History of Phi Tau Sigma

Phi Tau Sigma Honorary Society, Inc., for food scientists was established at the University of Massachusetts in 1953. Dr. Gideon “Guy” Livingston and six graduate students (W. D. Powrie, M. P. Baldauf, R.V. Decareau, E. Felicioti, M.A. Steinberg, and D.E. Westcott) led the initiative to establish the society. It is a non-profit organization exempt from tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The purpose of Phi Tau Sigma is to enhance professionalism in food science. Additional information such as By-Laws, Past Presidents, the Carl R. Fellers Award, and Chapters, is available at: http://www.ift.org/community/phi-tau-sigma.aspx.


History of Phi Tau Sigma: The Beginning

(Contributed by William Powrie, Ph.D., Phi Tau Sigma Founding Member and Lifetime Member; Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia; originally appeared in the September and October 2012 issues of the Phi Tau Sigma newsletter)

William Powrie, Ph.D.

Location; inquiring, mature Ph.D. graduate students; events and a young Assistant Professor were the elements for the creation of Phi Tau Sigma. As to the location, Amherst, Massachusetts, was a small town in 1951-1953 with an ice cream parlor, a movie theater and several bars for entertainment. With this limitation, many evenings of graduate students were spent carrying out research and socializing in the seminar room of the Department of Food Technology. Accommodations for graduate students were located about 10 to 15 minutes from the Department and thus the students would have no difficulty meeting in the evening.

About 12 students were enrolled in the Ph.D. food technology program. Many of these students were married, some were veterans and some had industrial experience. Obviously, these students were mature, were focused on gaining scientific and technological knowledge and had an eye on what was needed to succeed in acquiring a challenging position after graduation.

As an unmarried 25-year old student with a Master’s in Food Chemistry at the University of Toronto, I enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in 1951 to broaden my knowledge and expertise in food technology. During my first year of study, I found that the food technology courses had an excellent balance between the practical unit operations and the underlying scientific principles. In my second year, 1952, I wondered if anything was missing in our educational pursuit of pertinent knowledge. It came to mind that an extracurricular Evening Discussion Group might be formed with graduate students for the purpose of exploring new frontiers in food science and technology. Also, this forum could provide for communication and exchange of ideas with guest lecturers, faculty members and students. I talked to Milt Baldauf and Enio Feliciotti, Ph.D. student friends, about the value of such a Group. They agreed enthusiastically that we should start the Evening Discussion Group. The next step was to obtain an endorsement from a faculty member. The three of us selected Dr. Guy Livingston, a young Assistant Professor, who agreed with the idea and offered his support. On top of this, Dr. Carl Fellers, Head of Department of Food Technology, considered such a forum as having educational value and approved the use of the seminar room for the evening meetings.

The next step was to select a pioneer food scientist or technologist as our first speaker. While perusing Food Technology, I noticed an article on “Flavor Profile” by Dr. Lorne Sjostrom at Arthur D. Little in Boston. With descriptive sensory analytic techniques becoming important in the food industry, we invited Lorne, as a pioneer in sensory analysis, to present an evening lecture. He readily accepted our invitation. The first meeting of the Evening Discussion Group was an overwhelming success with enthusiastic graduate and undergraduate students, faculty members and guests having plenty of questions.

After the second successful Group meeting with Samuel A. Goldblith, Ph.D. of MIT as the guest lecturer, Dr. Livingston approached the three of us with a proposal to formalize the Group as an Honor Society for Food Science and Technology. We agreed with the idea of an Honor Society and met together in 1953 with the other Group supporters, namely Bob Decareau, Maynard Steinberg and Don Westcott, to create an official Massachusetts Charter for the Society with the seven of us as Charter members. The Society name was to be Phi (f for food), Tau (t for technology) and Sigma (s for science). The first officers of the Society in 1953 were Dr. Gideon Livingston, President, William Powrie, Vice-President and Donald Westcott, Secretary (the latter two being graduate students). The first Chapter to be formed was at the University of Massachusetts in 1953 with Dr. Irving S. Fagerson as President.

