25 women. Fifteen had been members for all ten years. About one-half had been members for five or more years. Average weekly attendance was 81. Major affiliations of members changed during this time. Social agencies and civic organizations still provided the most members, but more business people got involved. Government offices and educational institutions were also well represented.
In 1973-74, TMR’s audience was expanded greatly when WCNY, the local public television and radio station, began broadcasting the weekly sessions. Broadcasts were usually aired Saturday afternoons and reached a broad area of Central New York. The relationship with WCNY has been maintained throughout TMR’s existence. In recent years, an annual collection of contributions from TMR members has aided the FM station.During this period, the first of several publications about TMR and its programs was produced. The Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation provided funds for a tenth anniversary brochure of photos and history. Later, local businesses and interested individuals funded publications on a series of TMR programs.The tenth anniversary was also marked with a very successful dinner-dance party at the Hotel Syracuse. In later years, TMR occasionally celebrated events or personalities (“salutes”) with parties at the Hotel. TMR social activities played an important role in developing group identity during the early years. As membership grew and interests and backgrounds became more diverse, activities were organized in addition to the weekly schedule of programs. It was hoped that these would improve members’ understanding and appreciation of one another. An early example was the TMR theater group. The director of the University’s Syracuse Repertory Theater was a member of TMR. Many other members attended productions of SRT and decided to organize dinners preceding attendance at the plays. The director discussed the play with this group. Very soon, TMR organized an after-play program for SRT-TMR subscribers. Participants paid a small fee in addition to ticket prices for refreshments to be shared with cast and staff following each play. Discussions and critiques of productions were frequently quite heated and always very interesting. The arrangement, usually involving 100 or more persons, lasted for eight seasons until a new theater director was hired by the University, who rapidly concluded that the Friday evening discussion parties were too stressful for him and his actors. In its early years, much TMR activity involved committees. Various members volunteered to serve on program committees covering areas such as criminal justice, health, education, and other topics. The longest lasting committee interest was one that planned social occasions. The theater group already mentioned was just one such activity. For several years there was a series of “Social Hours.” These were informal gatherings for socializing with no speeches. Started in a community room at the Plaza Nursing Home (one of its founders, Dr. Leo Jivoff, was an active TMR member), the social hours were held either Thursday or Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. in a variety of locations. Those at the University’s Sutton Pavilion often featured piano playing or storytelling by members. Beverages and snacks were always available. A later version of the Social Hour demonstrated the talent and ingenuity of many members. Once a month, two or three members planned and presented a celebration of certain TMR classes. For example, to recognize those members who had joined TMR in 1965-67, a committee planned an appropriate gift, poem, song, or other presentation. Some class years provoked very imaginative and hilarious presentations. Another popular social activity still featured at TMR is the Holiday Party held at the regular place and hour of TMR sessions the Thursday preceding Christmas. A committee plans and prepares entertainment and refreshments (including Bloody Marys and Irish Coffee!). Outstanding local talent has entertained members over the years. At the end of the season in June, a final social hour is usually held at a member’s home. For several years, this was a clambake (usually without clams) held at the home of the president of SUNY Health Science Center, a TMR member. There have also been occasional receptions for members at the home of Syracuse University’s Chancellor. By the end of its first decade, TMR had expanded to 136 members, half of whom had been members for five or more years. Most represented social agencies or civic associations. The second largest affiliation was business, most of whom were top executives. The third largest group was governmental representatives, including city, county, and state officials. These were always the largest groups in TMR, although business interests grew the fastest. There were 25 female members by this time and average weekly attendance had increased to 81.
Early in Roundtable history, various routines and rituals were established, eventually becoming recognized traditions enriching the total experience. The start of a Roundtable session has always been a noisy endeavor. Part of the project’s charm is members coming together every Thursday morning, a social as well as an informational gathering. To quiet the loud chatter and moving around the room, I first used an ashtray to bang for order, and asked noisy members to sit and be quiet. A few years later, several members presented me with a fine gavel inscribed to the “Maestro of the Roundtable.” That gavel is still used, although two others were later given to me. One was hand-made by the father of the Dean of SU’s Hendricks Chapel, fashioned from wood from a replaced stage of the chapel. A third was a large gavel marking the end of our first 25 years. This was presented by Patrick Mannion of our advisory committee at a session featuring the Syracuse Mayor and the incoming University Chancellor. The Mayor, a friend, commented on the anomaly of such a large “hammer” for one so old. I was 72 at the time.The scenario of a Roundtable session has remained very much the same over the years, although we have changed rooms twice. Members arrive from 8-8:30 a.m., pay one dollar (50 cents in earlier years) for coffee, tea, and a donut, and select a table or wander around chatting with colleagues. The original room had a podium with a microphone and speaker, and later a central sound system was added. The podium featured a “Thursday Morning Roundtable” sign, and behind the podium was a colorful banner, “Syracuse University Continuing Education.” Tables were arranged by the janitorial staff in an informal pattern with five or six chairs around each.For quite a few years, smoking was allowed. The county Commissioner of Health, a member and a cigar smoker, occasionally brought a meter to measure the smoke volume in the room. Some years later, we divided the room in half, designating one side for smokers and the other supposedly smoke-free! Members chose their side, and even after all smoking ceased, they often remained on the same side. Most members sat around the same tables for years, which made attendance-taking much easier. However, efforts have been made from time to time to move people around to encourage more getting to know one another. Generally, these efforts have failed, and most members feel more comfortable sitting with their friends or colleagues. I began each session around 8:30 with some remarks-perhaps recognizing some member for an achievement, announcing some event sponsored by a member’s agency, or promoting WCNY-FM or the Onondaga Citizens League. I then introduced the member selected to introduce the speaker. Usually, that member was related to the topic being discussed or was familiar with the speaker. Several members became well known for the quality or length of their introductions. Dr. Leo Jivoff, one of the earliest members, was especially recognized for his rather long, but usually scholarly and humorous introductions. Occasionally, during an overly long introduction, someone from the audience would shout out, “Who’s the speaker?” As already mentioned, I monitored attendance each week and discouraged infrequent attendance. Regular attendance was encouraged for two reasons: to improve individual understanding of a broad range of public issues and problems; and to make possible the catalytic function of TMR in regard to community development. To reinforce this whole concept of attendance, I began very early to recognize certain members for perfect attendance or some special contribution to the success of the Roundtable. The first version of this ceremony was the presentation of homemade wine. I made wine for several years with Lucius Kempton, a colleague at University College. At the end of the season, bottles of this wine were given to a few members and to the College secretaries who hosted the coffee and donut tables. Eventually, we varied the awards for attendance and service to include pins, TMR coffee mugs, or my homemade candy. The candy tradition has lasted the longest. Another tradition begun in the early years was participation in the University’s Community Leadership Conference. These two-day meetings were held at the University’s Adirondack Mountains Conference Center-one at Sagamore near Raquette Lake and one at Minnowbrook on Blue Mountain Lake. These conferences were started two years prior to TMR by University College with the cooperation of the Metropolitan Development Association and the Chamber of Commerce. The conference was designed to bring together a broad representation of civic leaders, public officials, business leaders, and other interested citizens to examine in depth one particular issue, problem, or development affecting this community. The topic of the first conference was metropolitan government (repeated in various guises many times), and the second explored the local arts and culture scene. When