Educom: A Retrospective
Robert C. Heterick, Jr.
once encountered a bit of graffiti that opined, "Time is nature's way
of making sure everything doesn't happen at once."
for an organization, its contribution to society can be understood only
in the fullness of time and in the character of the many people who provided
its leadership. If,
as Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "An institution is the lengthened shadow
of an individual," then over time an organization becomes the compounded
lengthening of many individual shadows.
E T R O S P E C T I V E
Five-year grant of $750,000 offered by W. K. Kellogg Foundation
for new administrative operations.
First issue of Educom Bulletin. First EDUCOM conference held
at Duke University; attendance 150. Edison Montgomery, University
of Pittsburgh vice-chancellor, elected president of Educom.
Headquarters moved to Boston. Educom "resolution on Copyright"
published with intention to clarify status of computer programs
with regard to Copyright Revision Bill in U.S. Congress.
Jordan Baruch succeeds Edison Montgomery as president.
W. K. Kellogg Foundation renews support for Educom with five-year
Jordan Baruch resigns presidency and is replaced by acting
president Joseph Becker. Henry Chauncey named president.
Educom launches Consulting Service and Library Catalog Card
Service with OCLC.
NSF awards $113,600 for three networking seminars.
John and Mary Markle Foundation awards grant to study cable
TV in education; Exxon Education Foundation grants $66,000
to study state agencies and centralized computing services
for colleges and universities.
Planning Council on Computing in Education and Research is
created by group of 18 universities. Joe B. Wyatt elected
president of Educom on resignation of Henry Chauncey.
James C. Emery elected Educom president.
Discount Purchase Program announced for Educom members.
Educom Financial Planning Model (EFPM) completed. National
Science Foundation awards Educom $360,000 for study of computer-based
sharing in teaching and research.
Educom receives $102,000 from Lilly Foundation to continue
research and evaluation of EFPM.
John W. McCredie appointed president of Educom. Lilly Foundation
awards $213,000 grant for continued development of EFPM.
Educom receives $282,000 grant from Carnegie Foundation for
First issue of Educom Networking Newsletter mailed.
IBM donates $1 million plus equipment for startup of BITNET
Ernest J. Anastasio named 7th president of Educom.
Ernest Anastasio resigns as president; Mike Roberts named
acting president of Educom.
Kenneth M. King named 8th president of Educom. Networking
and Telecommunications Task Force (NTTF) formed with five
First National NET conference held in Washington, D.C. NTTF
has 40 members.
Educom Review replaces Educom Bulletin.
Four volumes of the Strategies Series published. Coalition
for Networked Information founded.
Higher Education Information Resources Alliance (HEIRA) created.
First issue of Edupage released to a circulation of less than
100. Internet Society founded with Educom as charter member.
Robert C. Heterick, Jr., named 9th president of Educom. Outline
of National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) begun.
1994 Educom Fellows program initiated. NLII announced with
First Educom Medals awarded.
Work begun on Instructional Management System (IMS).
Internet2 project spun off from Educom as part of new University
Corporation for Advanced Internet Development.
years ago, a group of medical school deans and vice presidents from Duke,
Harvard, SUNY, the universities of California, Illinois, Michigan, Pittsburgh
and Virginia met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to found an organization dedicated
to the idea that digital computers offered an incredible opportunity for
sharing among institutions of higher education. The organization they
founded was the Interuniversity Communications Council, Inc., better known
by its trade name--Educom. Those must have been halcyon days for visionaries,
as the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. was formed just three years
later and CAUSE, Inc.--originally devoted to administrative computing
issues--another four years after that. All three were created in response
to a dimly perceived, but fervently believed, future made possible by
the digital computer.
intrepid group of founders was James Grier Miller, who in the October
1966 issue of Science magazine had this rationale for the founding of
Educom: "The dilemma of the information explosion affects all aspects
of higher education, the primary function of which may be viewed as information
processing broadly conceived--including the creation of new information
(research), transmission of information (teaching), learning of information
by students, and storage and retrieval of information in libraries. Administration
and management of universities also involve many sorts of information
"Each of them, however, needs to be evaluated carefully for effectiveness
and costs in human time and money in comparison with more traditional
methods. Emphasis must remain on the human goals of educational institutions,
rather than on gadgets. It is both to evaluation of this kind and to technological
progress in communications that the new Interuniversity Communications
Council (Educom) is dedicated."