Dr. Guy Livingston was the prime writer of the Phi Tau Sigma Constitution and By-Laws with input from the founding members. He was familiar with honor societies related to disciplines. M.P. Baudauf and E. Feliciotti along with myself organized the first meeting of the Evening Discussion Group and the other founding members helped with the organization of the subsequent meetings.

When Guy suggested that the Evening Discussion Group become an honor society, the six graduate students met with Guy frequently to assess the virtues and value of an honor society to future members. We developed major objectives of a Food Science and Technology Honor Society. With the unanimous vote to create an Honor Society by the founding members, an application for a Charter and incorporation was submitted to the State of Massachusetts. Phi Tau Sigma remains incorporated, with the Internal Revenue Service, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a non-profit organization. The founding members of the Society were to become Charter Members.

The graduate student founders and Guy decided that the bestowing of Honorary Charter Memberships to renowned food scientists and technologists would provide prestige to the Society and help in the growth of a respected Honor Society. The founders selected Dr. Carl Fellers, Dr. L. Burton, Dr. E. Crocker, and Dean Samuel Prescott as recipients. All of these individuals met and exceeded the criteria for membership in Phi Tau Sigma, but it was felt that although they were not Charter Members, they should be.  Dr. Guy Livingston presented the certificates of the Honorary Charter Memberships to the recipients at a group meeting.

After the first Phi Tau Sigma Chapter was formed at the University of Massachusetts (1953), word spread and the next Chapters were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1955) and Rutgers University (1955).

With close ties between the Department of Food Technology, MIT, and the Department of Food Technology, University of Massachusetts, it was logical that the next Chapter should be at MIT. Dr. Samuel Prescott, Dean of Science, MIT, was invited to form a MIT Chapter of Phi Tau Sigma. Dr. E. Lockart, Professor of Food Technology, MIT, became the President in 1955. Dr. W.A. Mclinn, with a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and Head of the Food Science Department at Rutgers University, was invited to form a Phi Tau Sigma Chapter. Dr. Mclinn became the President in 1955 of the Rutgers University Chapter.

In the following years, Ph.D. graduates in Food Technology at the University of Massachusetts were instrumental in forming Chapters in various universities in the USA. For example, Dr. J.J. Powers formed the University of Georgia Chapter in 1956, Dr. E. Nebesky formed the Cornell University Chapter in 1957, and Dr. I.J. Pflug formed the Michigan State University Chapter in 1957. Pioneer food scientists and technologists, such as Dr. E.M. Mrak and Dr. K.G. Weckel were helpful in organizing some of the early Chapters (e.g. University of California, Davis, 1960, and University of Wisconsin, 1956, respectively).

Photos and captions from: Powers, John J., 2005.  Section 1.  Dr. Carl R. Fellers by John J. Powers, Ph.D. in “Pioneers of Food Science – Volume 2” Food & Nutrition Press, Inc., Trumball, CT.

History of Phi Tau Sigma: The Beginning

(Contributed by Dr. Rauno A. Lampi, Phi Tau Sigma Member; originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of the Phi Tau Sigma newsletter)

Rauno A. Lampi, Ph.D.

Phi Tau Sigma was started as Bill Powrie describes; i.e., conceived by students sensing that Food Technology needed an organization to recognize “good” food tech people. The push came from students. There was a camaraderie among those mentioned by Bill Powrie that I feel led to the formation of some sort of “club” and that turned out to be Phi Tau Sigma. Others, mostly those a year or two “behind” were not excluded but those about to face the final “oral exam” had more in common and were closer.

There was a Food Tech Club, but it was not adequate for what the founding Phi Tau Sigma members had in mind and it was centered on undergraduates.

I was invited or picked to join in the second year. I do not know what I did to earn a nomination or membership. I was given a full course on Food Preservation Principles to teach, taking it over when Dr. Don Westcott left; maybe that helped. I remember we had meeting with speakers but do not remember subjects or specifics. I do feel that belonging to Phi Tau Sigma brought a sense of belonging to UMASS to its members.

I still have a Gold colored tie clasp with PHI TAU SIGMA initials in an emblem attached to the pin by two short chains, ala Phi Beta Kappa. The back has my name, 1954, and Univ. Mass.

