The history of the WRSEF can be divided into two epochs, the first 20 years and the recent years, separated by a critical juncture in 1974.
The Worcester County Science Fair (as it was then named) and the first 20 years of operation were the product of the Kiwanis Clubs of Worcester. Leslie B. Goff, president of the Kiwanis Club of Worcester in 1955, saw the need of introducing young men and women to the sciences. He likewise saw the future need for hundreds and thousands of scientifically oriented leaders to carry on the tremendous achievements of his day to the phenomenal events of the present and the unbelievable accomplishments that lie ahead. Richard C. Potter, president of the Kiwanis Club of Worcester in 1958 - a lover of nature and science - believed that teaching young people to better understand the wonder, awe, and beauty of nature's handiwork was his duty to mankind. These two men were the sparks that ignited the success in an event that required the combined efforts of many people.
Another Kiwanis member who contributed to the early success of the Science Fair was J. Adams Holbrook. For nearly twenty years he devoted untold hours to this event and was the Fair director for nine years. Serious illness forced him to cease directing the Science Fair in 1974, and in February 1976, J. Adams Holbrook passed away. The 1976 Science Fair was dedicated to the inspiration and influence of these three dedicated men.
A critical juncture occurred when the Kiwanis Clubs dropped sponsorship for financial reasons in 1974 to permit the Clubs to undertake other community projects. In early 1975, a committee of concerned high school science teachers approached Worcester Polytechnic Institute to see if the college would sponsor the Fair. WPI accepted the invitation and the 1975 Fair was organized and conducted within the span of a few short weeks.
Subsequent meetings involving WPI, local science teachers and the Worcester Engineering Society addressed the long-term outlook for the Fair with the very real possibility that it would not survive. Thankfully, a committee was formed to establish and run the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair, as it is now named. Norman G. Mills, a Wachusett High School science teacher, was one of its members. Norman Mills organized the 1974 Kiwanis Fair when Adams Holbrook took ill, and was involved in the 1975 WPI Fair, both on short notice. Not surprisingly, Norman Mills was elected chairman and served for fifteen years. The 1989 Fair was dedicated to him.
Cathleen Burke from Marian High School, Framingham, served as chair from 1990 to 1996, followed by Nancy G. Degon from Auburn High School, beginning in 1997 to the present day. The WRSEF is truly fortunate to benefit from the dedication, perseverance and especially the long-term commitments of the founders, chairs and directors. Thousands of committee members, teachers, judges, industry supporters, parents and students have also played key roles in the history of the organization.
In 1996 the WRSEF was granted an advanced ruling, and in 2000 was determined to be a tax-exempt organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A Financial Report is filed annually with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Division of Public Charities. This document is open to public inspection. The funding sources of the Fair are contributions made by local businesses, universities and professional societies concerned about the scientific education and literacy of young people. Typically less than 1% of annual financial support goes towards fundraising; more than 99% goes directly to student and school awards and operational expenses of the Fair itself.
In 2000, using grant funding, Pauline Lamarche of the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science and Lisa Greenwald of Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School, Westborough initiated the Worcester Regional Middle School Fair. WRSEF soon thereafter voted to include the middle school fair under its umbrella. The middle school fair has continued to grow in school and student participation.
The WRSEF's Board of Directors is a dedicated group of volunteers who strive to continue the proud history of the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair well into the future.