I’ve talked about this before, but my first steps into atheist activism involved forming a Secular Student Alliance affiliate in college, then joining the SSA’s board of directors. I learned how to be a board member, how national organizations work and collaborate and strategize, and how to fundraise. The SSA instilled in me a passion for atheism-related issues and gave me a strong platform for everything I’ve done since then.
The one constant during these past 15 years has been the SSA’s Executive Director August Brunsman. He’s the one who suggested I run for the group’s board and the first person I ever knew personally who turned a college hobby into a full-fledged career.
I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be doing any of the atheism-related things I do now if he hadn’t encouraged me from the very beginning. And there’s no shortage of activists in their 20s and 30s who owe a huge debt of gratitude to him for the exact same reasons.
I’m pointing all this out because the SSA just announced that August will finally be stepping down from his position in the coming year:
After a decade and a half of service, August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance, has announced his decision to depart the organization in the next year as he looks toward the next phase of his life. In his letter to the Board, August shared, “I am incredibly proud of all those who have served with me, as staff, board, advisors, group leaders, and other volunteers. Together we have taken a group of students and recent students who knew the student wing of the secular movement needed its own organization to grow, and built it into a force unto itself that has more local chapters than any other organization in our movement.”
“Under August’s direction, the Secular Student Alliance has expanded in ways none of us could have foreseen,” said Evan Clark, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Today there are SSA alumni staffing almost every national humanist and atheist organization in America. There are over 500 high school or college campuses that have been touched by an SSA affiliate at one point in time. And there are students that will find community in our affiliates this fall that were born the same year the SSA was founded.”
Jesus, that’s one hell of an incredible legacy to leave behind.
I don’t know what August’s future plans are, but I can only imagine the doors are wide open for him. How many people can start a non-profit organization from virtually nothing and grow it into a massive group that has several paid staff members and a seven-figure budget? How many people can learn how to manage that budget? How many people know how to talk to donors, and write grant proposals, and mentor people with little experience in the non-profit world? How many people are willing to make so many personal sacrifices in order to see the organization grow?
It’s a very, very short list.
The SSA says they’ll begin searching for a new Executive Director in the coming weeks.
If you’d like to show your appreciation for what August has done, consider making a donation to the organization he dedicated so much of his adult life to. You’ll be making life a little easier for the person who eventually has to fill his shoes.