Tie Clasp

I lost interest over time. My self-assessment is that my work/jobs were technical, food related and varied, but not academically oriented. I would pick academic brains whenever it helped, but in a narrow and selfish way.

In my retirement years I find Phi Tau Sigma is again important to me because of sentimental reasons. And because with relative ease Phi Tau Sigma allows me to remain in contact with people in Food Science and Technology at a level that I can handle.

History of Phi Tau Sigma: The Beginning

(Contributed by Dr. Fergus M. Clysdesdale, Phi Tau Sigma Lifetime Member and President 1992-1993; originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of the Phi Tau Sigma newsletter)

Fergus M. Clysdesdale, Ph.D.

In 1992 to 1993, when I was President of our Honor Society, Phi Tau Sigma was extremely popular. We would get at least one hundred participants at the annual breakfast and Recognition Event. At that time Honor Societies were big at Universities. We (UMass) used to have ceremonies for at least 6 Honor Societies at the University level. However, things then changed. Many of those Honor Societies don’t exist anymore. Since that time some Chapters were active in some schools – More so in the South than in the Northeast or West or Midwest. There was more student interest particularly at the graduate level than undergraduate.

I think students fail to see value because employers and grad schools have failed to see value. The GPA and research activity or internships seem to have been the end and be all. Hopefully, that is changing now, and Universities, employers, and students are seeing the great value of Honor Societies, particularly Phi Tau Sigma.

Recent history of Phi Tau Sigma, 2006 to 2012: How did we get to where we are?

(Contributed by Dr. Daryl Lund, Treasurer, President 2006-2008, Treasurer 2011 to present, Lifetime Member Phi Tau Sigma; originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of the Phi Tau Sigma newsletter)

Daryl Lund, Ph.D.

At the 2006 Phi Tau Sigma meeting, which is concurrent with the IFT meeting, I succeeded Dr. Roger Clemens as President of Phi Tau Sigma.  As I came into the office, Roger encouraged me to focus on reinvigorating Phi Tau Sigma so it would once again be The Honor Society of Food Science and Technology and bring recognition to those who are making significant contributions as students or professionals in the field. In discussions with Dr. Juan Silva, who had served as Executive Secretary since 1992, I appointed a committee of past presidents of Phi Tau Sigma to develop a proposal for a more permanent relationship between the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and Phi Tau Sigma, a relationship that would elevate the prestige of Phi Tau Sigma and provide IFT a platform to recognize student achievement, recognition ultimately comparable to the achievement awards of IFT. In the 2009 IFT Report of Accomplishments, the relationship of IFT and Phi Tau Sigma was identified as a significant contribution to one of IFT’s Four Strategic Roles/Goals, specifically “Provide learning, networking, and leadership development experiences that enable food science and technology professionals to become leaders in the global food science community.”

To that point in time, the principle activity of Phi Tau Sigma was to sponsor the student paper competition award reception at the IFT AMFE (Annual Meeting and Food Expo) and to fund the Dr. Carl R. Fellers Award, presented annually at the IFT meeting. The Committee of Phi Tau Sigma Past Presidents understood and recognized that there was much more that Phi Tau Sigma could be doing to foster leadership development and recognize excellence. In 2007, there were about 300 dues paying members, 20 lifetime members, and about 60 student inductees. In addition, there was an endowment of about $90,000 that was conservatively invested so that the interest could be used toward the Dr. Carl R. Fellers Award. This level of activity and income was enough to sustain Phi Tau Sigma but there were only a few Chapters of the 38 that were active.

At the Phi Tau Sigma meeting in 2008, Dr. Yao-wen Huang (University of Georgia) became President of Phi Tau Sigma and asked the Committee of Past Presidents to continue to explore a more structured relationship with IFT and that I serve as chair of the committee.  To that end, the Committee developed a proposal that was presented to the IFT Board of Directors and was adopted at their meeting in June 2009.  The proposal outlined the relationship and expectations of both organizations as revitalization of Phi Tau Sigma progressed.  Spring 2010, the first election of an Executive Committee of Phi Tau Sigma was carried out with Dr. Dennis Heldman becoming President.

