American Philatelic Society

APS Bids Farewell to Two Talented Directors

Expertizer Mercer Bristow and Librarian Tara Murray
Leave APS at End of Year

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     Within the stamp collecting community, change has a tendency to move at a more glacial pace than my experience in the world of politics. The result is a greater sense of community, familiarity and connection. That applies to our team in Bellefonte, who’ve remained loyal to the American Philatelic Society and its members. I shared a photo with the staff recently of the APS staff from 1980 and eight of the people in that photo are still here today! That sort of commitment is rare these days.

     The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” We all know that well and we are able to live for today, some even prepare for tomorrow, but very few plan for the day after tomorrow. So, even though we know change is constant, we will sadly be saying farewell to two great members of the APS family: Mercer Bristow, Director of the Expertizing Department, and Tara Murray, Director of Information Services.

Our Stamp Expert and Morale Officer, Mercer Bristow
     Before coming to State College to begin his philatelic journey, Mercer proudly served in the United States Navy and graduated from Towson State University with a business degree. Although Mercer started off creating descriptions for an auction house in Baltimore, he was able to get more directly involved with his passion when he joined the APS in 1981. For nearly all of his time, he served as our Director of the APS Expertizing Department (APEX). In that time, Mercer has overseen the delivery of thousands of opinions on stamps, introduced a Quick ID program and our online certificate catalog, and built a Reference Collection as an important tool in identifying fakes and frauds.

     Many people may not know, but Mercer had a creative outlet in acting. For years, he would entertain local residents in the State College Community Theater productions. He also appeared in his fair share of student films for students at nearby Penn State. According to Mercer, he was usually cast as a “grumpy old man.” With that background, I designated Mercer as our “morale officer” for the staff traveling to StampShow 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When I announced it at the General Membership meeting, there was a fair share of chuckling from APS members. Needless to say, no matter how many times Mercer played a grumpy old man, at his heart, he was APS through and through.

     After 36 years, Mercer is stepping into retirement, which will open up his calendar for acting again and travel, his other love. Though he won’t be here every day, we’ll likely still benefit from his knowledge as an expert for years to come. Taking over for Mercer will be Tom Horn. Tom has been with the APS, most recently as Director of Circuit Sales and for the last year as Director of Special Projects.

     It’s hard to properly thank someone who has given so much of his time on behalf of the membership, but we are grateful for all that you’ve done.

From Books to Bricks and So Much More
     In 2010, we managed to steal Tara Murray away from Penn State University to serve as the Director of Information Services and Librarian. For those who have used the library, you’ve probably met Tara and her awesome staff. Tara received her undergraduate degree in German studies from Bard College and a Masters in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh. On December 22, Tara will leave us to rejoin Penn State as the librarian for the German and Slavic Languages and Linguistics Library. Since coming to the APS, Tara has been a force for changes, both inside our headquarters and our digital footprint. She’s led our efforts to digitize The American Philatelist all the way back to 1887 and we are building our library. She also has extended that to journals of other societies. Tara also grew the David Straight Philatelic Union Catalog to 13 philatelic libraries around the world, giving APS members access to even more books.

     Her most impressive accomplishment was overseeing construction of the new library in Bellefonte while maintaining top notch member services for more than a year. We publicly opened the library in October 2016 with public officials from the local, state and federal level – showing that this was not just a big deal for philately, but also our home here in Bellefonte.

     On a personal note, Tara has been an incredible leader within the APS. Not only has she done great work in making our library the best philatelic library in the world, but she has worked with our leadership to bring value to all APS member services. Within the library, she has recruited an outstanding team and has given them the opportunity to shine. As a result of her leadership, we were able to find our next leader already here. When Tara departs, Scott Tiffney, currently our Research Assistant, will take over as Director of Information Services/Librarian.

     The hallmark of any good leader is that they leave their post with things better than how they inherited them and developed a good succession plan. On both points, Tara exceeded expectations. Thank you, Tara, for all you’ve done for the APS and APRL and we know there are more great things to come!

Year-End Giving
     Our commitment to the APS membership is that we treat each dollar of your support with respect and care. Our operating budget for the year will be better than projected thanks to the leadership and good financial management of our team. With the adoption of the 2018 APS and APRL budgets, we expect to deliver the same quality services without asking for an increase in membership. This marks the 10th straight year of holding the line for you and we’re honored to serve you.

     Part of what makes this possible is the generous support of APS members who contribute above and beyond the annual membership. This year we were able to deliver more education courses, increase technology use in the library, and support the hobby’s grassroots through donations. As we reach the end of the year, we are giving you another opportunity to support us in 2018. Inside this issue is a form and envelope to make a donation to the APS or the APRL before the end of the year. We initiated a new campaign this year to increase our ability to promote the APS and the hobby online and we’ve almost reached our target of $150,000. Your support will help us close this campaign and start rolling out the new elements next year. We are already working to create the new APS website that will be mobile friendly and provide more resources for new and veteran collectors.

     Please take a few moments to read the form and support one of our great programs. If you donate before the end of the year, you will be able to include this in your charitable contributions for 2017. We receive donations from $25 to $5,000 to support all of our increased missions and hope you can join your fellow members in making a meaningful contribution. Thank you for all your support and we look forward to serving you and the hobby in great new ways in 2018.

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