The Society e-Newsletter
Special Transition Issue

Remembering Roberta's Service

 Volume 39

Number 3

A Message from the Society President / A Fitting Gift of ThanksThank You, RobertaRoberta Spencer: A RetrospectiveRemembering Roberta's ServiceFrom the New Executive Director Mark NelsonThe New Society Office & Contact InformationSDS Professional Staff Team

Remembering Roberta's Service

Below please find many wonderful memories, stories, testimonies and photographs honoring Roberta on her retirement as Executive Director and recalling her service and friendship... 

Click Here to View the "Voices of Appreciation" Video
Filmed in Reykjavik, Iceland

Roberta gracefully receiving a standing ovation at the Summer Policy Council Meeting in Reykjavik in August 2018.

"It was 20+ years ago, when the System Dynamics Society had to master a major organizational transition: From its first Executive Director Julie Pugh to Roberta Spencer and from a Boston based home office to the University at Albany. This move started a new and successful era for our Society, which is inseparably linked to the name and personality of Roberta Spencer.

Roberta managed the administrative affairs of our Society in an effective and efficient way. Her support for the yearly changing Presidents was crucial for our successful development. Roberta was the face and the soul of the System Dynamics Society. She always stayed calm, helpful, and charming but at the same time very results and decision oriented. Based on a smoothly running office at Albany, she organized a large number of International System Dynamics Conferences all over the world. To attend these conferences was a pleasure -- not only because of the scientific quality of the presentations but also because of the cozy atmosphere she helped to create.

Although Roberta will stay on a part time basis as a member of the administrative staff and work on special projects, we will miss her. We must get used to the fact that our SD Office is no longer identified with Roberta. We wish her all the best."

- Peter Milling

"In 1996 Jack Pugh and I were trying to come up with a scheme to run the finances for the conference in Cambridge. Jack set up a special bank account to handle that and we ran credit cards through my company's merchant account, then writing checks to get the money into the account Jack had set up. At the same time, Julie Pugh was handling beer game, proceedings and back issue sales out of her garage using the Filemaker Pro databases that Nathan Forrester developed and maintained.

That conference was where I first met Roberta. She was enthusiastic and helpful, but fundamentally clueless. I was never sure exactly what pitch David Andersen had used to get Roberta involved, but I am guessing it went something like "these are really dedicated and nice people, and boy do they need organizing."  That, undoubtedly, appealed to Roberta who is a master at organizing. By the end of the conference I could see the wheels turning in her head, and from there it was a steady path to where we are today.

Over the years, Roberta and I have collaborated on so many things that I really can't keep track. A lot has been around the conference and web site, but we have probably discussed pretty much every topic related to the Society. I am looking forward to continuing to work with her, interested in the new initiatives she will start, and hope that I will see more produce from her garden – especially the blueberries."

- Bob Eberlein

John Morecroft Remembers  

"I have a lot of favorite memories of working and travelling and having fun with Roberta. I remember travelling in the Netherlands together, walking in the Alps, visiting Cape Cod, cycling around Nijmegen to visit and check all hotels before the conference, and many more things. Robert is a fantastic organizer, a warm and welcoming person and someone I hope to know all of my life. I very much look forward to continuing to work together in the future." 


- Etiënne Rouwette

"Where to start? I guess it should be at the beginning. I met Roberta in the early 1980s when we shared a job at an architectural office. The job-share worked out really well; we've been working together ever since! As an added bonus, our families have enjoyed each other's company numerous times over the years as well. 

I have many fond memories of working with Roberta at the Society, including working on varied projects in the office, attending a number of conferences, meeting and working with people from all over the world, helping run Fish Banks, and helping to facilitate numerous Beer Game sessions in various places: locally, at Brown University, as well as the 'big' Beer Game at MIT! Many of those events involved road trips which were always a fun adventure! I was also a happy witness as Roberta orchestrated a practical joke or two. 