TMR began, I assumed responsibility for planning and conducting these conferences. In one sense, they were an extension of TMR. The subject of the conference sessions was usually one already discussed briefly at a TMR meeting. These two-day events at a remote retreat center permitted extensive and intensive examination of one subject, reinforcing the educational value of TMR. In a few years, the conference really became an adjunct of TMR. The majority of participants were TMR members and programs were planned by individuals active in TMR. Some of the conferences resulted in printed reports widely distributed in the community. The Syracuse newspapers usually covered the conferences, thus enhancing their effectiveness. For many years, both the City Mayor and the County Executive were active participants in these conferences. Quite often, a TMR member photographed events and personalities at the conference and prepared displays which were shown at TMR meetings. Other routines and symbols have become part of the TMR tradition. In most years, the season was started by presentations from the Syracuse Mayor and County Executive. In election years, candidates were excluded from the schedule. However, we often arranged debates or joint presentations by candidates early in the fall. The Syracuse University Chancellor was also frequently scheduled early in the season. Symbolic features strengthened the sense of group identity among members. Very early, a lapel pin was designed for members. Coffee mugs with the TMR logo were purchased and sold to members. Some, including the County Commissioner of Health, carried these mugs to various meetings, supposedly to save on paper or styrofoam cups. The TMR logo-a stylized round table with TMR letters-was designed in the beginning by a staff artist in University College’s public relations department. It appeared on every schedule and publication throughout TMR history. We also bought thousands of packages of stick matches with TMR and the starting year “1965” on the cover. These were most popular in the smoking years, but many members still pick them up whenever they are available on the display table outside the meeting rooms. That table was where we displayed handout materials from speakers, promotional materials from participating agencies sponsoring a public event, various TMR or OCL publications, or other materials I thought members should see. From time to time, we surveyed the TMR membership to identify characteristics and attitudes. The surveys were often developed and processed by the University’s political science faculty. As recently as 1996-we developed our own survey. The results in general described a mostly white, middle-to-upper-class membership, involved in community groups and programs, and very well educated (most had a college degree). More members have been registered Republicans, but the margin between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed in recent years. Most consider themselves to be “moderate” or “liberal” in opinions on public issues. The increasing number of female members has produced a generally more liberal tone in the membership.
As our second decade began, there were several significant additions to the standard programming. A series of related sessions was devoted to celebrating the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. Nine Syracuse University professors prepared special lectures on various aspects of that document and related enduring issues. Roundtable members contributed funds to produce a booklet summarizing each of these presentations. Ten years later, eight University faculty prepared special lectures on the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution. In this instance, four local companies provided funds to produce a booklet of these lectures.Evidence of the increasing prestige of TMR as a platform for discussing public affairs was the number of state department heads requesting the opportunity to speak. In future years, many state officials wanted to use our civic forum to promote a program or proposal, or to promote their own careers.The Roundtable also became a useful adjunct to local organizations which brought well-known national or international personalities to Syracuse. Members of these local groups were often TMR members and requested that we schedule their special guests as TMR speakers. This provided TMR with some outstanding speakers that were not otherwise available, especially since neither honoraria nor expenses were paid for any speaker, ever! Host organizations recognized that appearance at TMR appealed to their speakers and greatly extended the impact of their guest on this community. One newspaper columnist headlined a story, “Speaking at the Thursday Morning Roundtable: A Title of Honor.” In 1976, one of the most important developments in the history of the Roundtable began as a bus trip to Toronto. TMR programming had always had a strong interest in metropolitan government. We had developed and conducted conferences on that subject, often in cooperation with the Metropolitan Development Association. Through a related project in my office, we produced a monthly publication, “Syracuse Metropolitan Review,” which often featured TMR personalities, especially those connected with metropolitanism. With help from the Metropolitan Development Association, we organized a two-day trip to Toronto to discuss various aspects of metropolitan government with Canadian officials. There were two direct results of this trip which affected TMR. Several TMR participants, including the County Executive, noticed that Canadian officials often wore distinctive lapel pins, designating the town or city they represented. Some thought we should have such a pin for Onondaga County. We suggested to the County Executive that TMR could conduct a local contest to design an official county pin. A TMR committee was appointed and contest announcements were widely distributed. More than a dozen designs were submitted to TMR. The committee finally selected a design prepared by Cleary Graphics, a local firm. County Executive John Mulroy had the design produced as a very attractive pin which he and TMR members distributed to guests on special occasions. The pin is still used by county officials. This project drew a great deal of interest in and publicity for TMR, enhancing its reputation as an important community institution. The second result of the Toronto trip was probably the most important byproduct of TMR programming. One of the speakers at the Toronto meeting was Arthur Naftalin, Mayor of Minneapolis and a close associate of Hubert Humphrey. Naftalin described the operation of the Citizens League of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Many of us in TMR were greatly impressed by this experience of local citizens studying and reporting on local problems and issues. Their recommendations had been very effective in improving conditions in the twin-city area. On our return to Syracuse, we contacted city and county planning groups and put together a consortium of groups interested in sponsoring presentations by Arthur Naftalin, including a talk at TMR. These sessions led to a proposal drafted to several local leaders which resulted in the creation of the Ononda Citizens League. About 20 TMR members formed an Executive Committee to develop bylaws and operations procedures and select temporary officers. For several years I served as President of the Executive Board. The Citizens League is a membership organization whose sole function is to organize and administer annual studies of one local issue or problem and to recommend specific action regarding the topic. The work of the League, including the preparation and distribution of extensive reports to the community, is underwritten by membership fees and corporate donations. Syracuse University serves as a major contributor, providing office space and facilities, meeting space, and administrative services through my office. I serve as Executive Vice President (administrative officer) for the League. Most League members are also members of TMR, and report summaries are often given at TMR sessions. The first OCL report, “Equality and Fairness in Property Assessment: Recommendations for Onondaga County,” was issued June 5, 1979. The current study, “Our Public Schools-New Challenges, Goals, and Problems” will be the nineteenth annual report. The work and reputation of the Citizens League has been closely related to TMR for twenty years and has been an important factor in the process of institution building. TMR’s prestige as a civic forum involving a mixture of influential citizens grew rapidly. This made program development a simple task. As already noted, local organizations often requested spots on the monthly schedule of meetings for well-known guests brought to Syracuse for the group’s purpose. This recognition prompted invitations to TMR from local organizations and businesses to attend facility openings and special celebrations. Members of TMR attended the opening or special previews of the new Burnet Park Zoo, the downtown shopping-library complex known as the Galleries, the Onondaga Convention Center, the Museum of Science and Technology, an upscale senior center called the Nottingham, special exhibits at the Everson Museum of Art, the new Science and Technology Center at Syracuse University, the University’s new Eggers Hall complex for the Maxwell School, the new County Justice Center (jail), and several other events. Quite often, officials of these organizations or programs spoke at TMR, announcing developments or explaining the institution’s position. An unusual example was Everson Museum director Jim Harithas, who made headlines defending the Everson against critics of Yoko Ono and the nude soccer players exhibit. At the end of our first twenty years, an analysis of program content during that period revealed some interesting emphases.