Miller later served as president of the University of Louisville, and
in 1981 he became founding chairman of the board of the University of
the World, an organization working to connect institutions worldwide with
narrow-band computer and broadband video networks.
In its early years, Educom lived the usual vagabond existence of most
small associations, moving its office with its presidents until the presidential
term of Henry Chauncey, distinguished former president of Educational
Testing Service (ETS), who established a more permanent residence for
Educom in Princeton, New Jersey. Educom remained in Princeton until 1988,
when, under the presidency of Ken King, it began its move to Washington,
Educom might well be viewed as having two lifetimes--the
first commencing in the mainframe era with the introduction of time-shared
systems, and the second somewhere around 1984, with widespread educational
adoption of the personal computer. Throughout both eras the focus in Educom
has been on sharing--sharing resources, sharing ideas, sharing a vision.
In 1966 the first edition of the Educom Bulletin was published
and the first EDUCOM conference was held at Duke University. Attendance
was 150. Planning for a resource-sharing network--called EDUNET--began
with $150,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, the National
Library of Medicine, the U.S. Office of Education, and the U.S. Public
Health Service. Educom dependence on external grant funding was now firmly
In 1970 Educom found itself at its first real turning point. President
Jordan Baruch resigned in February, and Joseph Becker was named acting
president. Martin Greenberger, who had served as board chair since 1968,
was asked to head up a search for a successor. Chauncey, who was retiring
as president of ETS, was regarded by Greenberger as a vital and energetic
person with strong leadership abilities and excellent experience. Chauncey
had served on the Educom board for several years and upon being approached
by Greenberger for the role of president, indicated he would be interested
in the position. Chauncey was named president in July.
In a letter to Chauncey dated March 6, 1994, Greenberger captured the
significance of Chauncey's tenure. "From my perspective, you are the reason
Educom survived and was able to turn the corner. You brought a dignity,
humor, and unflappability to the job that was very much needed. I don't
think there would be an Educom today without its having had a Henry Chauncey
as president in that critical period."
In the mid-1970s, Educom created EDUNET in an attempt to realize the vision
of its founders. This impressive effort by Chauncey and Greenberger on
Educom's behalf occurred at a time when the net worth of the organization
was negative and dues were $250 per year. A small number of research universities
contributed $10,000 a year to explore the viability of national computing
resource sharing. Out of that work the Educom Financial Planning Model
emerged. The model was developed by Bill Massy at Stanford University,
made available through Educom, and used by about 50 institutions until
1987. The effort to share central computers over low-speed, expensive
dial-up networks was a mixed success.
During the first era, one might describe Educom conferences as intimate--fewer
than 200 attendees. Even during the early 1980s, conference attendance
was only 300 to 400 hardy souls. The Educom Review had its start publishing
reports from council meetings and conference proceedings. At that time,
its circulation was in the mere hundreds. Educom lived a somewhat hand-to-mouth
existence. The cash and cash-equivalent balance of Educom on June 30,
1984, was $7,733, with a fund balance of $71,704. The organization's actual
net worth by modern accounting standards was undoubtedly significantly
lower. Educom had lived--and would continue to live until the 1990s--a
tenuous existence, dependent on the ability of the president to secure
grant funding for programs.
nearly the entirety of its life, Educom has been viewed by its members
as a frontier-probing rather than evangelical organization--a point of
view ratified by its board as recently as 1994. Whereas members have viewed
Educom as a small, flexible, dynamic organization, others have seen its
approach as elitist. However, with only one minor lapse in the early 1980s,
Educom trustees steadfastly maintained this course.