Since the first Executive Committee meeting in July, 2010, Phi Tau Sigma has been strengthened as an Honor Society in several critical areas. Dr. Heldman moved aggressively to begin a strategic planning process and significant time was spent updating the membership records (since there were only 127 names on the active membership list with current email addresses) and creating a newsletter.  At the suggestion of Dr. Daryl Lund, Dr. Anthony W. Kotula and his daughter, Dr. Kathryn L. Kotula, volunteered to create and edit the Newsletter, and determined that it needed to be a monthly, rather than annual, publication. Monthly conference calls were initiated to drive the planning process and, within a year, identified members totaled 305 (largely due to the efforts of the Executive Committee and Dr. Kathryn L. Kotula in tracking down people listed on the membership list from Dr. Juan Silva).

Needless to say, the increased activity resulted in significant use of IFT staff time and in March 2011, IFT decided to terminate the formal relationship between Phi Tau Sigma and IFT. By this time a good cadre of volunteers had been identified to carry out all the functions of Phi Tau Sigma.  In June 2011, Dr. Kenneth Lee (the Ohio State University) became President of Phi Tau Sigma, a new Executive committee was elected, and the redevelopment of Phi Tau Sigma continued at an even more accelerated rate.

To assist in planning and initiating change, Dr. Lee appointed a Strategic Directions Committee (SDC) chaired by immediate Past President Dr. Dennis Heldman.  Among the recommendations and subsequent accomplishments of the SDC were: (1) immediately develop a Phi Tau Sigma website (developed by Dr. Kenneth Lee), (2) transfer the endowment from the IFT Foundation to Phi Tau Sigma (accomplished in October 2011),  and (3) transfer all membership records to volunteers (subsequently transferred to Dr. Kathryn L. Kotula).  The monthly Phi Tau Sigma Newsletter, started in October 2010, with editors Dr. Anthony W. Kotula and his daughter Dr. Kathryn L. Kotula brought attention to the organization. This has driven the reinvigoration of Chapters at Universities (two new Chapters have been formed) and, a Membership and Qualifications Committee, chaired by Dr. Dennis Heldman, has characterized and maintained the high standards for membership.

In summary, these six years have been nothing short of exceptional in the history of this organization.  A great cadre of volunteers has elevated Phi Tau Sigma as The Honor Society of Food Science and Technology. Chapters are being reorganized with a focus on recognition of student excellence and leadership development. Under the direction of Treasurer Dr. Daryl Lund, and a new ad hoc Finance Committee, finances are improved to the point that not only will the Dr. Carl R. Fellers Award be given, but also the Dr. Gideon “Guy” Livingston Scholarship will be initiated in 2013. (Dr. Livingston was one of the founders of Phi Tau Sigma at the University of Massachusetts in 1953.) The Phi Tau Sigma Special Recognition Award, for professionals, and the Phi Tau Sigma Student Achievement Awards were initiated in 2011 and 2012, respectively.  The Dr. Daryl B. Lund International Scholarship and the Founders’ Award have been instituted and will be given starting in 2013.  Recognition of excellence is fostered by increased presence and visibility of Phi Tau Sigma sponsored events at IFT (please see the calendar of activities elsewhere in this Newsletter). The future is very bright for Phi Tau Sigma.  Please, if you are a member, nominate your fellow professionals whom you think should have the recognition of Phi Tau Sigma.

Mexico and Phi Tau Sigma

(Contributed by Herbert Weinstein, Ph.D., Phi Tau Sigma Lifetime Member; originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of the Phi Tau Sigma newsletter)

Herbert Weinstein, Ph.D.

During the middle 1960s in Mexico City, a group of individuals associated with the food industry and all IFT members, because of their association with American corporations, began to meet with the intention of forming a group that could eventually associate in a certain way with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Amongst that group and as a very enthusiastic participant was Ing.* Eduardo Mendez, who had a professional (business) relationship with Fries and Fries – a flavor supplier to the US food industry – and personal friendship with the owner Mr. Bob Fries. Eduardo, because of this relationship, participated actively in the IFT annual meetings and other activities, and made many contacts and friendships.