  • The most frequent subject of programming was health. Beginning with the first season, each year included several programs on various topics, including community planning, new institutions, new health measures and systems, various medical specialties, and so on.
  • The second most popular topic has been the criminal justice system. Included were special sessions on prison reform (the Attica tragedy was a major topic), alternatives to incarceration, juvenile justice, and various costs in the justice system.
  • The third area of concentration has been education, especially the public schools, integration, and curriculum reform.
  • Other favorite subject areas are arts culture, environmental issues, and local government, including community planning.

The end of TMR’s second decade was marked by several parties, receptions, and citations from the Governor, Mayor, University Chancellor, County Executive, City Council, County Legislature, State Assembly and Senate, local representatives in Congress, Chamber of Commerce, and the Metropolitan Development Association. Former Governor Mario Cuomo had been a frequent TMR speaker since 1977, when he was Secretary of State. He is a brilliant speaker-one of the most popular in TMR history. In 1988, he issued a most generous citation marking my 70th birthday, for “many contributions to the Central New York Community.” Members of the Roundtable also contributed to the celebration by donating funds to purchase new tables and chairs for the meeting rooms (two classrooms are combined for the Thursday meetings). To mark our 25th anniversary, members made a much larger and more significant contribution. Members of the advisory committee embarked on an ambitious campaign to raise $25,000 to support scholarships for part-time adult students enrolled at University College. A scholarship committee was chaired by Dr. Ernest Sarason, one of this community’s most successful fund-raisers. Through a well organized campaign which eventually involved almost all TMR members and some non-member friends, we raised $28,000. With the addition of funds matched by other Syracuse University resources, 18 scholarships have been awarded to qualified and needy students. Each fall, two awardees are selected from many applicants at a TMR Scholarship Committee meeting with University College advisors. The winners speak briefly at a TMR meeting, expressing their appreciation and elaborating on their education plans. At the conclusion of TMR’s third decade, we prepared a booklet entitled “Thirty Years of Civic Education for Better Informed, More Responsible Citizens.” This publication was given to members at a Hotel Syracuse luncheon, together with little round wooden tables inscribed “TMR 1965-1995.” Mary Anne Winfield, a well-known management and public relations consultant, led a group of members in preparing skits, slides, and songs to commemorate our 30 years of civic education. The publication presented statistics indicating TMR’s state of health after 30 years. There were 230 members. One hundred twelve had been members for ten or more years. Twenty six percent worked in private business; 25 percent in a social service agency; 15 percent in government; 13 percent in education; 6 percent in medicine or dentistry; 4 percent in religion; and 11 percent were retired (but most were still active in the community). Forty-three percent were chief officers or the heads of a business, agency, or office. TMR programs continue as we approach the end of 1997. Details of program activity since TMR’s 30th anniversary are included in an appendix. As this history was being completed, the 1138th TMR program took place, on June 12, 1997.

