CAUSE History


CAUSE grew out of a users group at CUMREC, which was then an annual College and University Machine Records Conference. In 1962, 22 data processing directors in colleges and universities organized as an IBM 1401 Users Group at a CUMREC meeting in Chicago. They represented the first real users of computers for processing administrative data; up to that point, "machine record" equipment processed punched cards. They called themselves the College and University Systems Exchange, and their objective was to share information about the new administrative information systems they were beginning to develop.


In 1970, this group decided to organize formally. A $10,000 grant was provided by IBM in August 1970 to support travel and meeting expenses for 28 individuals to meet in Denver to map a formal organizational future for the College and University Systems Exchange as a 501(c)(3) non-profit association.

In the early years of CAUSE's history, an unrestricted grant of $20,000 from the Alfred E. Sloan Foundation also helped considerably in ensuring the association's financial stability.


CAUSE was incorporated in February 1971 in Illinois with 25 charter members . In September, the CAUSE Office opened in Boulder, with Charles R. Thomas as Executive Director and Deborah K. Smith as Administrative Secretary. Chuck Thomas had previously held various offices within CAUSE since it was formed in 1962. Chuck traveled to Tallahassee to pick up the CAUSE treasury ? in the form of one check for $17,000 ? to open the doors of the CAUSE office.

Members of the first Board of Directors, who served for the first two years, included:

  • Michael M. Roberts, Stanford University -- President
  • C.C. Mosier, Iowa State University -- President Elect
  • James L. Morgan, State University System of Florida -- Secretary/Treasurer
  • Dominic Bordonaro, Ithaca College
  • John F. Chaney, University of Illinois
  • Ernest Jones, Indiana University
  • H. Edward Matveld, University of Southern California
  • William O'Brien, Princeton University
  • Kenneth Zawodney, St. Joseph's College

A memorandum of understanding was negotiated with the University of Colorado, also located in Boulder, which allowed the fledgling association to draw on CU for necessary administrative support such as computer services, telephone, and purchasing.

From the very beginning, CAUSE was characterized by strong member involvement. CAUSE activities were organized as projects within six divisions, each managed by a designated CAUSE member. One of these was the Professional Development Division, establishing an early precedent for CAUSE's strong focus on this aspect of member service.


CAUSE published for its members a directory of college and university Administrative Data Processing personnel and an index of systems available for exchange. The Exchange Library consisted of reels of magnetic tape, with boxes of punched cards as backup, along with whatever documentation the contributor might have been able to provide.

CAUSE also began publication of the CAUSE Information newsletter to keep the membership informed.

The first CAUSE conference was held in December 1972 in St. Louis, chaired by Jim Morgan and attended by 118.

Membership had increased to 111 institutions by the end of 1972.


By 1972, membership had increased to 150 institutions, and 300 people attended the annual conference.

A National Conference Program Committee was created to develop the conference program, and the first conference proceedings were published.


In addition to institutional memberships with dues based on FTE student enrollment, support for CAUSE was sought through sustaining membership from for-profit companies; by 1975, there were three such sustaining members.

In response to complaints that the systems in the Exchange Library didn't always match what was needed, the Information Request Service was established to use the CAUSE Information newsletter to allow members to request the contribution of specific systems they wished to implement.

By 1975, the terms "management systems" and "information systems" had begun to appear as often as "administrative data processing," signaling the transition from a focus on the use of computers to process data to a focus on the provision of information to support management decision making.

It is significant that early on, even though CAUSE was an association of and for computer-based information systems professionals in higher education, it was recognized that more important than the systems themselves was how well the systems might help "enhance administration in colleges and universities," as early CAUSE objectives stated.


In 1977, the name of the organization was officially changed to CAUSE, "The Professional Association for Development, Use and Management of Information Systems in Higher Education," no longer to be known as the "College and University Systems Exchange." Even today, institutions know it's hard enough to install and implement proprietary software designed for use in diverse environments; to do this with administrative software developed for a specific institution was even more difficult. Yet great value was to be found in the exchange of ideas by professional colleagues, and a true "professional association" to facilitate this exchange was much needed.

