Path to Fellow: Bill Leavitt, 1992

by Kevin Cuddihy on 5 January 2011

We return from a brief break with another Path to Fellow, a new feature here on STC’s Notebook to highlight the rich contributions of our honored members. For more information on this feature and on the honor of being named a Fellow or Associate Fellow, click here. If you’re a Fellow or Associate Fellow and haven’t been contacted to participate in this feature, please email Kevin Cuddihy.

Bill Leavitt

Bill Leavitt, far right, and family

My journey to STC Fellow began in 1960 when, as a sophomore at Purdue University, I decided that chemical engineering was not for me. Through the evaluation of an aptitude test, I learned that I had an aptitude for practical engineering and writing—which I was told made me ideal for a career in technical writing. I went on from there to get a degree in tech writing and then joined STWP (STC’s predecessor organization) in November 1964, after a former classmate (Barbara Simmons, a current Chicago Chapter member) talked me into it.

Since then, I have worked in technical communication for 46 years, for an industrial gas manufacturer, in the space program, for a building materials manufacturer, as a consultant, and finally as a technical writing instructor at Purdue University.

Volunteering as a leader in STWP/STC, together with some of the writing awards I received from our competitions, directly led to many promotions that strongly affected my career path and income, as well as some consulting opportunities. My opportunities in STC also permitted me to have an impact in my field, professionally, and further gave me the opportunity to find ways to help this organization to better serve its members. Anyone who has spent countless hours working on behalf of STC knows, as I do, that any honor that the organization bestows on you is proof that people appreciate your efforts and that your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Many newly elected Associate Fellows and Fellows have been motivated to do even more for our organization and profession as a result of standing in the glow of recognition by their peers.

Through several fortunate turns of events I became a Chicago Chapter officer in 1966, then a committee manager for an international conference, then an international board member. I became an Associate Fellow in 1983, then STC president in 1989. I was elected a Fellow in 1992.

Professionally, while working for a Fortune 500 company, I wrote and edited an architectural magazine with a circulation of over 100,000 and managed the technical literature and advertising writing at the same time. I received a best of show award for the magazine, a chairman’s award (from the corporate CEO) for my work in technical literature (ours was selected as best in our industry), and my exploits in technical advertising are listed in an advertising textbook.

Over my career, I have received more than 25 regional and international writing awards, I have served 37 times as an officer or committee manager for my chapter, and I have served 67 times as an international-STC elected officer, a committee manager or a committee member. In the early days of STC, as treasurer, I was involved in planning for the phenomenal financial growth of STC in the 1970s and 1980s; as a Board member, I was involved in helping to obtain equal pay and equal opportunity for women in technical communication; as president I was involved in getting fair treatment for Canadian technical communicators who wanted to work in the United States.

Today, I “pay forward” to my community by working as an adjunct professor and visiting lecturer in the Purdue University Calumet engineering and English departments, helping students learn how to do good technical writing. In STC Chicago, I serve as a mentor, chapter historian, and bylaws committee manager. For STC International, I serve on the Senior Advisory Committee and the Fellows Nominating Committee.

I have been married for 30 years to my lovely wife, Ann Marie, and have a daughter, Kim, and two handsome young grandsons (eight and one). My athletic passion is snow skiing and ski racing, and I have been a competitor in the national giant slalom ski racing championships in Colorado for the past three years.

I think I am known in STC for being dedicated to my profession and being outspoken about it, the latter probably being an understatement. I look forward to celebrating 50 years in the technical communication profession in the spring of 2011, and 50 years in STWP/STC in the fall of 2014. I plan to continue dedicating a significant portion of my energy to STC for the indefinite future.

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