In 1983 Educom convinced IBM to provide a grant for creation of the BITNET
(Because It's Time NETwork) Information Center. For nearly a decade, BITNET
provided the major source of e-mail connectivity for most of higher education,
both in the United States and abroad. At about the same time, the Educom
Strategies Series monographs were launched with publication of Campus
Computing Strategies, edited by then-president Jack McCredie. Coupled
with the growth of campus networking and personal computing, Educom was
launched into a period of explosive growth.
It was about that time that computer vendors rediscovered higher education
as a major market and a technology-innovation engine. In the earlier mainframe
and minicomputer period, computer vendors had used higher education as
a source of innovative ideas and to gain market acceptance. With widespread
adoption of the personal computer, technology strayed away from a small
priesthood of experts and toward the broader populace of everyday professionals.
The Educom Corporate Associates Program (CAP) was started in 1984 with
a rudimentary vendor exhibit at the conference that year in Boston and
CAP membership rapidly grew to100. Educom's membership doubled to 600,
and under the guidance of Director of Conferences Sue Ellen Anderson,
conference attendance rose quickly to 3,000. By 1989, vendors were spending
millions at the EDUCOM annual conference to showcase their products.
The Educom Software Initiative began in 1985 with a three-year, $500,000
grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. First under the leadership of Frank
Connolly and then Educom Vice President Steve Gilbert, the concept was
expanded and the name changed in 1987 to Educational Uses of Information
Technology (EUIT). Among the major achievements of the EUIT program were
the Educom Code, which addressed the use of intellectual property in electronic
formats; the Higher Education Software Awards program; Equal Access to
Software for Instruction, which addressed the needs of those with disabilities;
and a series of materials dealing with dilemmas in the ethical uses of
The Networking and Telecommunications Task Force (NTTF) was originally
conceived in 1984 as a response to the rapid evolution of computer networks
on Educom member campuses. By 1986, 25 institutions had joined the task
force at an annual fee of $5,000 each. That year Mike Roberts--the first
president of CAUSE--took a leave of absence from Stanford University and
accepted a one-year appointment as vice president for networking and director
of the task force. The resignation of Ernest Anastasio as Educom president
immediately thrust Roberts into the role of acting president as well.
The next year Ken King, formerly vice president at Cornell University,
was elected president and Roberts decided to join Educom full-time.
Rapidly growing federal interest in networking and high-performance computing--areas
of great importance to Educom's members--resulted in a decision in 1988
by the Educom trustees to relocate the organization's offices to Washington.
That same year discussions were undertaken with CAUSE about the potential
for a merger. The Educom and CAUSE boards both recommended a merger to
their memberships and the Educom membership ratified that proposal at
its 1988 annual meeting. The CAUSE membership was fairly evenly divided
over the issue, and the CAUSE board decided to terminate the discussion.
Out of that failed effort arose a relationship between the two organizations
that would serve to both differentiate their programs and create new opportunities
for working together.
The first major step in this direction was creation of the Higher Education
Information Resources Alliance (HEIRA). When Educom joined with CAUSE
and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to found the Coalition
for Networked Information (CNI), HEIRA was expanded to include ARL. Under
the direction of Paul Evan Peters, the CNI broke new ground in the migration
of scholarly information to the Internet.
In the early 1990s, Educom had a brief flirtation with the K-12 community
when it accepted a grant from IBM to encourage networking in schools.
Educom quickly realized its strength lay in higher education, and the
program was discontinued. Out of it, however, came the Consortium of School
Networks, which remains active in the K-12 arena.
