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Frank Gray

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Wanted: Introverted geniuses

Beatty

An estimated 70 percent of all people could be classified as extroverts, says Bob Beatty. They're the type who like to get together with others and have a good time, the way they do in beer commercials.

But when you look at membership of an organization like Mensa, you find that 70 percent are introverts, says Beatty, the former national chairman for Mensa. You won't find large groups of them staggering down Bourbon Street at 4 a.m.

They like to read or get together with a friend or two and talk or discuss something very specific.

Many organizations require mandatory attendance at meetings, Beatty says, but when attendance is optional, as it is in Mensa chapters, only about 10 percent of members are active.

So when one considers that only 1 percent or 2 percent of the population can even qualify to join Mensa, called a club for geniuses, and that most members are introverted, you can begin to sense what the problem is, in Fort Wayne at least.

Membership is low and participation is low.

Beatty, who used to live near Columbus, Ohio, recently moved to Fort Wayne, linked up with the local Mensa chapter and is trying to revitalize things a bit.

There are problems, he said. For years now a handful of people have been handling most of the drudge work, arranging meetings, finding speakers, running the website and writing the newsletter.

They were getting tired.

The club doesn't get a whole lot of publicity, either. On the third Saturday of each month, it offers a test at the University of Saint Francis for prospective members, but the only promotion that test gets is a brief mention in the events calendar in the newspaper.

If you don't see that, you don't know about the test.

"Not a whole lot of people know about it," Beatty says. "That's our only external publicity."

The chapter does have a website. It's easy to find. Just do a web search for Mensa Fort Wayne (the address is fortwayne.us.mensa.org) but the site has been down for about a year.

So how do you revitalize the local Mensa group in an age when people are joining organizations less and instead turning to the Internet and collecting ethereal friends who may or may not even be real?

Well, Beatty can probably figure it out. He helped design the computer system for Nasdaq back in the 1970s. He's a tax preparer, and he is, after all, a member of Mensa.

Not everyone likes to go to meetings with speakers, but they do like to read books, he says.

He can have book discussion nights.

Like everyone else, Mensa members like movies, so they can have movie and movie discussion nights, he suggests.

Lots of Mensa members like games, so they can have game gatherings, or just meet for dinner.

But he needs publicity as much as anything, and that's why he called the paper, looking for a plug.

"I'm hoping in the next couple of months we'll pick up," he said. "It's a reawakening. Some people may come to meetings for the first time."

But, first Beatty realized, he needs to get that website running. "I'm going to have to move it up on my list of priorities."

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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