World Communication Association
Making a World of Difference

WCA History


A Brief History of the World Communication Association

By J. Jeffery Auer

The emergence of communication as a professional association in the Pacific can be summed up in three acronyms: DON (i.e., Donald W. Klopf), CAP (Communication Association of the Pacific), and WCA (World Communication Association).

DON: Donald W, Klopf (PhD, University of Washington, 1958), now an emeritus professor of the University of Hawaii and of West Virginia University, had a long and distinguished career at the University of Hawaii where he directed the program in speech communication, coached debate, and was the foremost regional advocate for the discipline. The geographical location of Honolulu made his program the closest and most accessible and, therefore, most economical “American style” offering available in the Asian-Pacific area. And, of course, the demographics of a Hawaiian population logically led to a curricular and research emphasis upon intercultural communication.

Don created an association of teachers of communication and when students from around the Pacific came to Hawaii for graduate work, he “infected” them with his belief that professional organizations are important to any academic discipline. Thus, in due time, there were enough national organizations in the area to justify creating a blanketing regional association.

CAP: In 1971, the Communication Association of the Pacific came into being and welcomed individual members as well as national communication organizations. Biennial conventions were held in such locations as Tokyo, Honolulu, Kobe, Guam, and Seoul. For all of its existence, Donald Klopf was the president and moving spirit of CAP-International and for most of that time, Wayne Oxford was editor of an annual journal that was heavily dependent upon papers presented at CAP conventions. (A complete index to the journal for its of Hawaii where he directed the first thirteen years as Communication was published in Vol. 14, No.1, Spring, 1985, when J. Jeffery Auer became editor of its successor journal, World Communication.)

In Hawaii, Don created an association of teachers of communication and when students from around the Pacific Basis came to Hawaii for graduate work, he “infected” them with his belief that professional organization are important to any academic discipline.

It is important to note that while professional and academic concerns created and structured CAP, there was also an intrinsic spirit of broader aspirations, as expressed by Toshio Namba, editor of the first issue of the Journal (July, 1972): “I do hope that our friendly bond may aid to achieve real and true peace and stability of the coastal countries around the Pacific Ocean.”

Don Klopf’s genius lay not only in teaching and scholarship, but also in his organizational skills, in accomplishing goals for his associations through astute moves, such as accepting early on that individual teachers in the Pacific countries would be most easily attracted to a regional association and attend their conventions through membership in their own national associations; in planning a special San Francisco to Honolulu tour for a post-1976 SCA/CAP convention conference; endorsing the first SCA People-to People tour of thirty U. S. association of teachers of communication professionals to China and the USSR in 1984; and in supporting other regional and institutional conferences on intercultural communication in Auckland, Christchurch, Miami, Morgantown, Hawaii, New Paltz, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

WCA: What became the last CAP convention was held in Seoul, Korea, July 28-31, 1983, and was heralded “Celebrating World Communication Year.” In a shrewd move, Klopf organized for July 24 a one-day CAP International Seminar Program in Tokyo and for some delegates, it was also a layover en route to Seoul. Dr. Takehide Kawashima, International vice president, opened the seminar, and Professor Satoshi Ishii, CAP-Japan past president, introduced five “distinguished lecturers. ” Dr. Tsukasa Nishida, CAP-International completed the day by chairing research reports of ten visiting scholars.

In addition to nearly two hundred teachers from the host country, there were thirty-five overseas persons who attended the Seoul, Korea, convention, representing Canada (1), Hawaii (6), Japan (9), Micronesia (2), Philippines (1), Puerto Rico (1), and U.S. (15). Except for the meeting in Norwich, England. The attendance of persons from the host country have always been more numerous than those from overseas. It may be of interest to report that just fifteen of all those attending in Korea were also members of SCA.

Official greetings at the opening session were extended by Korean government Ministers of Education and of Foreign Affairs, the President of the International Cultural Society of Korea, the U. S. Ambassador, and the presidents of the CAP affiliates in Korea, Japan, Philippines, and Micronesia. A few of the overseas persons were lodged with Korean friends, but thirty-one were assigned rooms on the 18th floor of the Seoul Plaza Hotel.