January 1965

Clifford L. Winters, Dean of University College, Lee Smith, Irving “Wink” Berman, Executive Director of the Gifford Foun-dation, and John R. Searles, Executive Vice President of the Metropolitan Development Association, agree on concept and plans for a Thursday Breakfast Roundtable. A similar project had been conducted in Akron, Ohio for nine years by Lee Smith. Invitation letters and schedule of nine weekly programs (March 4 – April 29, 1965) were mailed to 82 community leaders identified by Berman and Searles. The first meeting featured the Mayor of Syracuse, William Walsh. Early sessions included full breakfast in the snack bar of Peck Hall. Average weekly attendance was about 30+-all men. Program emphasis in early years was on community and regional planning, and community development in general.


Twenty-seven meetings were held, October-May. Participants became more predictable-33 men attended quite regularly. Most regular participants were from local government and civic organizations-only six from business. Tom Petry, head of WCNY, spoke on the need for an educational TV channel. Benson Snyder boosted the Syracuse Symphony, Marlow Burt, the Regent Theater, and Frank Thompson, the Canal Museum. Nick Rezak talked about coordinated planning in health and welfare. David Beers described the new University Hill Corporation. Frank Barry argued for integration in the public schools. Walter Welsh described future hopes for the Syracuse Community Development Association. Leo Jivoff outlined the importance of the Medical Center, and Charles Wayne talked about SURC and community development. Spencer Steele discussed the airport controversy; Earle Towlson, the new road network; George Schuster, Urban Renewal; Jim Heath, the new Parks and Recreation department; Dan Jackson, water problems (Onondaga Lake).


The Regional Planning Board and its first director, Bob Morris, were introduced at TMR-the first of many appearances. The Crusade for Opportunity was represented on the agenda, as was Joe Golden espousing for the first time the development of a cultural center. Several sessions on the State Constitutional Convention. Dick Schlesinger described CHIPS and Lee Alexander, then a Councilor, gave his “Vision of Syracuse of Tomorrow.” “Wink” Berman delivered his famous analysis of “Seven Top Unmet Needs.” John Lascaris talked about the guaranteed annual income plan and social welfare. The Syracuse General Plan was presented. The Syracuse Metropolitan Review (forerunner of Syracuse Metropinion) was started-first articles by John Searles and Dick Schlesinger. Received letter from director of city-county Human Rights Commission complaining about exclusion of women from TMR membership.


