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Information Technology (IT) Pioneers

Retirees and former employees of Unisys, Lockheed Martin, and their heritage companies

History of the VIP Club

  Although the VIP CLUB originated at Sperry in 1980, it continued when the Burroughs' buyout formed UNISYS in 1986. A 1995 UNISYS corporate sale to Loral split off the defense part of our company that had been a part of the Twin Cities operations. Loral in turn sold those operations to Lockheed Martin in 1996.  Because of our heritage, in 2000 local LMCO management asked to join with UNISYS in Roseville as a club sponsor; thus bringing us back together. The company name sequence is illustrated in the MN icon at the right. The Constitution and Bylaws were updated that year to reflect this joint sponsorship.

  Al Mueller was the first Club President, many of his engineering management years were in the Antenna Coupler Department. Al Mueller was also the original newsletter editor.  As time has past, the company names kept changing;  the heritage and predecessor companies illustrated in this Legacy icon with commercial UNISYS continuing today as the Club celebrated 40 years of existence (In Sept. 2021 because of the pandemic.) All of our presidents and their terms of service are listed in the leadership section below.  We are indeed thankful for their leadership and willingness to keep our history and Legacy going.
  Richard 'Dick' Mullins maintained the membership database from the Club's inception until Aug. 2007 when Lowell took over that responsibility. He immediately effected a database conversion from MAPPER to Excel. In 2008, Quint Heckert volunteered to handle the database, added formuli for membership statistics. When Quint moved to AZ, Keith Behnke took on the database. In 2015, Keith became VP and Ghis Devlaminck joined the board as director and database manager.  Ghis nicely integrated lists of inactive members with active and provided various filtering mechanisms.
  Jack Farber served as treasurer from 1997 to August 2006, his successors and predecessors are listed below.

  Over the years the Club has also promoted or endorsed monthly and annual 'gatherings' by retirees in our monthly newsletter - even though some of participants meeting for breakfasts, lunch, or dinner are not paid Club members.  History of these groups is detailed on the Social Activities page.

In November 2010, LMCO announced that they would be closing their Eagan facility by 2013. We had already transitioned some our program meetings from the LMCO sponsored Eagan Community Center to the UNISYS, Eagan facility. Only the Air Traffic Management department of LMCO remained in Eagan [now part of Leidos Corp.] We have had a few evening program meetings there.

 In August 2016, UNISYS announced that they would be consolidating their operations at the Eagan facility. As part of this move, they will continue to support our newsletter distributions. Volunteers from the VIP Club assisted UNISYS with the relocation of the Shadow Box displays from Roseville to Eagan the summer of 2017.

