23 Years of Trusting a Crazy Idea

23 Years of Trusting a Crazy Idea

This week, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars is celebrating its 23rd Founder’s Day. Celebrated every year on April 30, Founder’s Day reminds us to reflect on NSCS’ humble beginnings and on the accomplishments that our members, our chapters, and the organization as a whole have achieved.

Founder’s Day occurs on the anniversary of our first New Member Induction Ceremony at George Washington University. However, NSCS got its start even earlier during an informal discussion that’s become one of our favorite stories to tell: a lasagna dinner hosted by our CEO and Founder, Steve Loflin, on November 11, 1993.

Having worked for a few years in higher education and student affairs, Steve knew how critical the first years of college are in setting the course for students’ entire undergraduate careers — and he had started to notice that even though that was common knowledge, there weren’t as many opportunities for first- and second-year students to be recognized for their academic success. He began to wonder: why should those students have to wait to be rewarded for their hard work? And if we did reward them earlier, how would that impact their lives, their campuses, and their communities?

Steve’s wheels were turning. He decided to invite two student leaders, who he’d gotten to know in his role as GW’s Director of Campus Activities, to a dinner at his apartment to get their input on his idea and brainstorm about what an organization recognizing early college success might look like. Steve wasn’t much of a cook; in fact, he cooked so rarely that he had turned his oven into a filing cabinet! But this was a special occasion, so he unloaded the stacks of papers and folders and got to work baking a delicious lasagna dinner for his guests. That night, the idea for NSCS began to take shape: an honor society for first- and second-year students, dedicated to service so that those students’ skills and abilities could benefit not just themselves but also their communities.

Over the next few months, Steve and his allies for the crazy idea faced many challenges as they worked to launch NSCS. He drew on all of his connections and resources on GW’s campus and beyond to convince both the students and the school administration to take a leap of faith and see the value that NSCS could bring. Finally, after convincing the school to welcome another honor society on campus, folding dozens of invitation letters by hand at Steve’s kitchen table, and answering all of the eligible students’ questions, the day came at last when they were ready to induct the inaugural group of NSCS members.

Steve and the chapter’s executive board arrived at the GW Dorothy Betts Marvin Center Theatre on April 30, 1994 to set up for the ceremony — and found that the room had been double-booked! Another event was taking place in the space, and they would either have to find another available location that evening or postpone the ceremony. They scrambled to find another room. Luckily, a large meeting room in the student union was available, so the ceremony went on as planned. That warm spring Saturday afternoon, NSCS welcomed its first chartering members.

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Since that day at GW, NSCS has grown to have over one million members, with chapters at more than 300 universities across the country. The crazy idea that Steve pitched during his lasagna dinner is now a reality, impacting countless lives in thousands of communities. In fact, several of the staff members working at NSCS today got their introductions to NSCS not as job seekers, but as teenagers in their first year of college, finding their own invitation letters in their campus mailboxes.

This year, we’ll be celebrating Founder’s Day by highlighting our latest generation of founders throughout the week — students who’ve shaped NSCS’ early twenties by helping to launch our newest chapters over the last few years. You can read some of their stories here. We’ll also be welcoming some familiar faces into the NSCS office, including one of the original attendees of the lasagna dinner, Chris Ferguson, as well as the namesakes of two of our member scholarships, Jim Duncan and Amy Shopkorn. We’re so grateful to these individuals for the impact they’ve had on our organization and to all the NSCS members, advisors, and friends who’ve joined us in trusting their crazy ideas in the last 23 years.

Chris Ferguson, attendee of the first lasagna dinner
Steve Loflin and Jim Duncan, namesake of the Jim Duncan Award for Perseverance
Steve Loflin with Dr. Stacy Jones, winner of the Laura Taddeucci Downs Advisor of the Year Award, and Laura Taddeucci Downs
Amy Shopkorn, namesake of the Amy Shopkorn Student Affairs Award, and Dr. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA, give a presentation to NSCS National Office Staff about student affairs
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