The History of Central States

Our Original Mission

With vision, dedication, and certainly much camaraderie and a sense of shared purpose, the Founders boldly dissolved the Central States Modern Language Association in 1968 and created in its place the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Specifically, the 14 Founders stated that Central States should: 

• assume a proactive, leadership role within the profession;

• provide services to all foreign language educators, including those of modern, ancient, and less-commonly-taught languages and English as a Second Language; and

• promote the study of languages across the Pre-K, elementary, secondary, post-secondary, and graduate spectrum. 

The organization still seeks to meet these goals by: 

• advocating for the teaching and learning of languages;

• reaching out to language professionals via:

In the words of one of the Founders, Dr. Frank Grittner, Central States seeks to maintain “a happy balance between the theoretical and the practical” and to support the work of language professionals within our 14-state region and across the nation.

Our History

Looking Back

Dr. Constance Knop (emerita, University of Wisconsin, Madison) was a close friend of our 14 Founders and served on the team that organized the first conference. In her remarks on the occasion of Central States' 50th anniversary, Dr. Knop reminded us that “the Central States Modern Language Association was formed in 1896. That organization was linked closely to the national Modern Language Association and its annual meeting consisted primarily of learned papers being read, primarily about literature and some on culture. Its members were mostly college and university teachers and the topics reflected their interests.”

In the mid-1960s, a group of 14 visionary language professionals—our Founders—recognized that language instructors would both appreciate, and benefit from, opportunities to share professional best practices that focused not on literary topics but on the theory and practice of world language teaching and learning. Our Founders included: Jermaine Arendt (MN), Jacqueline Elliott (TN), Percy Fearing (MN), Anthony Gradisnik (WI), Frank Grittner (WI), Gilbert Kettlekamp (IL), Charles Kirk (OH), Wallace Magoon (IN), Barbara Ort (MI), J. Henry Owens (MI), Richard Payne (MO), J. Thomas Shaw (WI), Lorraine Strasheim (IN) and Albert Turner (IL).

Moving Forward

Like all things in life, people and circumstances change. However, in her remarks Dr. Knop shared two enduring truths:

• Central States offers extraordinary opportunities for professional development, but it needs the support of a large number of volunteers. Please remember to thank the planning team, then contact a board member or e-mail to volunteer your time and talents!

• The conference renews itself each year. Be sure to complete the evaluation form, which will be sent to you in an email. With Dr. Knop and our Founders, then, at each year’s conference, let us gather together and say:

Congratulations, Central States on your 56 years!

We are so proud of you.

Bravo, Central States, for the leadership you have shown in supporting the professional development of world language teachers.

Thank you, Central States Team, for making the Founders’ hopes and vision come true.

Executive History and Board of Directors 1968 - 2022