2.0 Club Milestones

  • April 20, 2022: the Club awarded the seventh Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate honoring Lowell Benson's two decades of volunteerism with the Club, the Legacy Committee, and his Church support.
  • December 2, 2021: The board donated $400 to the Charles Babbage in honor of first director, Dr. Norberg.  The board donated $400 to the Lawshe Memorial Museum in honor of the Club's founder, Millie Gignac.
  • November 3, 2021: The board was re-elected, exactly the same people as 2020 - a 5th one-year term for the majority of the board. .
  • September 14, 2021: We celebrated the Club's 40th anniversary with a program and luncheon at the Royal Cliff in Eagan.  102 members attended and enjoyed legacy pictures scrolling the screen during the social time, dinner, and program.  Thanks to Keith Behnke for the planning and to Keith Myhre for the legacy pictures.  A couple of people took snapshots, see Pics40thAnniversary.pdf
  • June 16, 2021: We resumed gathering activities with our annual picnic in Eagan, ~140 participated.
  • October 22, 2020:  The club recognized founder Milllie Gignac's 100th birthday with flowers, cards, and congratulations messages from members collected via Evite.
  • October 7, 2020: The club board decided to extend officers' and directors' terms a year as the November election was cancelled.  Also, the board decided to extend all currnet memberships one year and to offer free 2021 memberships to any new registrants.
  • August 5, 2020: The club board decided to purchase a Zoom account to enable member groups to hold on-line meetings.
  • April 1, 2020: The Club cancelled several summer spring and summer programs in order to protect our aging membership from the COVID-19 threat; Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, Roseville Good Old Days, Syttende Mai, the Annual Picnic, and the planned 40th anniversary celebration in September. We also began using screen-to-screen packages for board meetings. Minnesota's Governor Walz issued several edicts relative to social distancing of the state.
  • March 2020: Mary Beth Ruhland became the Club's newsletter chief editor; her father, Richard Mullins, was also an ex-Sperry employee, a club Director, and the initial Club membership database manager.  
  • February 2020: We changed our mailing address from Roseville to Eagan, see bottom of each web page and chapter.
  • October 2019: At the TPT documentary premier, President Harvey Taipale and Lawshe Museum volunteer curator Keith Myhre presented ERA lapel pins to producer Kevin Dragseth and speaker Dr. Jeffrey Yost - . 
  • September 2019: We began using Evite as a notice and tallying method of communicating with members for near-term events.
  • On April 10, 2019, the Club awarded the sixth Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate honoring Patricia Myhre's five-plus years of Photo ID work at the Lawshe Memorial Museum and other volunteerism; delivered posthumously to husband Keith at the Volunteerism Recognition Luncheon.
  • On February 6, 2019, the Board resolved to grant Member Emeritus status to Joseph Schwarz in recognition of his nearly 20-years as chief editor of the Club's newsletter and other board activity support.
  • On September 13, 2018, the Club sponsored an Open House and Legacy Display at the Lawshe Memorial Museum in S. St. Paul. We celebrated phase I of a State of Minnesota grant to develop a Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) documentary including introduction of a new web site, https://mncomputinghistory.com/ , by U of MN researcher Liz Semmler.
  • On April 15, 2018, the club awarded the fifth Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate Honoring Tom Turba's dedication to the Boy Scouts, the VIP Club, and his Roseville community, delivered to Virginia Turba at Tom's Celebration of Life.
  • On April 11, 2018, the Club awarded the fourth Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate to Allan Douglass recognizing his 1,000+ hours of service to Boy Scouts and his church's organizations.
  • On January 7, 2018, The Club granted a Member Emeritus award to Dale Phelps in recognition of his decade plus serving the board as VP, President, Past President, and Director for program planning. 
  • On September 13 2017, Unisys, Eagan celebrating a successful transition of the History shadowboxes from Roseville to Eagan.
  • On April 19, 2017, the Club awarded the third Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate to Donald Weidenbach recognizing his decade supporting the Legacy committee, his Airport Guide volunteering, and appliance repairing at his retirement facility.
  • On April 19, 2016, the Club awarded the second Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate to Richard 'Dick' Lundgren recognizing his decade of newsletter Legacy articles and newsletter program articles plus his initiation of our interactions with the Charles Babbage Institute in 2006 and the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission in 2007.
  • On September 9, 2015, the Club celebrated  with an open house at the Lawshe Memorial Museum. That Event recognized the museum staff and volunteers' efforts in completion of a Minnesota Legacy grant to develop posters and exhibit support material. We've linked 16 posters from the topics listings in section 3 of our exhibits page.
