History of the Berkeley Chapter

Origins

The Berkeley chapter of STC started during a time of rapid growth for technical communication in the Bay Area. (For a broader view, see History of Technical Communication in the Bay Area [insert link] which is an update of a history I did for the East Bay chapter’s 50th anniversary in 2012.)

The following account is based on several that were done by various authors over the years.

The Berkeley chapter started in the summer of 1987 as an offshoot of the East Bay chapter. East Bay’s president, Dr. C. J. Wallia, saw a need for a chapter to better serve members living west of the Berkeley hills. The new chapter was organized with nineteen members and was recognized as a subsidiary chapter by STC on August 24, 1987.

Its founding officers were:

  • Dr. C.J. Wallia, president
  • Susan Harwell, vice president and newsletter editor
  • Robert Williams, secretary
  • Marla Wilson, treasurer

From the beginning, Berkeley received terrific support from the other Bay Area chapters, which at that time included East Bay, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. Each provided grant money to keep the new chapter afloat until the chapter rebates from STC arrived in August.

The chapter grew rapidly, more than doubling its membership in a few months. By December 1987, it had 42 members. At its first election in April 1988, Ray Bruman became president, and Amy Kuettner became vice president, programs. With this success, Berkeley shed its subsidiary status and became a full-fledged chapter in June 1988.

Meeting Venues

The Berkeley chapter has met in many different venues over the years.

The first Berkeley chapter meeting is believed to have been held September 1, 1987 at Spats, a quirky neighborhood pub and restaurant on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. The chapter continued to meet there until April 1988, when they moved to Cody’s bookstore on Telegraph Avenue. Cody’s served STC Berkeley’s needs until the spring of 1990, when the chapter moved back to downtown Berkeley to the Yenching Restaurant, a Mandarin Chinese restaurant with a mezzanine meeting room that could seat 80 or more. After the Yenching closed in 1998, the chapter bounced around, meeting at various sites in Berkeley and Oakland. Since June 2007 the chapter has met at the Highlands Country Club in the Berkeley Hills. Aside from the upscale environment, and a stunning view, the Highlands location offered a number of advantages: the room costs were reasonable; it could accommodate both large and small crowds; the chapter could store some supplies on the premises; and the chapter had access to a full kitchen, which gave it great flexibility in providing meals.

The Birth of the Newsletter

Upon being formed, the Berkeley chapter almost immediately began producing a newsletter. At first the newsletter was simply called the Berkeley Chapter Newsletter. A naming contest was held, which was won by Kevin Countryman. In October, 1988 the name was changed to Ragged Left. Kevin also designed the flag for the newsletter. The design has changed over the years, but the name has not. Ragged Left continued to be produced as a print publication for many years, until, like the newsletters of many other chapters, it largely faded away in the wake of the dotcom bust and the switch to online technology.

Service to Technical Communication

Throughout its history, the Berkeley chapter has striven to meet the needs of its membership with monthly meetings focused on innovations in technical communication, new tools and technologies, and trends in hiring. The meetings also provide networking opportunities for people looking for staff positions and contracts.

In recent years, the chapter has supported Touchstone, the Northern California technical competition by hosting its training and judging sessions, and it annual awards ceremony.

The chapter holds an annual jobs fair, and from time to time, sponsors workshops, field trips, excursions, social mixers, and other events.

In 2007 the chapter hosted the annual meeting of the STC Board of Directors.

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Patrick Lufkin is an STC Fellow. He is past president of the San Francisco chapter, is current VP for membership of the Berkeley chapter, is chair of the Gordon Scholarship for Technical Communication, and is on the leadership board of the East Bay chapter.