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The First Executive Director, Julie Pugh, and the transition from a voluntary enterprise

By Roberta L. Spencer

Jack Pugh gave the Society a boost when in the late 1980’s he recruited his wife, Julie, to serve as the first executive director of the Society. Michael Radzicki, (2007) recalls the voluntary nature of early Society business, noting that “The early operations of the central office were primarily undertaken by whoever held the following Society positions: Vice President for Finance, Secretary, and Executive Director. The vice president for finance kept the books, met annually with the auditor to make sure the Society was complying with U.S. tax laws, and made sure the Society’s modest endowment was properly earning interest. The secretary kept the minutes of the policy council meetings, helped the president set the agenda for the meetings, and was typically the person who best remembered what the policy council had done in the past and was scheduled to do in the future…. The executive director essentially did everything else.

The story of the founding of the Society would not be complete without a brief description of the transition from a voluntary enterprise to an organization with professional staff.  In the 1992 winter policy council meeting there were discussions about the Society selling the vinyl board version of the beer game as discussed by Martínez-Moyano et al (2005). Julie Pugh had managed the packaging and sales of these games over the years and this was the primary activity that contributed approximately one-third in the accumulation of close to $150,000 cash surplus for the Society by 1996*. In the 1996 President’s Letter, John Morecroft wrote:

For many years the Society has benefited from the purely voluntary efforts of Julie Pugh as Executive Director. Without Julie the Society’s affairs would grind to a halt. But as the Society grows and becomes more international it is unreasonable to ask anyone to fill this post on a voluntary basis. As a consequence I am beginning this year to examine the options for the future administration of the Society in the expectation that a professionally funded office will meet our growing needs ….

Jack and Julie Pugh were at this point in their careers considering retirement and were seeking an alternative to their continuing volunteer service to the Society.

Also in 1996, Roberta Spencer, David Andersen, and George Richardson had been reunited at the University at Albany where Roberta was working on a part-time basis on a number of research grants.  Looking at the modest cash balance in the Society’s reserves, the University at Albany proposed a plan that would allow the Society to move its home office from MIT (and Julie Pugh’s basement) to Albany with Roberta Spencer serving as the first part-time, professional staff person, replacing Julie Pugh as executive director.  David Andersen was nominated to replace Jack Pugh as vice president for finance, a post that he has held since that time.  Since then, the trajectory of growth can be traced on the Society web site (

From its initial founding, the Society has grown due to the heroic efforts of too many volunteers to mention here. This should be the subject of a future oral history project.

* In the minutes from Policy Council meeting on January 30, 1992, John Sterman President, stated that “As part of supporting the dissemination of information about the field it was agreed that it would be appropriate [for the Society] to sell beer game boards and instructions.… Jim Hines will look into getting more substantial boards made, or buying them from Innovation Associates who already are having them made.”

Evidently, Jim Hines successfully arranged this with Michael Goodman at Innovation Associates. The PC Minutes from the July 16, 1992 Policy Council meeting talk about two new services being available for Society members; one was the electronic bibliography and “second is the Beer Game board and instructional materials, including a Video Tape. The beer game materials are for sale to members only for $75.00/board and $20.00 for materials. The cost of the boards to the Society is $50.00, and they are being passed on to us at cost by Innovation Associates.

While gathering information on the paper presented in Boston on the History of the Beer Game, in 2005 Bob Eberlein told me [The Society] “sold the game for about a year by buying boards from IA and then reselling them.” The February 11, 1993 Policy Council meeting minutes report the Society was in a backlog situation! President Peter Milling presided over the meeting when it was reported that

50 copies of the Beer Game board have been sold … and there are backorders.  Getting boards from IA [Innovation Associates] has not been as simple or quick as had been hoped. It was agreed that we should look into finding an alternative source of boards. … It was also suggested, given the limited supplies that it might be appropriate to limit the number of games sold to anyone member to between three and five. ….

Around this point in time, Bob Eberlein borrowed a board that had been donated to MIT by Innovation Associate and took it to a business in Weston, Massachusetts that did this type of printing on vinyl material. He ordered the first batch of boards to be sold by the Society. Julie Pugh, the Executive Director at that time took delivery and then dealt directly with the new supplier. (Eberlein 2005)

In the System Dynamics Society President’s Letter dated March 1993, Number 6, by Peter Milling.

“The ‘Beer Game’ is a teaching tool developed at MIT to demonstrate the dynamics of production and distribution. The Society offers a Beer Game kit, consisting of a vinyl game board, the MacNeil-Lehrer videotape of John Sterman leading the game at MIT, and instructional materials to our members at $95 plus postage ($5 USA; $25 others). Single boards are available for $75 plus postage. These can be ordered from Julie Pugh, Executive Director…”

In March of 1993 a form letter was composed and signed by Bob Eberlein to send to non-members stating, “The distribution of Beer Game boards was undertaken by the System Dynamics Society as a service to its members. The boards are not being sold for profit. Because of this, the purchase of boards is subject to a number of restrictions. First, the game may only be sold directly to members of the Society at their address of record. Second, no member may purchase more than three copies of the game in a given year.”

Reported in the minutes of the July 1993 Policy Council meeting minutes: “There was a $22,750 surplus for 1992. For the first 6 months of 1993 there is a $21,000 surplus. This is higher than budgeted because of unexpectedly high sales of Beer Game boards ….”

It’s also noted in the Policy Council meeting minutes of July 1993 “The Beer Game boards have been selling much more rapidly than originally expected.  … The boards are available only to members, and a number of people have joined the Society in order to obtain the boards. A motion by Jack Pugh that we allow non-members to purchase the boards at a higher price…  [was] seconded by John Sterman, the motion was carried.

Table 1: Income, Budgeted Income and Expense and on Beer Game Materials 1992-1996:


Income (includes some
bibliography income)























Totals 1992-1996



Profit 1992-1996