  • On April 16, 2015, the Club awarded the first Volunteer Extraordinaire certificate to Keith Myhre recognizing his skill and initiatives in support of the Lawshe Memorial Museum. This recognition is named the Jansen Certificate, recognizing Bernie and Kathy Jansen's decades of support to the Club's volunteerism as well as their work for the Dakota County Historical Society.
  • On April 16, 2014, the Club granted a Member Emeritus award to Tom Turba in recognition of his creation of and continuing coordination of the Roseville Good Old Days annual event as well as his numerous years serving on the Board.
  • On August 13, 2013, the Club celebrated the opening of our Legacy exhibit at the Lawshe Memorial Museum in South St. Paul.  Lockheed Martin had gifted the Legacy Committee's collection of artifacts, photos, and some documents to the Dakota County Historical Society in December 2012 as LMCO was closing their main Eagan facility. Legacy Committee Co-chair John Westergren coordinated the transfer. 
  • On August 3, 2011, the Board ratified the Constitution change ballots, then approved Bylaw updates to move forward without the direct sponsorship of Lockheed Martin and with reduced support from UNISYS.
  • In October 2010, the Club celebrated 30 years with a history booklet distributed to members attending a special program at the UNISYS, Roseville facility. CBI's Dr. Tom Misa was the featured speaker. Thanks to Quint Heckert for developing the booklet, thanks to LMCO for the printing and binding. We also awarded a Member Emeritus certificate to Marion Scott in recognition of her 29 years coordinating Red Cross blood drives.
  • In January 2010, the Club signed a one year agreement with the University of Minnesota to display Legacy posters and artifacts in the Walter Library. Tom Turba and Lowell Benson set up the displays [Legacy-University_of_MinnesotaRev1.pdf (vipclubmn.org).]
  • In December 2009, the board granted a Member Emeritus award to Warren and Dorothy Becker in recognition of their decade of coordinating the annual Christmas party as well as serving on the board of directors, continuing after Warren's board presidency.
  • In November 2009, the Club took on financial responsibility for the 'Defense' Annual UNIVAC Old Timers Reunion [http://vipclubmn.org/Activities.html#OTR] and for the 'Commercial' Roseville Good Old Days annual events [http://vipclubmn.org/Activities.html#RGOD.]
  • In June 2009, the board granted a Member Emeritus award to Charles and Midge Homan for their long term service to the Board and Club, specifically picnic coordination during and after Chuck's board presidency.
  • In January 2009, Dick Lundgren and Lowell Benson with their grandsons attended the Minnesota Sesquicentennial final event, the sealing of a time capsule for the 2058 Minnesota Bicentennial. We put several items into this time capsule including a report about our Sesquicentennial activities. The first of those activities was a May display of our history on the Capitol Mall.
  • In December 2008, the board granted Member Emeritus awards to Millie Gignac, John Dufour, and Bernie Jansen for their long term service to the board and Club.  Millie as the founder, John for shepherding the club through the merging of UNISYS and LMCO retirees, and Bernie for coordinating Volunteer recognition breakfasts for over a decade. Each has also actively supported the board after their office terms.
  • In April 2008, the board authorized the webmaster to archive a copy of the web site on a CBI internal host for future use by researchers. Board members at that time were Lowell Benson, Brian Berggren, Quint Heckert, Bernie Jansen, Lynn Farris Lindholm, Dale Phelps, Joe Schwarz, Marion Scott, and Tom Turba. This board also authorized storage of a paper newsletter set at CBI and added them to our database as 'Friend'.
  • In November 2007, the Club in conjunction with the Legacy Committee formed a Sesquicentennial Team to promote our Legacy during Minnesota's 2008 150th celebrations.  We subsequentially set up and staffed displays in May on the State Capitol grounds and in September at the State Fair.
  • In October 2007: In response to an application coordinated by Lowell, the IRS accepted the Board's resolution to change the VIP Club name from "Sperry Retirees Club" to "VIP CLUB". Also, the board authorized combining the Club and Legacy project's web sites onto a Microsoft hosted 'free' site, the URL, http://vipclubmn.org  was available.
  • In 2006, the VIP Club Board updated the operational Bylaws to reflect current modes of operation, i.e. activity coordinators versus committee chairpersons.
  • In 2005, the VIP Club celebrated its 25th year at the annual June picnic - The Legacy Committee was formed in October with Richard 'Ole' Olson and Lowell Benson as co-chairs. Dick Lundgren was the first VIP Club member volunteering to serve on the committee.
  • In 2002, Joe Schwarz started a web site on Yahoo for the Club.
  • In 2000, the Twin Cities Lockheed Martin MS2 organization petitioned the board to become a sponsor. The Constitution change incorporating this sponsorship was approved by a plurality of ballots returned by the members in June of 2000.
  • In 1984, we registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 'Sperry Retirees Club', a 501c (7) - non-profit social and recreation club.
  • In 1980 the club was formed as described in section 4 below. 

