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10 November 2023

Milton Potee, FCSI, WWII Veteran

While searching for information about CSI's Fellows, I discovered many were veterans. Given that CSI was founded in 1948, immediately after World War II, this was no surprise; early CSI members were adults during the war. There are many websites dedicated to one or another of the multitude of WWII units, and I found several references to people who later would become Fellows. A couple of times, I thought I would try to summarize information about all Fellows who were veterans, but I have not yet finished that project.

A few years ago, while updating Milton Potee's biography, I discovered several references to his military service. As is often the case for many WWII veterans, he mentioned nothing about his service in the autobiography he wrote for the College of Fellows, and even his obituary observed simply that "He also served in the United States Army Air Corps in WWII." As it turns out, that's a bit of an understatement, and I'd like to tell you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Before graduating from Ames High School in 1943, Milt had already enlisted in the Army Air Forces (AAF or USAFF). He was sent to the Harlingen Army Air Field aerial gunnery school in Texas in January 1944, where he graduated as an aerial gunner with the rank of PFC (private first class). April of 1944 found him at Hamner Field, in Fresno, California, and in May he went to Muroc Army Airfield in California (renamed Edwards Air Force Base in 1950). In July 1944, he was stationed on New Guinea, in the South Pacific Theatre. He was promoted to corporal, then transferred to the 13th AAF Long Rangers, where he spent thirteen months as a tail gunner and assistant engineer in a B-24 Liberator bomber. He was promoted to technical sergeant in October 1944.

Pictures courtesy of the Ames Historical Society

Milt's unit, the 370th Bomb Squadron, 307th Bomb Group (Heavy), 13th AAF, saw a lot of action in the South Pacific. It was based in Guadalcanal in 1943, where it attacked Japanese bases in the Solomon and Bismarck Islands, Truk, Palau, and Rabaul. Moving forward as the war progressed, it moved to New Georgia, then took part in the recapture of the Philippines, targeting Leyte, Luzon, and Japanese shipping, and took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. When Milt was discharged from the AAF in October 1945, he received five Air Medals, the Good Conduct Ribbon, the Philippine Liberation ribbon, and the Asiatic-Pacific ribbon with six battle stars. After the war, Milt maintained contact with his comrades through the 307th Bombardment Group Association, attending annual reunions and contributing to its newsletter. He appeared in a news report on KRQE 13 News in 2014, when the reunion was in Santa Fe. He shows up briefly a few times, and has a speaking part at 1:35.

Photo courtesy of the 307th Bombardment Group Association

Milt participated in the Veterans History Project, created by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. His video narrative, obtained by an interview with Olivia Olson, is in the Library.

Milt also helped organize, and attended, high school class reunions.

Article courtesy of the Ames High School Alumni Association

It's worth noting that Milt played a part in creating the "Book of Fellows." At the 1990 meeting of the College of Fellows, it was suggested that a "History of the Fellows" be produced to record information about Fellows, along with the accomplishments that led to Fellowship. The committee formed to pursue this task included Tom Sneary, Jorgen Graugaard, Edwin Johnson, Robert Molseed, Edwin Pairo, Everett Spurling, Howard Steinmann, and Milton Potee. The "Book of Fellows" was published until 2001, after which the biographies were moved first to the Fellows' website (, and more recently to the CSI website,

Milt Potee and Joe McGuire

After leaving the Air Force in October 1945, Milt attended the University of Iowa and graduated with a BS in 1950. He was a district sales manager for Pratt & Lambert in Chicago from 1950 through 1988. Milt joined CSI in 1964 and served on several committees, and in a variety of positions, in the Chicago Chapter, and was Vice President of the Institute in FY1979. He retired in 1988 and moved to Rogers, Arkansas, where he passed away in 2018. 

My thanks to the following for information about Milt's history:

The 307th Bombardment Group Association
The Ames History Museum
The Ames High School Alumni Association
The Los Alamos Daily Post

This article first appeared in the June 2019 CSI College of Fellows Update, e-newsletter for the College of Fellows, which is no longer published.

11 July 2023

CSI convention memories

Each year, as the annual CSI convention approaches, I can't help but think back to other conventions. I haven't been to all of them since I became a member in 1987, but I haven't missed too many, either. I suppose you could say they're all the same, and in many respects, they are, but each had its unique experiences. 