CAUSE appointed a Professional Image Committee to develop the association's expanded role and new activities, as well as a National Issues Committee.


Out of the Professional Image Committee came a recommendation to establish a regular association publication; thus, in 1978, CAUSE/EFFECT was launched and an Editorial Committee was created to solicit and select articles for publication. CAUSE/EFFECT was announced as "a magazine for professionals engaged in development, use, and management of information systems in higher education," reinforcing the transition from the use of "ADP" terminology to "information systems."

The new image for CAUSE also ushered in the use of "CAUSE blue," replacing the old color scheme of yellow/orange/brown/cream. The punched card holes that had been replicated on the original CAUSE logo gave way to a new look featuring two curved arrows around the CAUSE name, representing the interchange of information, a hallmark of CAUSE's value as a professional association.

Membership had grown to 250 institutions, conference attendance to 500, and the CAUSE staff to four.


CAUSE initiated a survey of the membership to profile each institution's information systems environment, from which a "Member Institution Profile" (MIP) was created, to help members determine what kinds of administrative information systems their peer institutions might be implementing.


CAUSE began the practice of recognizing achievements within the profession, with awards established with sponsorship from Information Associates for both exemplary leadership and professional excellence. The first winners were, for leadership, Ronald W. Brady of the University of Illinois, and, for professional excellence, Michael M. Roberts of Stanford University.

The CAUSE Monograph Series was launched, with publication of Legal Protection for Computer Programs by Laura Nell Gasaway and Maureen Murphy.

By this time, CAUSE was beginning to attract attention more broadly; the interest of international institutions in CAUSE membership prompted a restructuring of dues.


With membership now exceeding 350 institutions, CAUSE's 10th anniversity was celebrated by returning to St. Louis, site of the first CAUSE conference in 1972.

A new recognition award was added, this one for the CAUSE/EFFECT Contributor of the Year, sponsored by SCT. The winner was Robert J. Robinson for his article, "Computers And Information Systems For Higher Education In The 1980s: Options And Opportunities."

CAUSE's second monograph was published, based on the information collected in the MIP Survey, and a series of regional management seminars was initiated to bring professional development closer to the campus.

A DEC VAX 11/730 contributed by Digital Equipment Corporation helped the CAUSE National Office use then state-of-the-art automation in running the affairs of the association, including e-mail, already being used extensively by Executive Director Chuck Thomas to stay in touch with his colleagues day and night.


By 1984, with more than 450 member institutions and 17 sustaining member companies, CAUSE had begun to engage in regular strategic planning, annually updating a strategic plan to guide the activities of the association with the advice of an appointed Strategic Advisory Council.

Another hallmark of CAUSE practice, liaison and outreach with other associations, was well established, with the CAUSE Annual Report for 1983-84 listing numerous organizations with which CAUSE actively collaborated. Among these was EDUCOM, with whom CAUSE had, since 1982, been co-sponsoring an annual institute on computer literacy.


By 1985, CAUSE found that the scope of responsibility of many of its members had begun to change, adding management of academic computing to administrative computing responsibility. Acknowledging this broadening of scope, a new track on managing academic computing was added to the CAUSE Conference, an executive seminar on technological issues for college and university presidents was offered, and CAUSE began to use the broader term "information technology" instead of "information systems," now calling itself "the professional association for computing and information technology in higher education."

As conference attendance topped 600, CAUSE Constituent Groups were established to allow those with specific common interests to meet within the larger conference structure.

By this time, corporations offering hardware, software, and services for the higher education market began to find the annual gathering of information technology decision-makers at the CAUSE conference a prime audience. They began to bring machinery, wires, and displays into the corporate hospitality suites traditionally sponsored at CAUSE conferences, with these technology demonstrations now competing with refreshments for the attention of the CAUSE conference-goer.