It is fair to say that in 1983, special domestic and international reasons for the Republic of Korea to hope for positive and newsworthy consequences of this convention, and extraordinary hospitality was extended to the overseas visitors. On the opening day, we were the luncheon guests of Dr. Choong-Sik Chang, President of Dankook University, and in the evening were entertained at an extraordinary reception by Dr. Soong Jin Kim, President of the International Cultural Society of Korea. The following day, there was a lantern- lighted poolside dinner reception hosted by Professor Myung-Seok Park, President of the CAP-Korea association. On the final day of the convention, the President of Korea, Chun Doo Hwan, provided an expansive dinner reception “to celebrate the successful conclusion of the 13th CAP International Convention.” The official host and presider was Kyung Hwan Chun, Secretary General of the SAE MAUL UNDONG (New Community Movement) , and younger brother of President Chun.

Even before the meeting in Seoul, there had been some individual soul- searching about the future of CAP if it in continued to be limited in membership to Pacific Basin countries, whether the concept of regional association memberships was preferable to individual memberships, how CAP—or even a more universal organization—could best serve the cause of increased and improved intercultural and international communication, what relations—if any—a new organization might have with SCA and ICA, and so on. But there had been no group and certainly no official conversations about making any immediate changes.

Seated together at the dinner, however, the question of possible enlargement of scope and membership came up in conversation between Secretary General Chun and CAP President Klopf. As Don recalls the conversation, Chun suggested that this occasion would be ideal for announcing a change in CAP’s Pacific regional focus to an international one. Certainly there was no reason to doubt that the Korean teachers, researchers, and practitioners of intercultural and international communication would be supportive. But Chun’s greater reason for urging a public declaration then and there was doubtless the public relations value of having a major change in an international organization take place in Seoul and under more or less Korean government auspices. In any event, at the final 1983 CAP convention banquet, Don Klopf proclaimed the first step to be taken in expanding the horizons of CAP from the Pacific to the world under the new rubric of the World Communication Association.

Implementing steps were taken soon after Klopf’s “declaration of Korea” and, as this development was described in an association brochure, WCA was “an outgrowth and expansion” of CAP,” founded in 1971 by Donald W. Klopf,” and “the historical records of CAP are now the history of WCA.” Thus was created the continuing challenge to make a world of difference through a worldwide communication association.

Within a short time, the administrative structure and personnel of WCA underwent change, and by the time of the Manila convention in 1985, Jeffery Auer had been named president, in addition to his editorship of the expanded bi-annual journal. Takehide Kawashima became vice-president, James C. McCroskey, the Atlantic area vice-president, Myong-Seok Park, the Pacific area vice-president, and Ronald L. Applbaum, the Secretary-General. Virginia P. Richmond became Vice President of Publications, and ultimately the first editor of Communication Research Reports, a new publication sponsored from 1985 to 1994. Because WCA was incorporated in the state of Hawaii, Hatsugo Miho, a Honolulu attorney, was named Vice President for Legal Affairs. Don Klopf was named President of a Board of Advisers.
The new officers of the expanded Association were inducted at the 1985 convention, housed in the McArthur Wing of the famous Manila Hotel, and organized by Jose Mordeno, President of the Philippine affiliate of the WCA, and Don Klopf. Political disturbances had been common for some time and convention delegates were surprised to have handbag x-ray inspection each time they entered the hotel from the spacious grounds, and to have an armed military guard at the elevator stop on each floor. . Built into the convention schedule were several group trips into the rural areas of the island and around the city. Thus, when in a few months international television covered the marches and scuffles in Manila streets during the dramatic 1986 election that made Corazon Auqino president of the Philippine Republic, those who had attended the convention could easily identify landmarks and say “we were there.”

It was in Manila in 1985 that WCA first experimented with a unique convention structure by alternating traditional paper-presenting sessions with organized trips away from the convention center and into venues that would create face-to-face intercultural experiences, such as markets, shops, and recreational centers. In subsequent conventions, these opportunities were increased, and will be duly noted. A high point in these experiences in 1985 was a last day visit to the high terrain of Baguio City, site of the national presidentís summer palace, the training school for military officers, and the University of Baguio, where several members spoke on communication modes and measures. Those who made the Baguio trip stayed overnight in the very impressive mountainside hotel that a few years later was tragically destroyed in a disastrous earthquake.

