History of ACUMS


The story of ACUMS began at the Fall 1978 National Postal Forum (NPF) in Washington, DC, where college and university (C&U) attendees from across the country, including Charles Scott (UNH), Donald Collupy (MIT), and Bill Chisholm (Northeastern), met and discussed forming a professional association of C&U mail services. Their goal was twofold: 1) create a forum where members could meet and share ideas on how to provide quality service in the unique context of an academic environment; and, 2) become a strong industry advocate that could work with the USPS on issues that affected the C&U mail industry. It was decided to first form regional associations, and, once they were well established, join them together into a national organization.

That November, Charles sent a letter to schools throughout the Northeast Postal Region to see if there was interest in forming a regional mail association. At that time the Region consisted of the six New England States, Puerto Rico, and parts of New York and Northern New Jersey. (Incidentally, at one time ACUMS had a member from the University of Puerto Rico who attended an ACUMS meeting at Wellesley College. Unfortunately, we were unable to arrange for her to host a rare Winter Conference.) As a result, the first ACUMS meeting was held at UNH in April 1979 and forty-two people attended.

It was our hope, back in 1979, that other regionals would form around the country and want to use the name we had chosen, ACUMS. That is why, for years, the words "Northeast Region" appeared in our official title and in our Bylaws.


Since the beginning ACUMS has held conferences twice a year, in the spring and fall. Originally, three conferences a year had been envisioned (October, January, and April), but this was never realized. Early conferences were one-day events, but this quickly changed to the two-day format that continues to today. Typical conferences feature opening remarks from an officer of the host school, a formal business meeting, educational sessions, and a tour of the host school’s mail facility.

Business Meetings lie at the heart of every conference and are key to the success of ACUMS. It is here that information and proposals that are used to guide and govern the association are formally presented. Officers are required to inform the membership of the state of the organization and of the actions they have taken on the organization’s behalf. Members actively participate on the merits of the various proposals and decisions, and contribute greatly in forming the vision and goals of ACUMS. To outsiders, unaccustomed to the open and constructive nature of such discussions (read: loud and argumentative), these meetings might appear intimidating, but they’re all part of the fun and give everyone a chance to have their say.


The Awards Banquet is highlight of the ACUMS conference and our members have enjoyed a number of remarkable venues. Rhode Island School for Design provided a behind-the-scenes tour of its priceless collection of art and antiquities. Wellesley College held their banquet at the top of the Prudential Tower which has a commanding view of Boston’s skyline. The College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales delighted members with a variety of exotic, handmade chocolates. There were dinner cruises on Boston Harbor and Lake Champlain, and a slow train ride through Cape Cod. The University of New England held a lobster bake on the rocky coast of Maine; the University of Rochester provided a tour of the International Photography Museum at the George Eastman House, and chartered a bus to Niagara Falls, Canada. At NYU conference attendees shared the banquet facilities with Donald Trump and the cast of The Apprentice who were filming their season finale. On more than one occasion the conference was held it at the Mont St. Marie convent which was operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. After the initial shock of dealing with a nun who had forgotten more about liquor than most of us would ever know, and having the room assignments segregated by sex, it turned out to be one of the best conference sites ever!


Mailers Technical Aadvisory Committee: ACUMS member Emily Smith (UNH) was the first person to represent nonprofit mailers on MTAC.

National Postal Forum: Feeling frustrated that the C&U sessions were held on Tuesdays, at the end of the NPF, reducing the ability to meet and network, Emily Smith persuaded the Forum organizers to move the sessions to Sunday.

Ancilliary Service Endorsements: New USPS regulations stated that endorsement lines had to be placed 1/4" below the return address. ACUMS members, Martha McLean (UMASS) and Frank Zabawa (Smith College) hunted down the Rates & Classification people and explained to them that many colleges and universities routinely print two years' worth of catalogs and prospectus' (prospecti?). C&U's were given an extra year to come into compliance with the endorsement line placement.

NACUMS: In 1995, word reached ACUMS that a group of C&U mail managers was going to meet at the Spring NPF in Nashville and form a steering committee to create a national C&U mail association. A contingent of ACUMS members, led by Jim Leach (Dartmouth) and Martha McLean, went to Nashville and ensured that ACUMS had a strong presence at that meeting. That August, at the Fall NPF in Philadelphia, NACUMS was officially formed and its first board was elected. In November 1995, the NACUMS board attended the Fall ACUMS conference at UVM where they were welcomed with great enthusiasm. ACUMS members voted to give NACUMS $1000 to help defray start-up expenses. In 2001 Brown University hosted a joint ACUMS-NACUMS conference for the first time.

Election of Officers : For most of its history, officers were nominated and elected only by those members attending the election year Spring conference. Bylaws changes were approved in Spring 1996 to mail ballots to all ACUMS members. The first Executive Committee to be elected in this fashion was seated July 1, 1997. The first wholly on-line election, including voting, took place in Spring 2005.


Website: The first ACUMS website was unveiled at Brown University in June 1998. Originally developed by Rick Carlson and hosted on UVM servers, the website moved to its own URL in 1999. The email listserv was created in 2000. An on-line membership application, conference registration forms, and searchable membership directory were introduced in 2006.

Education Committee: In Spring 2003 an Education Committee was established to select the programl content for conferences. It became a permanent Standing Committee when the Bylaws were ammended in Fall 2003. At that time its chair made became voting member of the Board of Directors. In Spring 2004 a Media Library and Scholarship fund were established.

ACUMS, Inc. and Tax Exempt Status: The long cherished dream of legal incorporation was realized in Spring 2004 through the singular efforts of Barbara St. Onge (Amherst College). ACUMS is the first C&U mail association to acheive this goal. Then, in 2005, ACUMS became the first C&U mail association to be awarded tax-exempt status by the IRS.