The Training of a Secretary:
An Ancient Profession
Secretary In Literature
Universality Of The Vocation
Other Duties As May Be Assigned By The Board Of Directors
Taking The Minutes
Preservation Of The Minutes
Minutes, Meetings And Manners
Read More Articles About: The Training of a Secretary
Universality Of The Vocation
( Originally Published 1922 )
Let us get on to modern times. When I was ten years old I joined my first base-ball club. A fiercely important match was on and the captain, whose name was Joe, was selecting players for the various positions, in accordance with the then custom, during which process, he was addressed in this wise:
" Joe, you want a good man for third base ".
" Joe, you better put Johnnie Stephens on third ".
" Joe, for this match you need a corker at third ".
Finally, Joe turned on the next expectant candidate and snapped out:
"Don't you worry' about that, Shorty. am going to play there myself ".
I have in my posession the minutes of that club, written in the early days of base-ball. I wrote them myself. I have also the score book. No one else wanted it, neither did the secretary, but being a proper secretary, in those days at least, he assumed the burden of its care, of which quality more anon.
From such humble connection as that referred to above, the position of secretary may vary in a hundred degrees of dignity and complexity to have attached to it the distinguished title of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, or of War, or of the Navy in the United States, or the Secretary for Home Affairs, or for Colonies in Great Britain, and so on elsewhere.
It goes far beyond the mere recording of the acts of an organization and their trans-mission to its officials or to the public. It often carries with it extensive executive duties. A familiar example of this occurs in the Young Men's Christian Association in this country, where the Field Secretaries are given great latitude and in which the character of the work done in a particular region is dependent in large measure upon the intelligence and vigor of the local secretary.
Another illustration is found in the alumni class organization of a college or a university. Here the secretary is usually the official who knows each member of the class in the most familiar way, who is acquainted with his circumstances, who can approach him without embarrassment and who can be of immense value to his class, his college and sometimes to the member himself.
The secretary of a university itself may have, and generally does have a vital influence on its welfare and reputation, simply because of his willingness to accept responsibility, to do what he finds to do, nay more, to find those things to do which will most redound to its benefit, and on account of the confidence that is inspired by his ability, personality and fidelity. The financial policy of one of our great universities, Yale, rested for years upon the shoulders of a very able secretary and as far as I have been able to observe, that institution runs along more smoothly in its finances than many others in the country.
Secretaries of fraternal and secret organizations, by whatever names they may be called, are invariably men of influence and power among their members.
It is almost impossible to estimate the far reaching influence of a well equipped secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of a Municipality or of a State or of the United States or any other business corporation. Readers who are members of important scientific and technical associations, such as The American Philosophical Society, the Franklin Institute, the American Societies of Civil, Mechanical, Mining and Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, and those of a similar nature, which are devoted to medicine, law and other human activities, will call to mind in a moment, how much their success and usefulness depend upon the thoroughness and solicitude of their secretaries.
The American Society for Testing Materials was founded about twenty years ago by a small group of men who were interested in the quality and strength of metals and other products which go to make up engineering structures. The secretary of the society was a well-known professor of civil engineering of commanding ability, sterling honesty and sincerity of purpose, possessing immense capacity for work.
At the time of its beginnings there was chaos in engineering with respect to the qualities of materials. Large organizations such as the railroads, each had its own sets of specifications, which were insisted upon and jealously adhered to, resulting in friction with manufacturers, delays in completion of work and endless unnecessary expense.
The society at once began to standardize material requirements. In a few years it had attracted local respect, a little while later its influence and reputation had become national and finally its specifications became known and used throughout the world. The officers of the society bear me out in the statement that the principal credit for this remarkable record of achievement was due to a truly great secretary, now gone to his reward, Dr. Edgar A. Marburg.
Instances of this sort might be multiplied indefinitely. The point is, that secretaries are so intimately connected with the business of the organizations of which they are officers, that they often have the power to make or break them,