Began committee structure to plan programs-8 different committees of active members. Greater diversity of programs, including health issues, civil rights, arts, criminal justice and transportation. Some major topics: State Constitutional Convention, racial unrest, Campus Plan, cultural center (eventually the County Civic Center), Neighborhood Health Center, program for Onondaga Lake, the Onondaga Interchange (81 and 690), solid waste disposal. On April 18, a special program was arranged on the assassination of Martin Luther King, involving Croton School personnel. Resulted in the formation of the Community Chest’s Urban Crisis Fund. Speakers included Scotty Campbell, Allen Galson, John Frantz, Ed McLaughlin, Dave Beers, Frank Barry, Joe Golden, Charles Wayne, Frank Wood, John Hennigan, Joe Rice, Bob Collins, George Schuster, Malcolm Sutton, John O’Connor, Stephen Rogers, and Bob Hennigan. Began ritual awarding of homemade wine to best attendees, etc. Started TMR-Syracuse Repertory Theater project (viewing plays, having refreshments and discussion with cast following programs). Death of one of TMR founders, “Wink” Berman. Received “Creativity Award” from National University Extension Association. Initiated Institute on Funding Services for the Poor. Active membership totaled 104, with heavy concentration on government, education, and civic associations. Average attendance was 45. First three women members were Norma Coburn and Maria Farr from City Council and Isabel Seimer from the League of Women Voters.


During the early years of TMR, candidates for public office-Mayor, County Executive, Congress-usually spoke early in the fall when running for office. Jim Hanley and Dave O’Brien were on the agenda this year. The role of SOCPA was explained. A plea for “Hospital North” was made. First analysis of the need for a local Science Center was presented. There were several programs on housing and TMR met at the new Everson Museum for a tour and discussion. John O’Connor described “progressive police practices.” Norma Coburn and Maria Farr offered a program on combating alcoholism.


November 6, TMR members developed open letter to newly elected Mayor Alex-ander (who had been a TMR member), listing priorities of problems and suggested approaches. Top issues were public schools, housing, fiscal problems, and coordination with county. Program emphases: community development, education, politics, human relations, and environmental pollution. Number of sessions extended to 33.


Number of regular participants-117. Average attendance was 59. Topics covered included the county zoo, Urban Develop-ment Corp., Model Cities program, Syracuse Hill Neighborhood Development, health legislation, PEACE, Cultural Resources Council, housing, revenue sharing.


October schedule included reports from the Mayor, County Executive, SU Chancellor, and head of Metropolitan Development Association. For the first time, TMR met on a Tuesday-Dick Frost arranged a special program on American Prisons, featuring some articulate and well-known prisoners. Glenn Brown gave the first of several talks on PEACE. The TMR-Syracuse Repertory Theater party enrolled 102 people. Joe Golden spoke again on the Civic Center. Walter Beattie described the Toomey Abbott Towers experiment.


A year of change and special programs for TMR. An Advisory Committee was instituted to help plan programs, govern membership, and establish policies. First members were Richard Hueber, Amelia Greiner, Leo Jivoff, John Menzies, Jack Murray, John Searles, and Walter Welsh. The annual TMR Award for Meritorious Community Service was initiated. Ben Shove was the recipient of the first award. TMR sponsored a series of public meetings on metropolitanism in Onondaga County and issued reports on the sessions. Rules and regulations on membership and attendance were drafted by the Advisory Committee. There were 126 regular members and average attendance was 68. John and Mary Lou Frantz entertained TMR with a musical program. Jim Harithas defended the Everson Museum against critics of the Yoko Ono show, the nude soccer players sculpture, and the ceramics exhibit. Jim Elliott and Tom Sardino outlined new concepts in police work. The first of many programs on changes in the Jamesville Penitentiary featured Jim DeStefano, then commissioner. First program on cable television for Syracuse. Several programs were conducted on the “energy crisis,” citing consumption increases in past decade: gasoline-up 47.7 percent, heating oil-18.4 percent, natural gas-65.1 percent, and electricity-104.6 percent. WCNY-FM began broadcasting all TMR programs.


TMR received honorable mention in the Community and Campus Awards competition of the National Association of Development Organizations. For the 7th year, TMR organized a theater party group of 100 persons. For the third year, the season began with talks by the Mayor, County Executive, SU Chancellor, and MDA Head. A weekly series of “Talk Back” programs over WCNY-FM was started, involving many TMR members. The controversial discussion on “Why can’t we have a first class restaurant downtown?” upset some people. Walter Welsh, curator of the SU audio archives, delighted TMR with old recordings from Teddy Roosevelt and Edison on down. Arthur Storch was presented to TMR as new director of Syracuse Stage. Ed McLaughlin gave one of his many talks on juvenile justice. Prospects for the new town of Radisson were described. The Metro Sewer Treatment Plan was outlined again. Malcolm Sutton funded the publication of a booklet containing special addresses by Scotty Campbell, Maxwell McCombs, and Constance Timberlake on “Watergate,” “the Media,” and “Women’s Rights.” The Gifford Foundation granted funds for a 10th anniversary TMR publication. Robert McAuliffe received the second TMR award for Meritorious Community Service.