With the resignation of Chuck Thomas, Jane N. Ryland was appointed Executive Director; her title changed to President in the following year. She had been involved with CAUSE in various capacities since its inception, serving as Project Manager for CAUSE's Library Project in 1971, first presenting a paper at the CAUSE73 conference, serving as a conference track chair in 1974 and as conference chair in 1975, serving on the CAUSE Board from 1974-76, and directing an affiliated project for the State Higher Education Executive Officers out of the CAUSE office from 1976 to 1981.

Macintosh computers contributed by Apple Computer were installed on staff desktops, reflecting the growing ubiquity of the personal computer on college and university campuses.

CAUSE launched a new Professional Paper Series as a way to get published information in members' hands more quickly than monograph publishing allowed. The first release was A Single System Image: An Information Systems Strategy, by Robert C. Heterick, Jr.

The CAUSE86 theme, "The Impact of Converging Information Technologies," exemplified the increased blurring of lines between administrative and academic computing, and CAUSE and Educom increased their collaborative efforts, initiating a series of co-sponsored professional development seminars.


In 1988, the need for two higher education associations addressing information technology issues began to be questioned in earnest, and the CAUSE Board of Directors initiated merger discussions with Educom.

Educom members seemed to be generally in favor of this step, but a significant expression of concern by members during the CAUSE Annual Business Meeting at the annual conference resulted in the CAUSE Board's decision to terminate merger discussions. Nonetheless, both organizations agreed to increase collaborative activities to avoid duplication of effort wherever possible.

Conference attendance passed the 1,000 mark in 1988, and membership, especially corporate membership, increased significantly.


Following the termination of merger discussions, CAUSE and Educom intensified their cooperative initiatives, creating the Higher Education Information Resources Alliance (HEIRAlliance) as an umbrella for these initiatives and to provide a single voice on higher education information technology issues.

CAUSE also intensified cooperation with other associations, including NACUBO, AACRAO, and higher education's presidential associations.

The CAUSE office relocated after 18 years in its first facility to a new office park in Boulder to house the growing CAUSE staff and support the increased activities of the association.

At CAUSE89 in San Diego, conference attendance topped 1,000 for the first time: more than 1,250 attended in spite of a last-minute change to a new hotel facility when the original hotel canceled its contract just four months prior to the conference.

CAUSE unveiled a new recognition award, for Exemplary Leadership and Information Technology Excellence (ELITE Award). Sponsored by Information Associates through 1992, SCT has since assumed support of the program.

CAUSE established its first vice president position, for information resources, in expectation that the association's role in providing its members with a rich array of information resources was key to its future of being an indispensable partner in managing information technology on campus. In September Mike Zastrocky became the new vice president.

To provide the operational environment for this future, CAUSE selected RAMS as its association management software and began implementation. Like many of its campus members, the CAUSE staff found the experience difficult and frustrating, wrestling with software bugs, undesirable operational changes, and numerous system failures. CAUSE also connected to the Internet for the first time, dramatically improving its ability to communicate with campus members everywhere.


The Association of Research Libraries joined the HEIRAlliance. The three associations announced the formation of the Coalition for Networked Information to advance scholarship and intellectual productivity through the development of a rich array of networked information resources, under the leadership of Paul Evan Peters.

CAUSE launched a new bimonthly newsletter, Manage IT, addressing more global and trans-campus issues, including federal legislation related to technology in higher education.

The CAUSE Management Institute was founded, immediately selling out and receiving high marks from participants as a premier professional development experience for new managers or those wishing to brush up on skills.


CAUSE's 20th anniversary was celebrated at CAUSE91 in Anaheim. The size of the CAUSE Board was expanded from 10 to 16, including for the first time at-large members appointed to the Board.