Others in that enthusiastic group in Mexico City included Mr. Charlie Duffy, a Mr. MacAllister (whom I cannot remember his first name – namely because we all called him Mac), Ing. Mike Fader, Ing. Emma Guillermina Balboa, and others. They met once a month in a restaurant and invited individuals in technical positions in the food and related industries in Mexico.

Towards the end of the 60s I returned to Mexico after graduating with an advanced degree and somehow – which I really do not remember – got connected with Eduardo. I was already a member of IFT (1965) and had been active in the regional section and was willing to continue my affiliation and help with whatever work of recruiting needed to be done in order to get something going in Mexico. As more individuals started to return “home” with degrees in food science, food technology, and related graduate programs, we were able to recruit more interested parties. We formed a larger core group that eventually made possible the creation of Asociación de Técnicos en Alimentos de México (ATAM) which, when we finally got to be recognized by IFT, became section 26 of the Institute. The important fact of this core group is that we all knew about IFT. We all were members and we had an opportunity to participate in the annual meetings. This participation was essential to form the bonds that would significantly enhance the reasons of joining ATAM by other people associated with the food industry in Mexico. Those working for US companies, suppliers to the food industry in Mexico, were the easiest to convince, and “their” clients came very soon thereafter. And so section 26 started to show their faces – as a group – at IFT annual meetings and began to be recognized! Just as an update, ATAM is now Asociación Nacional de Tecnológos en Alimentos de México.

Ing. Eduardo Mendez, Charlie Duffy and me, as well as two or three others were constant participants at annual meetings and became IFT committee members, which would bring us back to the US for meetings more often than once a year.

In one of those committee group meetings, I met with Guy Livingston, whom Eduardo had met before and who, as we all know was an active and enthusiastic member of Phi Tau Sigma. He introduced us to the organization and asked us to think about Phi Tau Sigma in Mexico City. This informal get together got us thinking of the organization, and Eduardo and I applied and became members. Now, it would make more sense to talk to other “friends” and colleagues about the group and invite them to join.

It is important at this time to remind the reader that in Mexico there was no culture of “Greek Societies” and most of us who had foreign schooling were graduate students, not really exposed to fraternities and sororities. Also, specific curricula in Food Science and Technology did not exist at a bachelor’s level, and only a very young Master’s degree program had been established at Universidad Americana – by those of us in the core group of ATAM, in the early 1970s. Today that all has changed radically!

Now a labor of love began, we tried to sell the idea/concept of belonging to Phi Tau Sigma. We would say “join, it is a great organization, it is an Honor Society and the fees are US$10.00 a year.” I am sure you have guessed what happened next – more or less – the main response to our invitation was: “and what do I gain by joining?” We really had very little to offer except for the fact Phi Tau Sigma being an Honor Society and that if you were accepted, meant you had been recognized as a member of the Food Science and Technology profession. Even under that reality or hardship we did convince a few of our closer colleagues and friends to apply and dish out the US$10.00. Some of them did join and were members for some time; many did it for one year.

Expanding the concept of the Honor Society to student affiliation was almost an impossible task. Not only did our universities and colleges have no direct associated degrees with Food Science and Technology at a bachelor’s level, but to them the invitation had no offering of any valuable asset visible to them. Also, many could most probably not afford the fees.

In any case, at least Eduardo and I, participated at the Phi Tau Sigma’s breakfasts at IFT annual meetings, and were recognized by the Chair and had a wonderful time partaking with students and colleagues.

Unfortunately, the idea and concept of forming a core group and then an affiliate organization in Mexico never advanced very much and the idea was lost some years later. I left Mexico in 1974 and even though I returned in the late 1980s, the efforts that the older members were doing were directed towards the survival of ATAM. We could really not distract any resources or efforts towards Phi Tau Sigma. As I understand today, the ATAM is dormant and there are efforts by the IFT leadership to reenergize the Mexican group.

In conclusion, I can say that even though Mexico did not have an affiliate, the many friendships and the great network that Phi Tau Sigma started and that still exists, have stayed with me and some of my friends, with great memories and important friendships.

* Ing. stands for Ingeniero which is a degree obtained, at that time, after a 5 year college program which requires a thesis, in some instances and depending on the courses taken it would be acceptable equivalency of an MSc. The requirements may have changed in the intervening years.