One of the first lessons learned by the new WCA president was how very hard it is to plan and hold business meetings with those whose cultures do not include a grounding in parliamentary procedures of General Robert. A letter two months in advance to thirteen WCA board members and presidents of national affiliates requesting suggestions for agenda items at a Manila meeting received no responses, and a catered luncheon for the group drew only two persons: one was the Puerto Rico affiliate chairperson (and a former graduate student of the WCA president), and the other was the Korean past president (and a good friend from earlier experiences). Thus began what he called “governance by correspondence,” and an education in East-West views of leadership and group structures.

“If you are considering England, surely you mean London!” Thus was born a two-city convention.

From Manila, Don Klopf and Jeff Auer (and Eleanor Auer) set off on a trip around the rest of the world, doing WCA promotional visits (though not at WCA expense). They visited campuses and faculty in Hong King, Bangkok, London, Dublin, and Norwich, in each case seeking out subject matter counterparts among university faculties.

One of these contacts, previously established by Don, was with Andrew Wilkinson of the University of East Anglia Department of English. With him, we explored the university campus as a possible site for the 1987 convention. In later discussions it was discovered that for some of our Pacific area members, Norwich was an unfamiliar spot: “If you are considering England, surely you mean London!” Thus was born a two-city convention, with five days in Norwich, in dormitories of the University of East Anglia, and two days in Adams House lodgings at the University of London.

Since there was no invitation from any communication association in Britain for 1985 (an experience repeated in 1987 in Singapore and in Vancouver in 1995), and since we were novices in the business of arranging overseas conventions, Jeffery and Eleanor Auer made a personal trip to England in 1986 to arrange housing, schedule meals, and organize bus tours to historical spots, a Cambridge University visit on the way to London, a visit to Parliament, etc. (They later emphasized how hard it was to try out at least a dozen Norwich pub before selecting two for off-campus meals!). Their arrangements also began a tradition of extraordinary banquets to climax the convention, in this instance in the seventh-century old Blackfriars Hall with a performance by local Morris dancers, music by a talented band of buskers, and an after-dinner speech by Member of Parliament, Charles Kennedy.

Some scheduled events that did not come off may be an important part of institutional history. Such a non-event was a proposed People-to-People visit in May-June 1986 to Germany and Yugoslavia, with planned counterpart meetings in Cologne, Marburg, Heidelberg, Zagreb, Belgrade, Mostar, and Dubrovnik. Both WCA and SCA endorsed the project. Those with memories of that spring will recall the frequency with which passenger planes near the “Iron Curtain” by Eastern European fighter pilots, and the essential sabotaging of our plans. We were indebted to Dudley Cahn who passed along the initial invitation from the University of Zagreb, and to Carolyn Hale who was instrumental in making our arrangements in Heidelberg.

Happily, the 1987 convention was scheduled in a friendlier clime. Although there was no communication association to link with, drawing upon the Auer forty years of contact with Oxford debaters and a fortuitous 1979 sabbatical semester in England, we offered a series of distinguished Britons who spoke on contemporary communication issues in business politics, education, and broadcasting.

In discussing the locations for the 1989 convention, it should be recorded that the final selection of Singapore was made during an en route visit to Cambridge University, and at a table in the famous Eagle Pub where some years earlier the atomic theory was first propounded. There was no communication association to link with in Singapore or in neighboring Malaysia, but through a variety of personal contacts, a fine general session program was assembled, and with the cooperation of a local travel agent, an extensive series of intercultural experiences was structured, including broadcast facilities, bazaars, historical sites and the countryside in the southern tip of Malaysia. A feature of the 1989 convention, and continued for all subsequent ones, was making arrangements for several optional post-convention tours. The hazards of planning international convention travels, already experienced in the aborted 1986 counterpart meetings in Germany and behind the ìIron Curtain” in Yugoslavia, appeared again of when the tragedy of Tianammen Square forced cancellation of a post-convention tour to Beijing and the substitution of a trip to Bangkok.