As the CAUSE Management Institute marked its third year, a task force was appointed to map out an expansion of CAUSE's professional development program with multi-level, multi-faceted offerings.

Internet growth surged, and CAUSE joined Educom's Networking and Telecommunications Task Force to encourage federal support for a National Research and Education Network.


Strategic planning, always a part of the Board's annual work cycle, received special attention in 1992. An external facilitator, focus groups of CAUSE members, and numerous mechanisms to solicit member feedback all helped the Board draft a broad new strategic plan clarifying CAUSE's focus on professional development, and on people as the key to accomplishing its mission of fostering the use of information technology to achieve campus-wide transformation.

CAUSE, Educom, and the Association of Research Libraries, through the HEIRAlliance, began publication of an Executive Strategies Series, "What Presidents Need to Know . . .," to keep senior executives on campus informed about the growing importance of information technology.

Working with the Council of Higher Education Management Systems (CHEMA), CAUSE participated in publication of a guidebook to help institutions choose between self-operation or outsourcing for key functions on campus.

CAUSE began to explore innovative means of communicating with members via the Internet, establishing an e-mail-based E-Bulletin to quickly share timely information, and setting up electronic discussions for CAUSE Constituent Groups.

In recognition of the general high quality and value to members of its electronic publishing efforts, CAUSE won the award for the best overall Desktop Publishing program given by the Communications Section of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

CAUSE membership exceeded 1,000 campuses for the first time.


1993 saw even more Internet-based electronic services introduced. A online version of the CAUSE Information member newsletter was introduced, as well as the ability to request a wide variety of CAUSE resources by e-mail, with automatic delivery by return e-mail. Late in the year, CAUSE introduced a Gopher server as an alternative to e-mail for accessing the electronic resources of the association. The American Society of Association Executives recognized CAUSE's leadership in the area in its "Associations Advance America" competition.

A new award, for Excellence in Campus Networking, sponsored by Novell, was announced.

Once again, concerns about duplication of effort resulted in the CAUSE Board renewing dialog with Educom. CAUSE and Educom presidents Ryland and Heterick were asked to develop specific recommendations to reduce duplication and leverage resources, not to exclude the possibility of merger. Despite awareness of strong synergies and commonality of mission, the CAUSE Board again stopped short of pursuit of a merger at this time.

CAUSE began to implement the recommendations of the professional development task force, whose report had been approved the previous year, making a commitment to bring conferences to all regions of the United States. Planning began for the first such regional conference, to be held in conjunction with the Coalition for Networked Information, scheduled for the following spring in Philadelphia.


CAUSE's first two regional conferences were held, in Philadelphia and in Fullerton, California. New awards, for Best Practices in professional development, service, and applications were announced, with sponsorship from PeopleSoft. And a new director-level program was added to the popular CAUSE Management Institute.

With growing corporate participation in CAUSE, a Corporate Forum was held to strengthen these key relationships.

As the value of electronic delivery on information resources became even clearer, CAUSE moved rapidly to capitalize on this new paradigm, making available via the CAUSE Gopher the entire CAUSE/EFFECT magazine, opening an online version of its Information Resources Library (the successor to the original Exchange Library, which now included a wide range of campus-originated materials such as strategic plans for information technology), and launching the e-mailed Campus Watch, featuring campus-oriented technology news.

Less than a year since its initiation, monthly accesses to the CAUSE Gopher server were typically exceeding 30,000, but already the online world was shifting to the World Wide Web, and CAUSE began to do the same.

As part of the association's efforts to address the special interests of one of its important constituents, CAUSE partnered with the League for Innovation in the Community College to publish Jan A. Baltzer's The Learning Action Plan: A New Approach to Information Technology Planning in Community Colleges.

Attendance at the CAUSE annual conference jumped sharply, growing from about 1,700 at CAUSE93 to nearly 2,200 at CAUSE94. Part of this growth resulted from growing campus interest in information technology in areas outside the central information technology staff. CAUSE introduced an "ambassador" program to encourage its member representatives to keep the rest of their campus communities informed about resources available through CAUSE.


