Keepers of the Flame

The SPIRIT and LEGACY of Dr. Earl Reum lives on...

Several "Keepers of the Flame" pose for a photo at the 2019 National Conference on Student Activities to welcome Abdelaziz Guled of Oregon to the "Society". Abdi has a unique story; CLICK HERE to learn more about Abdi and you'll see why he was an easy choice to "Keep the Flame".

How It All Started...and Continued!

The December 20, 1948 issue of Life Magazine was dedicated to "Teenage Fun" as it was in the years following the Second World War. This issue holds special significance to NAWD members, as it contained a two page (pp. 72-73) article entitled "Popular Guy" in which a young Earl Reum (17 at the time) was featured as the "idol of Denver boys and girls".

CLICK HERE to view this issue of Life Magazine on the Google Books website.

Unbeknownst to Bob Tryanski at the time, he became the founder of the Keeper of the Flame Society in December of 2009. During his keynote presentation over lunch at the annual National Conference on Student Activities, Bob presented Sarah Jones, who was then Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Student Councils with an original December 20, 1948 Life magazine, a coveted artifact of a life that has inspired the lives of many others over decades. Dr. Earl Reum has been called the "Master Wizard of Student Leadership Training", authoring many articles and books while providing countless speeches, workshops and training sessions for students and advisors alike over a nearly 50 year career. Earl Reum passed away in December 2010, ironically just a few hours after the National Conference on Student Activities that he founded thirty-seven years earlier ended, but his legacy lives on.

The following is an excerpt from a letter inserted into the magazine by Bob:

"The magazine documents the beginnings of a man who would go on to become an inspiration to many people across the country and in particular student activities directors, student council advisors and students. The Keeper of the Flame Society is the passing of this prized relic from person to person at the annual conference based solely on the inspiration felt by the person currently in possession of the magazine. It is my hope that this new tradition will keep Earl’s legacy alive regardless of whether the people involved ever had the dubious honor of meeting Earl themselves. All that needs to be known is that one person can inspire another and in the end...that is all that matters."

One year later, at the 2010 National Conference on Student Activities, Sarah began what has now become a unique tradition by passing this same original December 20, 1948 Life magazine to Susan Fortin of Washington. An excerpt from the letter inserted into the magazine by Sarah:

"When Susan speaks, I move to the edge of my chair because I know whatever she says will be something I can think about for awhile after. I first knew she was my kind of leadership person when I went to her (and her husband’s) workshop on perspective in Phoenix. They had a series of photographs where they had zoomed in very close and you had to guess what the object was when they zoomed back. The activity was a cool brain-teaser that reminded me of when I was young and would do them with my mother when the GAMES magazine would arrive each month. Then they talked about how they used the activity to get students to think about their own perspective and how they saw things. I was hooked. This was not leadership in the jumping up and down, chanting, cheering, new pep rally games, new spirit week ideas, singing, dressing in newspaper, kind of thing I had been exposed to thus far. This was leadership to think about. I can get down with that! So, when Susan shares info such as Gallup Student Poll, evaluation techniques, trend analysis and strategic planning I am so inspired. I hope that Connecticut can be as professional as Washington someday."

Susan continued this tradition one year later at the 2011 National Conference on Student Activities when she passed this same magazine, in a new handmade case, to Kelly Neiber of Iowa. Like Bob and Sarah before her, Susan also inserted a letter into the magazine as it now passed to its fourth recipient. Since that time, from year to year for over a decade, this special copy of Life Magazine has passed through the hands of a number of those inspired by Earl Reum (see below for a list), each recipient adding his or her own memories of that inspiration before passing it on to who he or she has chosen to become the next "Keeper of the Flame".

The Current "Keeper"

At our 51st annual NCSA in San Francisco, it was time for 2022 recipient Sandy Ginger of Nevada to pass the flame...

“Earl was a hot shot student leader at a very young age, who made a big impact and inspired people to come along for the journey, and Scott has done the same. The first time I worked with Scott he was still in college. Like Earl, Scott sees what leadership can be for students and he has the enthusiasm and the optimism to take you along for the ride. Like Earl, Scott will do anything to make sure students get the training that they need and he freely shares his expertise at events like this and at CADA, which is another group close to Earl's heart. Scott makes everyone feel important and special, just like Earl did. He can be funny and silly and then he says something so profound that makes you stop and think, just like Earl did. While Scott didn't know Earl personally, he is following in his footsteps and carrying his own torch high, lighting the way as a Keeper of the Flame."

Keepers of the Flame

The following individuals are members of the Keeper of the Flame Society, having been in possession of this special Life magazine and its handmade case since this tradition was established:

  • 2009 - Sarah Jones (CT) from Bob Tryanski (KS)
  • 2010 - Susan Fortin (WA) from Sarah Jones (CT)
  • 2011 - Kelly Neiber (IA) from Susan Fortin (WA)
  • 2012 - Sherman Jackson (MS) from Kelly Neiber (IA-MN)
  • 2013 - Laura Price (TX) from Sherman Jackson (MS)
  • 2014 - Michelle Swisher (WV) from Laura Price (TX)
  • 2015 - Andy Costanzo (PA) from Michelle Swisher (WV)
  • 2016 - Colby Cochran & Elliott Mathis (NC) from Andy Costanzo (PA)
  • 2017 - David Brame (NM) from Colby Cochran & Elliott Mathis (NC)
  • 2018 - Sara Nilles (OR) from David Brame (NM)
  • 2019 - Abdiaziz Guled (OR) from Sara Nilles (OR)
  • 2020 - Ann Postlewaite (MN) from Abdiaziz Guled (OR)
  • 2021 - Felix Yerace (PA) from Ann Postlewaite (MN)
  • 2022 - Sandy Ginger (NV) from Felix Yerace (PA)
  • 2023 - Scott Backovich (CA) from Sandy Ginger (NV)


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