The Founding of the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois
As recalled by Roy Wehrle, John McQuown & Tom Stringer
A few members of a Tuesday luncheon political discussion group had felt for some time that Springfield needed a serious forum for discussion of foreign affairs. In 1986, Dick Grummond, a well-known local lawyer, Bill Blazer the first head of the Illinois EPA, Roy Wehrle and John McQuown teachers at Sangamon State University and Tom Stringer working at the Administratve Office of the Courts got together for lunch at the Sangamo Club and decided that creating a chapter of the World Affairs Council in Springfield would be a beneficial community venture.
Robert Lamphier and Corinne Stocker then joined in forming and financing this startup venture. So the founding members were those named above plus Corinne Stocker and Robert Lamphier. The Mission adopted by the first Board stated that our sole objective was the furtherance of public education on international relations and US foreign policy with a firm commitment to eschew political positions or advocacy. A Sangamon State Student, Mary Nolan, was invited on the Board and served as the first President. Everyone pitched in and was excited to make the Council a success. We had mailing get-togethers at various houses where we folded the upcoming program announcement and pasted on address labels. Those were fun times.
The pattern was set for monthly meetings with dinners at Maldaners and the Sangamon University Restaurant followed by a speaker. Later on most dinners were held at the university restaurant where the chef to this day prepares culinary delights following the geographical topic of the evening. Acceptance by the community came quickly demonstrating the need for a public forum on international affairs. Local and national speakers were invited, many of whom came for a minimal fee when they found we were a start-up organization with minimal financing. Both Lincoln Land and Sangamon State joined early on as supporters and helped our fledgling organization in many ways. Within a year or two, the spring “Great Decisions” eight-week program for small group discussions on topical international subjects was added. The Council has flourished these many years and has grown to become one of the largest and most active World Affairs Councils in the nation. We are ever grateful for the warm support and acceptance given to our Council by the citizens of Springfield and the surrounding region over the years.