courtesy Travis Hardin Home : Essays : 2007 Aug Annual Gathering Birmingham

From the LocSec
by Travis Hardin, August 2007
Annual Gathering at Birmingham

Originally published in the newsletter of North Alabama Mensa

After returning from the Annual Gathering of American Mensa on July 8th, I was glad that my wife had dragged me out of the house and had driven me down to Birmingham. There I saw 18 people from our own group, including spouses--and there were probably other locals I didn't know among the more than 1,000 attendees. Long-distance member Al Matthews and Mary came from North Carolina, and we saw many old friends and met many nice people, including a couple who had come from Wales.

Among the high points was the benefit auction for MERF of two quilts made by two Birmingham members from the T-shirts of David Mann, late of North Alabama Mensa, and long a favorite leader in American Mensa before his untimely death in 2000. The coaxing of auctioneer Joe Zanca brought winning bids of $1,000 for each quilt. One was sold to Buck Camp of Georgia, the husband of Linda Mann Camp, and the other was bought by a consortium of bidders. Joe also auctioned off a number of five-dollar bills for hundreds of dollars each. In the end, a number of MERF scholarships were declared fully funded, including the annual National David Mann Scholarship, which last year gave $1000 to a West Virginia student.

There were many speakers and programs to choose from, with up to five simultaneous choices. Despite some public unpleasantness about the chairmanship of the gathering (see the members' section at the American Mensa Web site) volunteers pitched in, three hot meals a day were provided, and tummies were happy.

Two awards were brought back: Chairman Russ Bakke awarded Roger Williams with a National Certificate of Appreciation for noteworthy contributions to the organization. Roger labors in the service of Kids' Trek, a program for children attending annual gatherings, the project of his wife Martha. I accepted the Innovative Owl award in recognition of outstanding membership retention (runner-up for 91.1% compared to top, 92% for Fort Wayne Mensa.) Thanks to you for renewing year after year.

Webmaster Bob Ward has posted some pictures from the gathering at and I've posted some miscellaneous pictures at .

Locally, Cristina Hinkle continues to find interesting speakers and restaurants monthly. She is in her second year as program chair. Please give her your suggestions and your thanks.

Two of our members, Samuel and Lana Avera, who retired from the National Security Agency, were featured in the Decatur Daily in September 2005, and I've just seen the article: somin . Coincidentally, my photos from a visit to the Cryptology Museum at the NSA can be seen at .

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Last updated April 2016