The History of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association

Submitted by Charles Davis, RMMLA Executive Director 1984-1997

The Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association is one of the smallest of six regional Modern Language Associations, although it serves the largest geographical area. The size of the territory made traveling to national meetings difficult and expensive, leading to the founding of the RMMLA in 1947. The proposal for the formation of the organization outlined what later became adopted as the statement of purpose: to stimulate consideration, evaluation, and cultivation of languages and literatures by holding annual meetings for the presentation of papers about language and literature, by holding sessions for the discussion of problems in teaching as a profession, by cooperation with other academic and cultural societies in order to enrich and strengthen the cultural life in the Rocky Mountain states, by regular publication of a bulletin, and by other similar activities as convenient and desirable. The organizers were T.M. Pearce, R.M. Duncan, J.M. Kerchville, W.W. P. Albrecht, W.D. Jacobs, A. Lopes, and Katherine Simons, primarily from the University of New Mexico. T.M. Pearce later wrote to Ingeborg Carlson, Arizona State University (Executive Director of RMMLA 1978-1984).

Since a good many faculty members had belonged to the Modern Language Association before coming to the Rocky Mountain states and had attended post-Christmas meetings, usually held on the east coast or in the mid-west, there was a general feeling that the Rocky Mountain area could profit from a regional association. For this reason I consulted with Professor J.M. Kerchville, Modern Languages Department, University of New Mexico, and with other members of that institution about forming such an organization. Through correspondence and planning we prepared for the first meeting of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, to be held in Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday, November 28 and 29, 1947, upon the invitation of the University of New Mexico. The Association held its first General Meeting in the Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel on Friday at 4pm. The Chairman was Levette Davidson of the University of Denver.

Apparently, it was not until the University of Colorado hosted the RMMLA, 1967-1975, that the organization applied for and was granted not-for-profit status. While the organization has always been committed to scholarship, it has also recognized a role as citizen of a larger world. So, for instance, in 1978 the membership was polled about its support for the Equal Rights Amendment and whether or not to boycott states that that did not ratify it. About fifteen years later the membership debated holding conferences in states that banned abortions or placed other restrictions on individual freedom. At the same time, the organization began to expand its scope, joining with other interest groups for periods of time--the Western Literature Association, Writing Across the Curriculum, Association of Technical Writers, the Women's Caucus, etc.--adding opportunities to recognize members, the Huntington Award (1985), the Cecilia Konchar Farr Award for Best Feminist Essay (1993), the Charles Davis Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Presentation (2000), Neila and Candadai Seshechari Faculty Travel Grant (2001), Graduate Student Travel Grants and Research Travel Grants (2002). The RMMLA also joined the electronic age, adding a website and electronic publication in 1998. The organization has organized its scholarly presentations to include a core of sections that are self-governing and that repeat from year to year. It also offers the opportunity for members to offer sections a broad variety of topics, keeping RMMLA current with the latest trends in scholarship.

The operation of RMMLA in the early years is unclear. However, the Rocky Mountain Review was smaller, as was the conference. For instance, the first conference consisted of six sessions, a couple of business meetings and a banquet. As late as 1977 the conference consisted of 48 sessions, one luncheon, and one reception, while in 2001 there were 145 sessions, several tours and special events, plus receptions and food functions. The increase in activity demanded more management, so in 1966 the organization developed a governing board. Beginning in 1967 the organization was housed at a host institution that provided offices and other support and edited the Rocky Mountain Review for a period of at least three years. In 1987 the Board decided that institutional hosting could be renewed for three-year periods. As the list of Editors and Executive Directors indicates, they were associated with the host institution: University of Colorado, University of Utah, Arizona State University, Boise State University, and Washington State University.