Beginning with King's term as president, Educom moved aggressively to
put its financial house in order. In 1993, during the presidency of Bob
Heterick, formerly vice president at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University, Educom took a series of aggressive steps to reduce its
overhead costs and dependence on external grants and contracts. The Educom
trustees led the membership to agree to a restructuring of the dues schedule,
and by 1998 the organization was operating with a $5-million reserve.
A redesign of Educom Review by Wendy Rickard
allowed the magazine to gravitate from publishing only conference proceedings
to becoming a successful quarterly publication, which then transitioned
to a bimonthly publication in 1992. In 1993, the editorship of the magazine
was assumed by John Gehl, and by 1997 the magazine had reached a circulation
of 18,000. In 1992 Gehl, along with Suzanne Douglas, began publishing
the popular Edupage, a three-times-a-week electronically distributed summary
of technology news, now translated into eight languages, and reaching
an estimated audience of several hundred thousand readers.
As federal interest in first the NSFnet--and then the Internet--began
to grow, the voice of Educom through the NTTF became more prominent in
debates regarding national telecommunications policy. Beginning with congressional
testimony in 1987 that encouraged the U.S. government to add education
to its thinking about a national research network, NTTF increasingly assumed
the role of facilitator between government, corporations and higher education.
In addition to the annual National Net meetings held in Washington, a
series of conferences in Monterey, California, helped solidify support
for the Internet and laid the foundation for the next generation of the
Internet through the Internet2 project.
The Internet2 project was so successful that it was spun off from Educom
in 1997 as the not-for-profit University Corporation for Advanced Internet
Development. Doug Van Houweling, who had served as chair of the NTTF Advisory
Board, left his position at the University of Michigan to serve as its
In 1993 Heterick, Bill Graves, who was on leave from the University of
North Carolina as a visiting Educom fellow, and Carol A. Twigg, who joined
Educom as vice president, began a series of discussions that developed
into the outline for the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII).
As with the maturity of the NTTF, Educom moved beyond a focus on technology
and on to policy issues in higher education that required rethinking in
light of the ubiquity of personal computers and the expansion of broadband
networking. Under Twigg's guidance, the NLII became both a lightning rod
and a springboard for discussion about the transformation of teaching
In concert with publishers, technology companies, and several university
groups, the NLII began work on the Instructional Management System (IMS)
to provide the fabric that would tie together efforts to make high-quality
instructional materials available on the Internet. Under the leadership
of Mark Resmer of Sonoma State University and Steve Griffith of the University
of North Carolina, the IMS project operated as an entrepreneurial effort
to define a set of specifications for computer-mediated learning materials.
In addition to a $600,000 grant, the project quickly acquired two dozen
corporate and institutional partners, which sustained the effort at $50,000
each per year.
The Software Awards program had become increasingly insular, and in 1994
it metamorphosed into the Educom Medal Awards program. Disciplinary societies
were invited to join with Educom by selecting one of their own members
for national recognition of the individual's efforts to use information
technology for enhancement of the undergraduate learning experience. Educom
began awarding four to six medals a year with major presentations at Educom's
annual conference and the annual meeting of the disciplinary societies.
In the spring of 1997, CAUSE approached Educom with the idea of renewing
merger discussions because in spite of the effort to differentiate programs,
the inexorable integration of campus technology efforts made a merger
both logical and desirable. Information technology was viewed holistically
by member campuses, and the value of a single organization representing
campus technology interests was inevitable. Through the summer and fall
of that year, a joint committee of the two organizations developed a plan
for consolidation of the organizations into EDUCAUSE, and the plan was
ratified by both memberships at their annual meetings.
As the united community of higher education information technologists
prepares for the 21st century, EDUCAUSE is well positioned to continue
and expand the leadership that Educom has provided for the past three
Theodore Roosevelt, the soft walker with the big stick, once observed,
"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face
is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who knows the great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the
best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and if he fails,
at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never
be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
That seems a fitting epitaph for Educom and an appropriate challenge for
EDUCAUSE as it approaches the next millennium.