In 1991 WCA was invited to Finland by the University of Jyvaskyla and Prologos (The Finnish Association of Speech Communication). After a preview visit by the Auers and the Applbaums, and the approval of the Board, the invitation was heartily accepted. We were blessed by the willingness of Dr. Aino Sallinen, Chair of the Department of Communication and now Rector of the University, and the University Convention Bureau, to handle the details of meetings in university facilities and integrated cultural experiences in central Finland and in Helsinki. Again, post convention tours were offered including a brief one to Stockholm, an extended one to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg)and Moscow, and one to Lapland that no one signed up for (probably because, despite the promise of seeing herds of reindeer, everyone knew about the summer mosquitoes in northern Finland!)

On the sight visit, we discovered the Jyvaskyla University Bookstore carried nothing but books -none of the typical American bookstore display greeting cards, magazines, souvenir trinkets, and no t-shirts with a school logo. We had some good-natured tour teasing about this basic cultural difference, but surely Ron and Jeff did not expect the surprise gift from our hosts at the final banquet: each received a white t-shirt with the blue-emblazoned words, “JYVASKYLAN YLIOPISTO” and a flaming torch over the school motto “AMICA VERlTAS.” Even now these are the only two of their kind!

In the fall of 1992, Jeff Auer wrote members of the WCA Board of Directors to note that by the time of the meeting in Finland, he would have served six years as president and would be eighty years old, and that any respect for actuarial tables would suggest that it was time to select his successor and, furthermore, that the constitution should be amended by specifying a presidential term. The latter action was taken and four years was set as the presidential term of office. Also at Jyvaskyla, Ronald Applbaum took office as president, Judy Pearson was appointed Secretary General, and Don Stacks was named editor of World Communication.

At Jyvaskyla, Petrus Jordaan, President of the Southern African Communication Association, invited the WCA to meet next in Pretoria, South Africa. Through the initiative of President Applbaum, other contacts were made and an exploratory visit was set up. Consequently the Human Sciences Research Council, a government agency, joined SACA in arrangements that made the fine conference facilities of the HRSC available for the 12th Biennial Convention in 1993. Attendance was high, with many local participants, including students. Over 40 participants attended from the U.S.

Our hosts provided an extensive exposure to South African culture, with visits to Johannesburg, national broadcast facilities, government buildings, museums the famous diamond and gold mines, the Mamelodi Black Residential Township, historical and the University of South Africa, a world-famous correspondence university. Throughout the convention, there was an apprehensive awareness of the impending national election and a great deal of extra-curricular discussion of the communication aspects of electioneering and balloting by an electorate that was about fifty percent illiterate, and all voting for the first time.

One optional post-convention tour was a three-day visit to the Kruger National Park and the greatest variety of wild animals in all Africa. From Kruger, an optional additional five-day tour included several other game parks, exposure to the Zulu culture, and a visit to the culturally different east coast city of Durban with its Indian museums, markets, and House of Delegates.

The 13th biennial convention was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. As has been the case in. Britain and Singapore, there was no host association of communication teachers and professionals, and it fell to the president and secretary general to make all of the local arrangements for the convention itself and also for the traditional opportunities for cultural interaction in the area. The convention was well attended by 100 and a large number took advantage of a post-convention tour, one via ship through the Inland Passage to Alaska, and one by bus to the lakes and mountains of the Canadian Rockies.

As is always true after a convention, the chief pending question is the site of the next one. While there are no constitutional directives, it has so far been the practice not to hold the international convention in the United States, and to avoid returning to any previous site as long as there are sites, significant world areas yet unvisited. This practice stems from the assumption that the very presence of a WCA convention highlights the field of communication in educational institutions and in the society at large where we meet, and provides an opportunity for the host country’s teachers to meet and share information with their international counterparts. And even more, it offers WCA a significant way to implement its commitment to communication as instrumental in building intercultural and international understanding. A “traveling” convention is a means of energizing our belief that “A World Communication Association can make a world of difference!

[J. Jeffery Auer (Professor emeritus, Indiana University} edited World Communication, 1985-91, and served a President of WCA, 1985-1991. He passed away in October of 1999.]

Want to know latest news?

Subscribe to our Newsletter!