On December 19, the 300th TMR was held. Alex Charters and John Searles presented Lee Smith with an inscribed gavel to call the Roundtable to order. As happened more often than not, John Mulroy opened the season with his annual report on the county. The first airing of the plans for a solid waste disposal-steam recovery plant for McBride Street was presented. The City Charter Commission reported its recommendations. Dave Beers presented his controversial analysis of health care costs. The Attica Tragedy was discussed by Arthur Eve. Warren Frank gave another pitch for mass transit. Roy Bernardi argued for consolidation of city-county services. Dan and Malcolm Sutton described how to turn back the calendar for downtown revival. Several speakers from the first season reminisced over changes in the past decade. Charles Fahey analyzed our care for the elderly and Dick Schmidt described medical education at Upstate. Leo Jivoff received the Community Service Award. There were about 135 active members, 25 of whom were women. Average attendance was 80.


Attendance reached all-time high to that point. Those from business and industry increased most. Largest categories of membership came from business and civic associations. The year was marked by two special events. To celebrate our 10th anniversary, a “TMR Party Nite” was arranged at the Hotel Syracuse. Highlights of the popular evening: Ray Gantter’s musical history of TMR (still available on tape), Leo Jivoff’s stories, and John Searles’s dancing. During the year, TMR marked our national Bicentennial with 10 special programs on various enduring themes or issues in American History. Academic scholars, mostly from SU, developed these lectures. TMR members contributed funds for a publication containing summaries of the ten addresses (copies are still available). TMR began attracting state government officials as speakers, including commissioners of health, transportation, and environmental conservation. This trend increased in later years. Cable television for Syracuse was debated, as was off-track betting. A TMR Salon was initiated at Plaza Nursing Home with informal discussion and refreshments late Friday afternoon. Sarah Auchincloss received the fourth Community Service Award.


A busy year. TMR organized a two-day bus trip to Toronto for intensive discussions with officials on various aspects of metropolitan government. As one result, TMR organized for Onondaga County a local competition to design a lapel pin appropriate for this county. Cleary Graphics’ design was selected from 35 entries, and the county had pins manufactured. Another result was a presentation in Syracuse by Arthur Naftalin, former Mayor of Minneapolis, founder of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Citizens League. This eventually led to the development of the Onondaga Citizens League. TMR’s home, the Snack Bar in Peck Hall, was changed to small classrooms. For one month, we moved to the lower level of Reid Hall. This proved impractical and TMR moved to its present site, the large classrooms on the first floor of Peck Hall. A series of monthly programs was devoted to presentations on health issues. Joe Golden described his “fishbowl” theory of culture ten years later (ten years after his first presentation at TMR on the need for a cultural center). The zoo was discussed again. A moratorium on prison construction was urged. Two TMR charter members retired. John Searles was honored at a TMR Salute Dinner at the Hotel. Walter Welsh received the fifth annual TMR award for Meritorious Community Service. There were a large number of “outside” speakers this season-national director of the Institute on Corrections, deputy commissioner of the State Commerce Depart-ment, Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, Mario Cuomo, Urie Bronfen-brenner, Albert Mayer, Arthur Naftalin, Commissioner of Vermont’s Environmental Conservation Department, and the Erie County Executive. There were 162 active members, 71 percent of whom attended more than one-third of all sessions. Average attendance was 90.


The program theme for the year was criminal justice. A committee chaired by Jack Estabrook planned eight monthly sessions on various topics in that field. Charles Wayne delivered one of his hilarious reports on solid waste disposal. John Hennigan gave arguments for consolidating county sanitary districts. Mike Bragman forecast what he would accomplish as chairman of the County Legislature. Peter Andreoli lectured on “Ethics in Govern-ment.” Amelia Greiner gave her first report on the YCS project. There were quite a few programs on health, including an appearance by Kevin Cahill, Governor Carey’s advisor. Karen DeCrow returned to TMR to talk about women’s rights. There were seven sessions of the TMR-Plaza Social Hour. Just before Christmas, the TMR session was a party-with Irish coffee, Bloody Marys, bagels, and entertainment. A “welcome to spring” party was organized for April. TMR held a second salute dinner at Hotel Syracuse to honor “Mr. Downtown Syracuse,” Malcolm Sutton. Two Community Service Awards were presented, to Claire Anderson and Frank Wood. TMR was effectively portrayed in an article in The Forum for Continuing Education, a national publication, by Frank Funk. Syracuse Magazine gave much publicity to TMR, as did the Syracuse newspapers, and television and radio stations.