3.0 Previous VIP Club Leadership

3.1 This Century, i. e. 2000 =>

Year(s) President* Vice President Treasurer Secretary News Editor Membership Webmaster
2023          
2020-22Harvey TaipaleSteve KoltesPaul HoveBoni Westberg Mary Beth Ruhland Gish Devlaminck Jim Andrews
2019Harvey TaipaleSteve KoltesPaul HoveBoni Westberg Lowell Benson Gish Devlaminck Lowell Benson
2018Harvey TaipaleSteve KoltesPaul HoveBoni WestbergJoe Schwarz# Gish DevlaminckLowell Benson
2017 Keith Behnke Harvey Taipale Paul Hove Ben Manning - Boni Westberg Joe Schwarz# Gish Devlaminck Lowell Benson
2016 Keith Behnke Orrin McGill Harvey Taipale Frank King Joe Schwarz# Gish Devlaminck Lowell Benson
2015 Lowell Benson Keith Behnke Harvey Taipale Frank King Joe Schwarz# Gish Devlaminck Lowell Benson
2014 Lowell Benson Bob Pagac Harvey Taipale Frank King Joe Schwarz# Keith Behnke Lowell Benson
2013 Bob 'RC' Hanson Lowell Benson Harvey Taipale  Frank King Joe Schwarz# Keith Behnke Lowell Benson
2012 Tom Turba# Bob 'RC' Hanson Harvey Taipale  Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Keith Behnke Lowell Benson
2011 Lowell Benson Tom Turba# Harvey Taipale  Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Quint Heckert Lowell Benson
2009-10 Tom Turba**# Lowell Benson** Harvey Taipale Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Quint Heckert Lowell Benson
2008 Brian Berggren Tom Turba# Lowell Benson Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Quint Heckert Lowell Benson
2007 Brian Berggren Tom Turba# Lowell Benson *** Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Lowell Benson Lowell Benson
2006 Bernie Jansen# Brian Berggren ***Jack Farber Lynn Farris Lindholm Joe Schwarz# Dick Mullins Joe Schwarz#
2004-05 Dale Phelps# Bernie Jansen# Jack Farber Jim Larson Joe Schwarz# Dick Mullins Joe Schwarz#
2002-03 Hank Dotzler Dale Phelps# Jack Farber Jim Larson  Joe Schwarz# Dick Mullins Joe Schwarz#
2000-01 John Dufour# Hank Dotzler Jack Farber Jim Larson Joe Schwarz# Dick Mullins  

# Member Emeritus granted by the board in the years noted in Milestones above.
* Upon election of a new president, the outgoing president remains a member of the board as the Immediate Past President, i. e. Keith Behnke was Past President during Harvey Taipale's five years as President.  Keith has volunteered to continue on the 2023 board as a Director - not unlike Dale Phelps who served as a program planning director for a six years after his vice president, president, and past presedent terms.
**VP Lowell Benson filled in for 4 months as Tom recovered from a February 2010 stroke.
***The treasurer transition from Jack to Lowell occurred in September ‘06.

3.2 Last Century, i. e. 1980 - 1999

Data in this table came from Bill Galle, Curt Nelson, Dale Phelps, and Joe Schwarz. There are a few early year blanks in this table, reader inputs are welcome.  

Year(s) President Vice President Treasurer Secretary News Editor
1998-99 Bernie Jansen# John Dufour Jack Farber Jim Larson John Dufour#
1997 Barney Buss Bernie Jansen# Bill Galle Warren Becker# John Dufour#
1996 Chuck Homan# Barney Buss Bill Galle Suzanne Scharf John Dufour#
1995 Chuck Homan# Barney Buss Dale Kenyon Suzanne Scharf Bill Galle
1994 Owen Scharf Chuck Homan# Dale Kenyon Suzanne Scharf **Bill Galle
1993 Owen Scharf Chuck Homan# Dale Kenyon Suzanne Scharf **Curt Nelson
1991-92 Warren Becker# Owen Scharf Dale Kenyon Suzanne Scharf Curt Nelson
1990 Warren Becker# Owen Scharf Ed Hawkins Marion Blixt Curt Nelson
1989 Millie Gignac# Warren Becker# Ed Hawkins Marion Blixt Curt Nelson
1988 Millie Gignac# Warren Becker# Ray Miller Stella Turner Curt Nelson
1987 John Bleckner Millie Gignac# Ray Nimmerfroh Joan Kauffmann Al Mueller
1986 Ed Kulczycki John Bleckner Don Anderson George Baumgartner Al Mueller
1985 Ed Kulczycki John Bleckner Millie Hawthorne Lorraine McDonnell Al Mueller
1984 Ray Miller Ed Kulczycki Millie Hawthorne Joyce Miller Al Mueller
1983 Ray Nimmerfroh Ray Miller
1982 Vida Grace Hildyard Ray Nimmerfroh
1981 Al Mueller Vida Grace Hildyard
1980 Al Mueller  

