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18th Paul D. Converse Marketing Symposium

History of the Paul D. Converse Awards and Symposium

The American Marketing Association established the Paul D. Converse Award at its national meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 29, 1946 (Andreason and Gardner 1975). Wroe Alderson proposed that an appropriate way be found in which to honor those who had pioneered in developing the theory of marketing and the advancement toward science in marketing (Wales 1951). This award was unique because it was bestowed by a national jury of scholars and practitioners rather than local chapters.

This significant honor for Converse, Professor of Business Organization and Operation at the University of Illinois, was given in recognition of his work in developing the field of marketing (Urbana Courier 1947). He started teaching marketing in 1915 at the University of Pittsburgh and published one of the first widely distributed textbooks in the field in 1921. Converse was general program chairman of the 1946 Pittsburgh convention at which for the first time a full meeting was devoted to the theory of marketing (Urbana Courier 1947). The previous year Converse (1945) published an article in The Journal of Marketing titled "The Development of The Science of Marketing – An Exploratory Study." This study used the methodology that was to become the blueprint for selecting the Converse award recipients.

Purpose of the Award

The Paul D. Converse Award was established to honor those who have contributed significantly to the theory of marketing and toward the advancement of science in marketing. Fortune Magazine reported the recipients of these awards constitute the “Marketing Hall of Fame,” and Sales Management calls them the highest honors in the marketing field (Wedding 1952).

The initial awards were to honor those who had made their contributions to the developing field of marketing prior to 1935. Many of these pioneer publications were used to introduce students to marketing as a new academic discipline. Subsequent awards have been given to honor outstanding contributions to the field of marketing. The selection process and requirements for consideration are explained in the next section.

Selection of Award Recipients

Converse Award recipients are selected solely on the merit of their contributions to the field of marketing. A nationwide jury of scholars first nominates works for consideration then rates the set of contributions that have been nominated. The first awards, presented in 1949, were limited to those who had made their contributions prior to 1935. Converse created the first list of publications to be considered in 1943 by writing to pioneer scholars and asking them to list the more important contributions to the development of the science or art of marketing. The suggestions contained in these letters were compiled into a trial questionnaire and sent to the respondents who were asked to make additions and to rate the listed subjects. Converse’s initial study was published in The Journal of Marketing (Converse 1945).

The members of the jury were selected to give a broad distribution among researchers, teachers, government employees, and agricultural economists. The initial jurors represented 37 universities and research organizations scattered from Boston to Los Angeles.

The American Marketing Association turned over the administration of the awards to the Central Illinois chapter of the Association at a meeting of the Directors on June 13, 1948. Selection of winners is made during a two-stage process. A national jury of scholars drawn from universities, business and government, including the editorial boards of all the major academic marketing journals, first nominate works for consideration and then in a second step vote for the most deserving contributions. The symposium co-chairs then tabulate the votes and announce the results.

The criteria for consideration for a Converse Award include two limitations. No contribution is considered eligible until five years after it is generally available to marketing academics or students, by publication or otherwise. The five-year time frame allows for perspective (Converse 1945) and ensures that the award honors contributions that are seen as enduring over time (Griffin and Hess 2001). Additionally, Converse held a strong belief that unpublished or confidential reports are of no scientific value until released to other students (Converse 1945). A final restriction on the award is that winners may not currently be members of the University of Illinois faculty or staff.

Converse Awards were granted at irregular intervals since 1949, but since 1996 have been held every four years. The next section describes the format used for conferring the awards.

Conferring of Awards

The conferring of awards is conducted during a symposium at the University of Illinois. Sixteen symposia for Converse Awards have been held at the University of Illinois. The prestige of the awards and the conferring of the awards at a dinner ceremony have been maintained throughout the years. However, the focus of the symposium surrounding the awards has shifted.

The initial awards were held in conjunction with a biennial Illinois Marketing Symposium. This symposium had a two-fold purpose. First, the symposiums were designed to permit a free and continuing interchange of opinions and ideas between business executives and teachers of marketing. The second purpose of the symposium was to recognize the Converse Award winners.

The papers presented at the Illinois Marketing Symposium were associated with a central theme of the time. For example, the first symposium Changing Perspectives in Marketing centered on the need for more scientific approaches to marketing. Later symposiums focused on Consumer Behavior and Motivation (1955) and Systems: Research and Applications for Marketing (1967). The papers presented at the symposiums were included in a monograph series published by the University of Illinois.

In 1975, there were two significant changes to the awards symposium. First, the symposium program focused exclusively on the Converse Award recipients. Each award winner was given the opportunity to address the participants. The symposium also included retrospective critiques of the recipient’s contributions made by leading marketing scholars. The second significant change was the addition as the American Marketing Association as publishers of the proceedings series.

In the current symposium format, the award winners prepare and deliver papers that are based on or extend their landmark contributions in a plenary session. Additional viewpoints on each award winner's contribution are then presented by two discussants, who are chosen by the honorees (Griffin and Hess 2001). All of the papers presented are compiled and published in a book, which is produced and marketed by the American Marketing Association Press.

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