The Onondaga Citizens League was launched. There were about 150 paid members. Through diligent work by a Study Committee, OCL issued its first report to the community, “Equality and Fairness in Property Assessment: Recommendations for Onondaga County.” A more detailed analysis of membership indicated 31 percent were from business or commerce, 20 percent from government, 17 percent from education, 11 percent from social work, 10 percent from health. Thirty-eight had been members for ten or more years. Mary Anne Winfield chaired a committee which planned a series of programs on “Decision-Making in Onondaga County.” First in the series was Stephen Rogers. Some TMR members toured the Jamesville Penitentiary after Don Stoughton talked about the need for a new prison. Other speakers talked about alternatives to prisons. John Dyson, State Commissioner of Commerce, surprised all by urging a steam plant for the State Fairgrounds. Following his talk, Mike Bragman and John Mulroy explored other alternatives for the plant, including McBride Street. The “Lone Ranger,” mask and all, introduced Bragman. There were many non-Syracuse speakers this year, in addition to Dyson. Guest speakers included the State Comptroller; the State Commissioner for Energy; Pat Murphy, head of surgery for McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario; Chairman of the State Commissions on Corrections, Mario Cuomo; Jim Hanley, President of the National Council on Crime and Delinquen-cy; Director of the State Communities Aid Association; Judge Challeen from Winona, Minnesota; Director of the State Council on Children and Family; Mayor Paul Lattimore of Utica; and the State Director of Division for Youth. A TMR Salute to Rhea Eckel Clark was held at the Hotel Syracuse. There was a holiday party and a “welcome to spring” party. The 7th Community Service Award went to Harold Osborn. TMR issued a special award to John Mulroy in recognition of his 14 years of support for TMR.


Ed McLaughlin introduced the study topic for the Onondaga Citizens League this year, “Young People in Trouble.” Albert Mayer returned with his plea to enliven downtown Syracuse. Leo Jivoff announced plans for a hospice for Onondaga County. The series topic for the year was “Down-town-Possibilities for the 80s.” One of the liveliest speakers on the topic was the mayor of Ithaca, who described how to beat the suburban shopping malls. Peter Andreoli drew the largest audience in TMR history to hear his report on his special prosecutions. Tom Benzel described the capabilities of the Carrier Dome at SU. Roy Bernardi analyzed what’s wrong with the current city administration and “Skip” Meno impressed all with his analysis of public school problems and trends. A big party to celebrate TMR’s 15th anniversary was planned for April 17 at Hotel Syracuse.


Christopher Keene gave the first of several sparkling reports on the Symphony. Jim Introne, then State Commissioner of Mental Retardation, talked on a comprehensive service system. Dick MacPherson predicted his football season. The first clambake was held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Schmidt. The monthly Social Hours at Sutton Pavilion featured nostalgic and funny programs in honor of various TMR “classes” -e.g. 1965-66 group members. The SU Political Science department conducted the first survey of member attitudes, etc.


By this time, there were 123 organizations, businesses, and offices represented in TMR-most from business, including 29 heads of business and 22 heads of agencies. Average attendance was 126. Henry Bersani explained how Mario Cuomo was elected Governor. F.X. Matt described his role as a regional brewer. Bud Andrews described plans for the Galleries project. The OCL report on consolidating police services was presented. Several programs on local government. Astronaut Story Musgrave described NASA’s program. One of the funniest TMR programs was a “roast” of Lee Smith on his birthday. The new Case Center at SU was described. Alan Robinson talked about artificial intelligence. Medicare and Medicaid reform were discussed by Cesar Perales and others. Bob Collins gave a great talk on “retirement.” The beginning of our 20th year was marked by a reception at the home of Chancellor and Mrs. Eggers, a dinner dance at the Hotel Syracuse, and citations from the Governor, State Legislature, County Legislature, Mayor, Common Council, Rep. Wortley, Chamber of Commerce, MDA, and the County Executive. TMR was also honored by the National University Continuing Education Association as an “outstanding contribution in the field of community development and service.”


Jim Boeheim talked about the basketball season. Ethical issues discussed by Tim Bunn of the Herald Journal, the president of the AMA, and Richard Schwartz of SU’s Law School. Rev. Tom Costello described the position of the American Catholic Bishops on social-economic issues. Rev. Larry Howard gave a “minority perspective.” Goodwin Cooke gave the first of several very popular presentations, this one on apartheid. Mayor-elect Tom Young attracted the largest audience in TMR history. Tom Maroney reported on the Citizens League study of City and County Charters. Plans for the new War Memorial were unveiled. AIDS in Central New York was discussed. TMR was given a special preview visit of the new zoo. A special series of eight lectures by SU faculty were presented to mark the Bicentennial of the Constitution. Funds were donated by Bond, Schoeneck, and King; Chappells; Gifford Charitable Corporation; and MONY to produce a booklet on this series.


