Historical Perspective on the Merger

By Dr. Ken Dillehay and Dr. Gary Inman

SWSO desired to start a Leadership Development Program at the end of Steve Robird’s term as President.  SWSO knew about SAO’s successful and robust leadership program that transpired under Sharon Hunt’s watchful eye. SWSO requested an invitation for Drs. Robirds, Shannon, and Dillehay to observe the SAO program during the upcoming cycle, and the request was granted. SWSO subsequently developed a Leadership Development Program modeled closely akin to the SAO program. The SWSO leadership program continues today.

During Gary’s term on the AAO BOT, Ken and Gary sat next to each other until Gary assumed the position as President. As you might guess, there were many sidebar conversations about many subjects that came before the BOT for consideration. 

The relationship between SAO and SWSO became stronger over the years.  Discussions to consider meeting together began in Orlando after both constituencies celebrated their 100th anniversary. During an SWSO fall Board meeting, Clark Colville made a motion for the SWSO Board to approve a motion to reach out to the SAO Board to consider merging the two constituencies into one. His assessment and encouragement for the motion was that if there was ever going to be a merger of constituencies, it would have to be from the grassroots level. Dr. Colville and Dr. Jeri Stull had served on the most recent (2013-2015) AAO Governance Task Force as the constituent representatives from SAO and SWSO respectively, and Dr. Stull was in the officer track to become President of SAO. There was much discussion during that Governance Task Force meeting about the merits of reorganization and constituent mergers, but the task force was not extended for a third year to deal specifically with that issue. The motion to consider merging constituencies was adopted by the SWSO Board and a letter was to be sent to the SAO Board requesting its response to the merger request. This happened to be the year that the Leadership Development Program for both SAO and SWSO was to occur. As the outline for the March portion of the Leadership Program was being developed, and with Richard Williams now stepping into the role as SAO Trustee, it was decided that the members of both the SAO and SWSO classes should meet together for most of the second session of the leadership class. During a presentation conducted by Richard and Ken that covered the structure of both the SAO and SWSO governance, it became obvious that both organizations were essentially the same, top to bottom, with very few differences, and that our cultures were very similar. That was an “ah ha” moment. 

After favorably considering the concept to study merging the SAO and SWSO into one constituency, each Board selected a representative to oversee the evaluation process on the merits of moving forward with a merger. Dr. Kyle Shannon from SWSO and Dr. Dan Joseph from SAO were chosen to serve in that role. Both doctors had served as stakeholders during the 2013-2015 Governance Task Force and both were involved with their respective constituency Boards. Dr. Joseph and Dr. Shannon included other members from SAO and SWSO on this committee in order to look at bylaws, finances and policies. This committee’s work has been ongoing to date.