The Tyler Sister City Corporation (also known as Tyler Sister Cities) was founded in 1982 following an educational exchange tour of French universities by Dr. George Hamm, former president of the University of Texas at Tyler. Dr. Hamm credited the trip with inspiring him to seek a long-term Sister Cities partnership with the city of Metz, France. In 1982, Dr. Hamm and his wife Janie attended a Sister Cities International meeting in Florida with Tyler Mayor Norman Shtofman and Tyler residents Charles and Ann Primer. The small Tyler delegation decided to found a chapter in Tyler, Texas, forming a partnership with the Tyler City Council and Tyler Chamber of Commerce. The newly formed Tyler Sister City Corporation was legally incorporated in 1983. Mayor Norman Shtofman, Dr. George Hamm, local architect and photographer Carroll Sinclair, Tyler philanthropist J.R. Borgerding, and Tyler City Manager Gary Gwyn formed the initial board of directors and incorporators.
Norman Shtofman served as the first General Chairman from the date of incorporation through July 1984. During his tenure as Chairman, the Tyler Sister Cities board of directors governed nine committees: Business and Industry, chaired by J.R. Borgerding; Medical and Health, chaired by Trinity Mother Frances President and Chief Administration Officer Lindsey Bradley; Public relations, chaired by Tyler Morning Telegraph and Tyler Courier-Times-Telegraph publisher Calvin Clyde, Jr.; Fund Raising, chaired by Martha “Rusty” Fletcher; Municipal Affairs, chaired by Gary Gwyn; Education, chaired by Dr. George Hamm; Hospitality, chaired by Ann Primer; Professional and technical, chaired by Carroll Sinclair; and Community Activities, chaired by Gulf State Lumber company owner Sam Wolf. UT Tyler Development Board chairman Ralph Spence served as Executive Committee Member at large and Tyler Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Hardy served as Chamber of Commerce representative.
The second TSC board served from July 16, 1984 through October 1985. Tyler Mayor Charles Halstead served as General Chairman with Gary Gwyn as vice-chairman. New committees included Membership, Special Projects, and Community Affairs. The position of “liaison” (otherwise unspecified) was added to the board. Evelyn Muntz served as the first elected secretary-treasurer. Four inaugural board members transitioned to the newly established Advisory Board, including Calvin Clyde Jr, George Hamm, Ann Primer, and Carol Sinclair. Real estate agent Ben Fitzgerald served as the fifth Advisory Board member.
The third TSC board served from October 24, 1985 through September 1, 1987 under the leadership of Ann Primer (General Chairman) and Gary Gwyn (vice-chairman). No new committees were added. The new Advisory Board consisted of Calvin Clyde Jr, Jean Marie Fey, Ben Fitzgerald, Charles Halstead, George Hamm, and Carroll Sinclair.
The fourth TSC board was elected in August 1987, serving September 1, 1987-June 1989. Tyler philanthropist and educator Margaret Loftis was elected President, a title designated by the modified TSC by-laws to replace “General Chairman”. Mrs. Loftis joined the organization as Community Affairs Chairman in 1984. Gary Gwyn served as vice-president. The Board of Directors eliminated positions of executive committee representative and liaison. A new position, Chairman of the International Executive Board (George Hamm), was added. The fourth Advisory Board included Calvin Clyde, Jr, Charles Halsted, J.R. Montgomery, Ann Primer, and Norman Shtofman.
During Mrs. Loftis’ tenure as president, Tyler Sister Cities moved to a new office in the Olde English Village at 3502 F. South Broadway. Membership fees were $5 for students, $10 for individual members, $15 for families, $100 for patrons, and $1000 for sponsors. During her first year in office, TSC reported 79 paid memberships, 29 board members, and 12 active committees. Tyler Sister Cities partnered with Sister Cities International and the University of Texas at Tyler to establish the Eisenhower International Golf Classic in 1987, a fundraising event which provided scholarships for international students pursuing higher education in U.S. Sister Cities.
Margaret Loftis chaired the executive board for the inaugural Sister Cities Young Artist Competition, titled “Expressions of Peace”, in 1988-1989. Tyler Sister Cities was responsible for collecting all applications for the showcase, establishing judging criteria, planning and coordinating the local competition and national exhibition, and delivering winning entries to the 1989 Sister Cities International Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon. The event showcased the work of student artists from around the globe in conjunction with the 1989 Eisenhower International Golf Classic. Later renamed the Young Artists Showcase, the competition continued as a hallmark event of the Eisenhower IGC through 1999. Sister Cities International celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Young Artists Showcase in 2013.Note written by Samantha Winn