Through all the fun times and some difficult times both work-related and personal, Roberta has always been someone I could count on - a dependable, dedicated work colleague and a very dear friend. She is always compassionate and caring - finding time to listen whenever someone wants to talk, figuring out ways and connecting people to get things done, building bridges and alliances, exploring new and innovative methods of doing things with a cooperative, inclusive attitude. I look to her as a sounding board and an inspiration of how to perform and behave at my best! I'm so grateful to be able to call her my friend." 

- Robin Langer

"I was a Grad Assistant in the Home Office from 2012 to 2015. At work, Roberta is a hard worker and gives meticulous attention to detail. She would sometimes send me, late at night, corrections for typos in the posted news or ask me to change the font size numerous times to get a satisfying result. On the other hand, in daily life, Roberta is a caring and fun friend. She would take me to have chocolate malted milkshakes during lunch breaks when we were working overtime on weekends before conferences, visit candy shops after work in the Easter season, or send me a SOS selfie when she got lost on bus trips. I feel lucky to have her in my life. I have learned from her the value of hard work, attention to detail, and having a positive attitude towards life." 

- Weijia Ran

"We have so many memories with Roberta after 20 plus years. Going back to when I organized the conference in Istanbul in 1997, continuing uninterrupted till today as we struggle together for a better System Dynamics Review. I do not know how to pick a memory out of so many.  

Let me just say that we have been through some tough and serious problems, and handled them quite well thanks to Roberta. But we also had a lot of fun together! Although she is stepping down as the executive director, I am happy to learn that Roberta will be around for other SD Society projects. I thank Roberta and look forward to working with her in the future!"

A photo from the 2012 SD Conference in St.Gallen that I found in my laptop (The third person is E. Moxnes).

- Yaman Barlas

"Roberta was very special in handing and directing the Society Office. She was nice, calm, professional, extremely supportive and effective. She created a friendly and efficient environment that gave a warm and family kind of feeling to all members and specially the officers of the society. I personally thank Roberta for all she did for the society and also for being such a special person. Our society was lucky to have her for the last twenty years!" 

- Ali N. Mashayekhi   


"These photos cover 2 pre-visits to organise the Athens 2008 Conference; as well as one from the London Eye (2005); and one from Stonehenge resulting from Roberta’s annual trips to the UK for a meetings at Wiley’s Offices while I was Executive Editor of the SDR. 



I can only say it was a delight to work with Roberta for such a length of time. I was Executive Editor for ten years. She put her heart & soul into running the SDS. It was, to her, not a job but more a personal passion. She was particularly appreciative of the membership as individuals and could recollect names from across the globe who she had dealt with. I would occasionally take my daughters to SD Conferences and over the years she got to know them well and was always keen to hear about them – as she was to tell me about her son.  

Whilst in the UK she once was so pleased to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon (I didn’t go on that trip) but pleaded with me ‘I want to go see the stones’, so went along to Stonehenge."  

- Brian Dangerfield


“Roberta kept Jay involved in the Society until he parted with us.  Here are a couple of pictures to share in remembering Roberta’s service.”

- Khalid Saeed

I recall meeting Roberta Spencer back in 1980. She was instrumental in helping us pull off the 1981 International System Dynamics Conference in Rensselaerville, NY. David Andersen and I were so impressed with her that we begged her to help us organize our consulting lives. She was superb at that, gently bringing order out of chaos. So when the Julie Pugh was planning to step down as the then unpaid Executive Director of the Society, David and I urged those in charge of the director search to realize that they could not possibly do better than Roberta. We both feel that was the smartest, most important thing we have ever done for the Society.

Roberta was hired as Executive Director that first year in a tenuous position: she had to have earned her salary in donor support for the Society by her third year. She accomplished that in nine months, I think, and she has been exceeding our expectations ever since.

Yet even more than Roberta's prodigious productivity and accomplishments for the Society, we remember her incomparable grace. She is always deeply thoughtful and constantly caring. She virtually adopted the Society as her own, and willed us to succeed. 

