The Origins of IAIE

History of the International Alliance for Invitational Education

How It All Began
On a summer afternoon in 1982, a group of 12 educators and related helping professionals from throughout the United States and Canada met on the campus of Lehigh University with Drs. Betty Siegel and William Purkey. Together, this group founded the Alliance for Invitational Education as a not-for-profit organization. The Alliance has grown to include hundreds of professionals in the fields of education, healthcare, and business in over 15 countries.
Beyond our Galaxy, in some forgotten time (circa 1968), two young professors at the University of Florida, Betty Faye Siegel and William Watson Purkey, applied for and received a small grant from the Noyes Foundation of New York to train educators. The grant provided modest fellowships for teams of teachers, principals, and school board members to attend a three-week residential summer program on humanizing the educative process. Although the funding was to be for a single summer, the program was so successful that the Noyes Foundation continued its support for the next eight years.

During the eight summer workshops at the University of Florida, the concept of Invitational Education began to emerge. More than 300 educators attended the residential workshops, worked with Drs. Siegel and Purkey, wrestled with invitational theory and contributed greatly to the emergence of what became known as Invitational Education. Many present leaders of the Alliance including Judy Lehr, John Novak, Sandra Damico, Gurney Chambers, Bruce Voelkel, Daniel Shaw, Charles Branch, and others began their association with the Alliance during these early workshops.

After eight years of funding, the Noyes Foundation ended its support. This was a major turning point. Drs. Siegel and Purkey decided that the summer workshops would continue without funding other than registration fees. Summer workshops and programs were successfully conducted at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Guilford College, and most memorably, at Western Carolina University, affectionately recalled as "Camelot" by those who attended, where it was necessary to keep waiting lists of those eager to participate.

From 1968 until 1978 there was no Alliance, no organization, no dues, no structure ... just an idea and people who believed in it.
1978 - Official Alliance Formation
In 1978, Drs. Siegel and Purkey met in the mountains of North Carolina and "officially" formed the Alliance for Invitational Education to encourage and bring together the proponents of Invitational Education.

Even after the Alliance was formed it had none of the trappings of a real organization. It had no membership list, officers, or a dues structure. Yet, the Alliance continued to grow.
A second major event in the history of the Alliance occurred in the summer of 1982 during an Invitational Education Workshop held at Lehigh University and directed by William Stafford. At the conclusion of this one- week workshop, twelve leaders in the Alliance met and created a formal structure for the Alliance. Membership dues were set, and officers (Co-directors, Treasurer, Secretary, Membership Chair, Newsletter Editor, and Member-at-Large) were appointed in order to have the Alliance Chartered by the State of North Carolina as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit educational organization. This was accomplished thanks to the hard work of Robert Turner of Averett College, Virginia.

It was during the 1982-86 period that Canadian Invitational Education began to establish itself as a major voice in invitational theory and practice. Dean Fink, John Novak, Peter Hudson, and many others offered highly successful Canadian conferences and workshops and wrote numerous position papers dealing with the theory and practice of Invitational Education. During this time, John Novak organized a SIC (Special Interest Group) in the American Educational Research Association. This SIG continues to be highly active in AERA and has been of tremendous value in addressing substantive issues in invitational theory and practice before the most rigorous and demanding audiences.

From 1982 through 1986 the Alliance continued to flourish. Workshops and conferences were held at Kennesaw College, UNC-Greensboro, and Graylyn Conference Center at Wake Forest University. In 1986, the Alliance membership dues were increased to $20.00. This allowed the Alliance to hire its first paid part-time Executive Secretary, Marilyn Mueller. Conrad Austin was asked to be the Alliance Membership Chair.
The years from 1986 on, have been great ones for the Alliance. Paula Helen Stanley became Executive Secretary and added tremendously to the strength of the organization. The Canadians organized a most productive Niagara-on-the Lake Conference. New books by David Strahan, Jack Schmidt, John Wilson, William Purkey, John Novak, and others explored various facets of invitational theory and practice.

William Purkey received major foundation grants including one from Z. Smith Reynolds and another from R.J.R. Nabisco. These grants were to explore the efficacy of invitational theory in combating such problems as school dropouts and classroom discipline.

Among the many successful conferences presented by the Alliance are the Toronto Conference headed by Dean Fink; the Orlando Conference directed by Bettie Palmer Spratt; the Baltimore Conference led by Don McBrien; the Charleston Conference, directed by Jennifer Benson-Rogers; and most recently, the 1998 Lexington Conference, presented under the able leadership of Sue Bowen.

These ventures have been highly successful, both professionally and financially, for the Alliance. They produced sufficient income to allow the Alliance to invest in new opportunities, including the Inviting School Award Program, the publication of The Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, new membership brochures, and efforts to form special interest groups in professional organizations.
The years of 2000 to 2012 have shown steady progress for the Alliance. A major conference has been held yearly, with attendees from almost all states and many countries, including Nepal, Hungary, England, Australia, China, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa. Two IAIE world conferences have been held in Hong Kong, China under the direction of Peter Wong, Clio Chan, and Stephen Chu.

In 2012, two new initiatives were created. The Ten College Consortium I & II, directed by Sue Bowen, resulted in memberships for several hundred undergraduates. The Coalition to Promote Positive School Climate, consisting of nine major like-minded non-profit organizations was created by Joan Fretz and William Purkey. In 2013, under the strong leadership of Sue Bowen and Sally Butzin, the future of the Alliance looked bright.

The years 2013, 2014, and 2015 were exciting years for the Alliance. The first IAIE Chapter at Muskingum University, Ohio (2010) was joined by new Chapters in Cabell County, West Virginia and Jessamine County, Kentucky in 2014.

Successful conferences were held in Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Long Island, NY. Participation at the New York Conference doubled in size and included over 50 educators from Hong Kong, Mexico, Malta, Canada, and Australia.

The Alliance honored 44 Fidelity Award schools in 2015, including 6 Gold Fidelity Schools, that celebrated 10 years of inviting practices and welcomed the establishment of the Long Island, NY Chapter.

In 2016, the 35th International Alliance for Invitational Education World Conference was held in Lexington, Kentucky.

The 2nd edition of Fundamentals of Invitational Education was published and the 4th edition of Inviting School Success is in progress. The new Invitational Theory and Practice Toolkit will be released and a new website, with a wide variety of member resources, was launched.

New Regional Leaders have been appointed to spearhead local growth in six regions of the United States. With over 500 active members, the Alliance is making great strides in making schools a better place for people.
2003 IAIE Leadership Institute, Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
(Kate Asbill, Conference Director)
First William Stafford Leadership Awards presented to: Sue Bowen, Dave Chapman, John Novak, William Purkey, Betty Siegel, Harvey Smith, Mary Lynn Smith, Paula Stanley, and Peter Wong
IAIE Founding Members:

  • Dorothy Crissman
  • Dean Fink
  • Tim Gerber
  • John Novak
  • William Purkey
  • Charlotte Reed
  • Jack Schmidt
  • Virada Schussler
  • Betty Siegel
  • William Stafford
  • Robert Turner
  • Earl Varnes
  • Bruce Voelkel
  • Richard Warters


Lost your password?