With three regional conferences held during the year, a strong management institute program, and high-visibility recognition awards, CAUSE's professional development program adopted the slogan, "Professional Development: Everyone's Responsibility."

Always an active member of the Council of Higher Education Management Associations (CHEMA), a group representing the many associations for college and university administrators, CAUSE took steps to help its fellow CHEMA members begin to deliver their resources electronically to their own members, hosting the CHEMA Web server and electronic discussion group and offering a workshop on Internet delivery of resources.

In a move to help its members with institutional policy and practice issues arising from the proliferation of Internet use, the CAUSE Board endorsed the Open Software Foundation's Distributed Computing Environment (DCE), encouraging its members to consider adoption. A new section of the CAUSE Web server was created to point to examples of institutional policies and practices, and a task force was charged with developing a white paper on privacy of student information.

During 1995, CAUSE membership reached the milestone of 1,000 voting representatives and more than 1,300 campuses.


Once again the American Society of Association Executives honored CAUSE, this time with its prestigious Keystone award for the best membership technology application.

Long a part of the University of Colorado's Web server, CAUSE moved to establish its own "" domain name. The growing popularity of the CAUSE Web around the world resulted in the mirroring of the CAUSE Web in the United Kingdom to improve access performance for those across the Atlantic.

Growing demand for the CAUSE Management Institutes resulted in the offering of winter institute programs in Palm Springs to complement the Boulder-based summer programs. New CAUSE Vice President Richard Katz brought a strong track record to the task of continuing the expansion of both collaboration and professional development program initiatives.

Two issues dominated Board attention during the year: discussion about the "crisis" in information technology support services, as faculty, staff, and students dramatically increased their use of technology and corresponding their need for support; and concern for enhancing diversity within CAUSE, building special relationships with minority-based organizations.

A partnership with the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) to produce the book Campus Financial Systems for the Future led to a variety of subsequent partnerships in workshops and publications.

As CAUSE's reputation grew for the delivery of high-quality, relevant conferences, other organizations initiated discussions which led to the establishment of a "CAUSE Affiliate" relationship, with CAUSE taking responsibility for not only conference delivery but also for participating in program content planning to ensure a rich variety of consistent, complementary conference experiences across the country and throughout the year.


CAUSE Affiliate relationships were established with the Snowmass Seminars on Academic Computing and the New England Regional Computing Program, and affiliate conferences were held for the first time, further expanding CAUSE's professional development program which now included programs offered as far afield as London and Melbourne. In a return to CAUSE's original alliance from more than thirty years earlier, discussions with CUMREC regarding an affiliate relationship were also under way.

The CAUSE Management Institute added a new program, this one focused on partnerships as a strategy for broadening information technology support campus-wide, beyond central information technology organizations.

True to the promise of networked information, the CAUSE Web became the primary vehicle for delivery of CAUSE resources and communication between CAUSE and its members, with RealAudio and RealVideo versions of conference presentations added to the Web. To position CAUSE for the future, office systems platforms were migrated to Windows NT servers, iMIS (state-of-the-art association management software) was installed, and desktop platforms were converted from Macintosh to Windows 95.

The CAUSE97 conference attracted about 3,200 participants, many, perhaps, drawn by the announced vote of the membership on a consolidation with Educom. The membership overwhelmingly approved consolidation.


Activity within CAUSE increased in intensity as the association prepared to disband and consolidate with Educom.

Brian L. Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Brown University, was appointed EDUCAUSE President as of June 1998, with the consolidation officially taking place on July 1. He early expressed his commitment to drawing on the rich heritage of both groups, continuing a vital professional development and member service focus as well as maintaining a strong policy orientation for the new community.

It is with great pride that the Board, members, and staff watch the traditions of excellence established by both CAUSE and Educom shape the foundations of the new organization.