Here is Roberta with Jay is from 2014, when a group of us met with Jay to talk about the future of the field. David Andersen and Roberta had visited Jay earlier to talk about that, and he requested a model to help us think. That resulted in the model underlying we were talking about in this photo, which was used in a workshop for the Policy Council in the 2014 conference, and appears in the paper by Homer and Richardson in the System Dynamics Review in 2018. Roberta was instrumental in those discussions and in arranging the meetings with Jay.

This picture with Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows, and Bill Behrens was taken at the April 2017 memorial for Jay at MIT.  Although she was not around at the time of the Limits to Growth studies, Roberta wanted her picture taken with those significant authors and that iconic graph.

- George P. Richardson 

“What I remember most about interacting with Roberta as Executive Director of the SDS is her knowledge of every aspect of the society’s operation, her encouragement to new members, helping them navigate tasks or feel immediately welcomed to the society, and her kindness.  As the most recognized face of the society she carried out her responsibilities with class and a dedication to the society’s mission that went far beyond normal expectations.  She was able to work comfortably with members who had world-class reputations and those who were just starting their careers.  Dedicated, unflappable, generous with her time, and gracious, she played a significant role in helping the society grow.  Her presence will be sorely missed.  

Personally, she always made me feel welcome in an environment that could have been very intimidating.  She went out of her way to help those of us in the pre-college leg of the society.  She was and is a rare gem, professionally and personally.”

Roberta in Singapore attending the Regional System Dynamics Conference, February 2017.  

- Diana M. Fisher

Jac Vennix Remembers


“The first time I met Roberta was when Aldo Zagonel and I brought chips and salsa to the PC Meeting in 2005. 

We were outsiders and did not know what the reception would be. As Roberta walked toward us I was worried. She looked very formal to me. When we asked she gave her wry smile and said sure, we could go in. 

That was the start of almost 15 years of learning from her. She kept me on track while president to get done the things that kept the Society operating. 

During 2008 and 2009 we communicated several times a week. That had so much to do with the success of the 2009 conference.  

I send a very, very, big thank you to her from me and all Society members.” 

- Len Malczynski


“Roberta wore ‘hanbok,’ traditional Korean clothing during the 28th International SD Conference in 2010.

I am sure that her beauty and intelligence attracted the notice of the SD world over two decades!”

- Man-Hyung Lee


“My favorite story with Roberta happened right before the Winter Policy Council Meeting that took place in February 2018 at the new SDS Office in Albany. Roberta emailed me a day before the meeting offering to host me for the night after the meeting. I was touched by her generosity so I accepted her invitation. Over coffee and a warm cheese and egg sandwich that she masterfully prepared (and by the way I was not the only guest that night), I came to know that she was not only super busy preparing for the meeting, she was grieving the death of a friend and longtime society supporter Allen Boorstein. She went to offer her condolences to his wife Jane a day before the meeting yet she managed to squeeze me in her thoughts and consideration. I can’t forget to mention the she was sad to miss the opportunity to host the after-meeting dinner at her cozy home welcoming the new President and the Policy Council members who made to the meeting in person.  Isn’t that marvelous? This short encounter at Roberta’s home allowed me to know who Roberta is and her leadership style that made the Society over the years to feel like home.” 

A selfie with Roberta after picking video material from the Society Home Office in order to digitize them at WPI when I was at the UAlbany for the System Dynamics Colloquium in May 2018.  

- Raafat Zaini

Rod MacDonald Remembers


"To Roberta – my friend during many years – who always thinks about everything! Including taking pictures of the old boys while they were still alive.

Here is a picture taken by Roberta showing Dennis Meadows, Jay and I in front of the picture of us taken 30 years earlier!  

Sending my love…

- Jørgen Randers


“February 2015 – an icy, but nevertheless successful Policy Council Meeting was over. As President at that time, I was very nervous that a snowstorm just before the meeting would hinder Roberta to make her way from Albany to Cambridge. But she cut her way through, and I was saved. The photo was taken by David Andersen after a nice lunch in the famous Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, where we stopped on our way from Cambridge to Albany.


Thanks, Roberta, for a wonderful collaboration.” 

- Jürgen Strohhecker


If you would like to share your favorite Roberta memory or story, please send it to us at [email protected].

System Dynamics Society