Bill Donlon, NiMo president, talked on energy problems. Several discussions related to the Citizens League study on “Syracuse 2000.” The Herald-Journal arranged a special program on “Racism in Onondaga County.” Stan Lundine, Lieutenant Governor, talked about public policy issues. TMR sponsored a tour of the new Galleries. A series of programs on “Lawyers and American Society” was initiated by Cathy Richardson, president of the County Bar Association. Jim Tallon, Majority Leader of the State Assembly, discussed the “uninsured and under-insured.” Rev. Lawrence Jenco, former hostage in Lebanon, spoke about his experiences. Mike Falcone presented his “vision” for downtown. Bruce Kenan did the same for “Syracuse Lakefront.” Nancy Larraine Hoffmann described life in the State Senate. John Henry, president of SUNY Health Science Center, presented plans for the new Sports Medicine Center. At its traditional Holiday Party, TMR presented a “roast” of retiring County Executive John Mulroy, a charter member and dedicated supporter of TMR. Richard Russell, president of WCNY, analyzed the challenge of the 90s for public broadcasting. It was the 15th anniversary of WCNY-FM broadcasts of TMR programs. WSYT-TV began delayed TV broadcasts of all TMR programs. On April 28th, the 800th TMR program was presented.


By the end of 1989, there were 205 active members. One hundred fifty-two attended one-half or more of the 38 sessions during the year. Average weekly attendance was 138. Chancellor Eggers introduced the season with a challenging talk on poverty. Kathy Ruscitto listed this year’s priorities in human services. A panel of newspaper, SU, and legal folk presented ideas for a local code of ethics. The new drug commission was introduced. Ross Whaley, president of ESF, described the aims of the Adirondack Commission. Henry Williams, new Super-intendent of Schools, described school problems. A panel analyzed the crisis of long-term health care. The new president of LeMoyne College, Kevin O’Connell, spoke on LeMoyne’s future. Maurice Hinchey, NY State Assembly, described the price of preserving our environment. Dick MacPherson tried to forecast the football season. The second annual John H. Mulroy Lecture on Local Government was presented. The programming theme for our 25th year was our environment. An average of one program each month examined various issues and problems affecting the environment. Featured speakers included Thomas Jorling, Commissioner of DEC, and Peter Berle, President of the National Audubon Society. One of the most popular of all TMR programs was the dynamic talk by William Sloane Coffin. His exciting ideas on “Waging Peace” resulted in one of the very few standing ovations in TMR history. Also exciting was the program on the results of the Citizens League study on Poverty. Other topics included mentoring, drugs, development of “oil city,” the end of the “cold war,” mental health, regional market, and the state budget. At the beginning of our 25th anniversary month, March 1990, TMR membership was 220; average weekly attendance increased to 156. The March 1 program was the 867th session of the Thursday Morning Roundtable in Syracuse.


At the conclusion of the 1992-93 season, there were 241 members. Most attended one-half or more of the weekly meetings. Average attendance was 163. Program topics reflected the major concerns of involved citizens, locally and nationally. The consolidation of local governments, a proposed civilian review board for police actions, problems of health care cost and access, the presidential campaign, our faltering economy, the Syracuse Symphony, race relations, public school challenges, the new Convention Center, criminal justice issues, and “Success by Six” were major subjects explored during these years. Speakers included the Mayor, SU Chancellor Shaw, William Sloane Coffin, Stan Lundine, Saul Weprin, Bill Donlon, Tarky Lombardi, Goodwin Cooke, Bill Pollard, Leon Modeste, Nadine Strossen (ACLU), Robert McClure, Emlyn Griffith, Saundra Smokes, Michael Dowling, and Christine Varney. The October 21, 1993 program was the 1000th TMR session.


In 1993, Mayor Young delivered dramatic “parting thoughts” as he left office and County Executive Pirro described a new design for county government by 2000. In 1994, as in many past years, TMR was a platform for political leaders and other state officials. Speakers included the Lieutenant Governor, the State Attorney General, Commissioner of Social Services, State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services, State Comptroller, and a candidate for Governor. During the past few years, TMR has hosted many women and minority speakers. Women and minority members have also increased within TMR. A spinoff from TMR is the Syracuse Youth Roundtable, a monthly forum for 140 students in the Syracuse middle and high schools. The purpose is to encourage young people to become better informed about the Syracuse community and eventually become involved in community programs and causes. As throughout the history of TMR, there were several programs on health issues, social problems, community development, and cultural issues. The April 27, 1995 program was the 1059th TMR session.


During this period, members celebrated the 30th anniversary of TMR. At a luncheon program in Hotel Syracuse, there were skits, slide shows, and music describing the history of TMR and its offspring, the Onondaga Citizens League. Each TMR member received a 30th anniversary booklet and a little round table with “TMR 1965-1995” inscribed on the top. The tables were made by Consolidated Industries, the director of which was a TMR member. A very popular series of programs featured well known business leaders discussing “Our Changing Business Community and Its Impact on Our Total Community.” The texts of these presentations were edited and published as another TMR booklet. The schedule for 1996-97 included many of the topics and themes featured at TMR in previous years-racism, welfare reform, managed care and other health issues, police consolidation (city and county views), economic conditions and problems, Syracuse downtown development, Syracuse schools, election issues, debates, and analysis. As usual, the Roundtable provided information and perspectives on the developments, conditions, problems, and hopes characterizing the larger Syracuse community. The June 12, 1997 program was the 1138th TMR session.