**The editor transition from Curt to Bill occurred in mid 1993.
# Member Emeritus granted by the board in the years noted in Milestones above..

4.0 THE BIRTH OF THE VIP CLUB

By Millie Gignac
After working at Sperry Univac Headquarters in Blue Bell, Pa., for five years, I was transferred back to St. Paul Defense Systems where I conducted pre-retirement classes for Defense and Roseville employees. As I worked closely with employees getting ready to retire, I observed that many were reluctant to break the "Sperry-tie".
     So, in the fall of 1979, I started to plan a clubroom for our retirees. Our Plant Engineering Department was asked to draw up floor plans with cost estimates. I was allotted approximately 1465 square feet in our Sheppard Road plant. This plant was centrally located sort of "in the middle" of all our Twin City plant locations and was accessible by public transportation. Not only were top management supportive, but also our manufacturing management who gave up prime space in a manufacturing facility.
     Action on these plans started in early spring 1980. The section of the plant to be used had to be completely renovated removing old walls, paneling, ceiling and replacing those with new. In addition, new wiring and plumbing had to be installed, and a fully equipped kitchenette designed and installed. Carpeting was laid, and furniture was selected and ordered. We had decided that we needed, in addition to the kitchen, a lounge area with a television, comfortable chairs and sofas, plus an area with tables for card playing, games, and writing letters. Our basic purpose was to provide a permanent base from which the employee club could operate, but leave it to the group's own initiative to plan activities, take trips and engage in projects. We had further envisioned that the Company's support would be limited to aid in the initial forming of the organization, providing the space and facilities without charge, a very modest budgetary contribution annually and continuing guidance and support from the Personnel Office as required.
     While all this was going on, we had made no contact with the retirees. I simply assumed they would welcome the idea with open arms! In April 1980, I compiled a list of retirees--people who were enthusiastic about life and were receptive to new ideas, I selected a mixture of male, female, salaried and bargaining unit retirees, and invited them to lunch to discuss starting a Sperry Retiree Club. Needless to say, the group was ready to go! We continued to meet, and they compiled a letter which was sent to over 450 Twin City area retirees.
     By June 1st we had received responses from 150 retirees who expressed an interest in forming a club. We sent a follow-up letter advising them that due to summer vacations, the first meeting would be held in September.
     Meanwhile, the construction and furnishing of the club room was completed [at a cost of $35,000.] We planned a ribbon cutting ceremony for July 24, 1980 and I invited Bob McDonald, who had just retired as President & Chief Operating Officer of Sperry Corporation, to take part in the ceremony and cut the ribbon. He was delighted to be included. [He also came back some time later to speak at one of the Club's monthly meetings.] {Editor's note: This photo shows our first Club President, Al Mueller, with Mr. McDonald, and Millie.}
     The first general meeting was held on September 3rd with about 75 in attendance. Officers were elected; plans were made for future monthly meetings and a set of rules were drawn up. Club members were advised they would have to abide by Company regulations, but other than that they were on their own -- it was their club -- even as far as clean-up was concerned. Our maintenance people [in fact, all employees] were not allowed in the room. It was not intended to be an employee lounge area. A well-written constitution and by-laws were drawn up which protected the Club and the Company. The Club Room was open 24 hours a day.
     In 1982, we were successful in getting the Club, as a group, involved in community volunteer work. They took on many projects, which resulted in the retirees being a good-will extension of the Company and an asset to our community.

The Club was saddened by Millie's passing in May of 2021 at age 100 1/2.

 

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Milestones

Previous Leadership

Origination

Edited 11/21/2022 by LAB.