The Good Old Days? Maybe Not!

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Guest blogger Thomas K. Sturgeon, 33°, describes the mindset and the changes that made the Valley of Pittsburgh one of the premier Valleys in the NMJ


The Good Old Days? Maybe Not!

Throughout our lives, we frequently catch our thoughts reflecting on the way things were in the past.  In our Masonic life, we constantly fight change based on the mantra of "we never did it that way before!"  What does all of this have to do with the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Pittsburgh?

Initially, we must recognize that I am one of "the old guys." My years of being an officer in the Valley stretched from about 1970 until 1990. Was it different then compared to now? You bet it was different!

Personal reflection reminds me that the Trustees ran the Valley. The officers at that time had little or nothing to say or do without the approval of the Trustees. The Executive Committee was made up of the four presiding officers and the seven Trustees. Not only did the Trustees invest the financial assets of the Valley as they were expected to do, but they also controlled all expenditures.  If the presiding officers or one of the coordinate bodies wanted to have a program, all elements of that program—including funding—required the approval of the Trustees.

New officer appointments to an officer line were suggested by the presiding officer. but approval came from the Trustees. The Director of Work was a Trustee thereby giving the Trustees control of all programs and degree presentations. 

Were these former Trustees bad and un­ caring brothers?  Absolutely not! They were good men doing things "the way we always have done it.”

In 1999, I was elected by the Supreme Council to become an Active Member and subsequently the Resident Active for the Valley of Pittsburgh. Yes, you may be shocked by that decision as was I.
With the authority to make change, I set out to make the Valley more contemporary to 1999 and not the time in the past.  We changed the structure of the Valley to empower the officers to do what they thought to be right. I insisted that the Trustees follow their legislative mandate of investing the assets of the Valley, and to let the Executive Committee direct all functions of the Valley.

Did empowering the Executive Committee to absolutely "run" the Valley create a danger to the Valley? It did not and does not!  We now have an Executive Committee that works together, has worthy discussions, debates issues, and in the end, has made the Valley of Pittsburgh one of the premier Valleys in the Northern Jurisdiction.

So, what will the critics and brothers say about Tom Sturgeon when discussing my epitaph or my legacy?  I truly do not care! The Good Old Days are now a memory—but the Great Days Ahead are destined to be bright and promising. The new day will be monitored by Princes of the Royal Secret who have the courage to change and the willingness to forget that "We never did it that way in the past!"