My first convention was in Chicago, in 1990. The second was in San Diego, in 1991. I had never been to California before, and I discovered why everyone wants to live there. My third convention was in San Francisco, in 1994. It was the first time I brought my family along, and since then, my wife has accompanied me each time, and one or both of our children - and their spouses - made it to a few more.

Many of today's CSI members missed the days when we had fabulous hospitality suites and parties that went on into the early hours of the morning. The education sessions and exhibit hall have been much the same until the last few years, but there were a lot more extracurricular activities many years ago.

And now, my first convention. The year was 1990. The Institute president was S. Steve Blumenthal. The president of the host chapter was Gary Betts, who later went on to be president of the Institute.

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  • Keynote speakers: Studs Terkel, Willard Scott. These names don't mean much today, but they were big names then. Terkel was an author, historian, actor, and broadcaster, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Scott also was an author and actor, as well as a comedian. And, he was the creator of the original Ronald McDonald, and played the part in 1963.
  • Preconvention tours: Underwriters Laboratory, "Chicago Architecture Seen From the Chicago River".
  • Hotel (double occupancy): Chicago Marriott, $113, Hyatt Regency, $110, McCormick Center, $106; Lenox Suites, $109.
  • Interesting programs: Editing On-Screen, Integration of CAD Drawings and Specifications; CSI Format for Mechanical and Electrical Specifications. 
  • Registration: $160.
  • Travel, from Minneapolis: $75, motor coach direct to hotel, refreshments included.

A brochure produced by the Chicago Chapter offered some interesting statistics about CSI conventions. According to the brochure, the third national CSI convention was held in Chicago in 1959; there were 100 exhibit booths. In 1970, Chicago again hosted the annual convention, this time with 256 exhibit booths. In 1990, the convention returned to Chicago. For the first time, the number of exhibit booths exceeded 1,000, and a new attendance record of 10,650 was set, a record that stands to this day.

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I had been a CSI member for three years, but this was my first trip to the annual convention. The Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter set up a package deal including both lodging and transportation, and we sent a busload of delegates. We left at at 7:30 a.m., 28 June, and returned about 1:00 a.m. Monday morning, after the banquet.

The show was only three days, running from Friday, 29 June through Sunday, 1 July. As a newbie specifier, I had a hard time deciding which programs to attend. The exhibit space in McCormick Place was unbelievable! As I started down the first aisle, I began stuffing my shoulder bag full of literature. I soon acquired another bag; by the time I got to the end of the first aisle, the bags were bursting, and I could hardly drag them around the corner. Fortunately, someone told me the manufacturers would send information by mail.

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The two big Saturday night events were hosted by Sherwin-Williams and Dover Elevators. The Sherwin-Williams event was a dessert party that filled an entire ballroom; chocolate-dipped strawberries were featured, and appeared on the invitations, which included a metal pin. 

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The night ended with the Dover party, which included refreshments and a live band. This was my first encounter with convention mixers and hospitality suites, and it was also the first time I had seen some of our more esteemed members - and their spouses - in a non-business setting. I learned that these stuffed-shirt, tightly-wound, tie-wearing specifiers had another side; I was shocked to see them toss aside their jackets and ties and dance until the wee hours of the morning. Although I already had known many of our members who went to Chicago, the convention solidified many relationships that remained through my career. 


CSI's annual convention is always a great place to find out what's new in construction products, to learn from experts, and, just as important, to renew old friendships and find out how other members are trying to solve the same problems we face every day.

As much as we like to be efficient and schedule all of our meetings, there are times when a chance encounter will lead to more knowledge and more contacts. I liked the random nature of the exhibit floor. I would mark up a map to make sure I get to specific booths, but otherwise I just wandered through the aisles, wondering what I'd see around the next corner.

There's been talk about the impending death of trades shows, but it's hard to imagine a replacement. How else could you see so many products in a short time, talk with the manufacturers' reps, and hold the products in your hands? Working online can be faster, but talking with an unknown person in an unknown location does nothing to build relationships. It's easy to say that that doesn't matter, but when you have a problem, it's good to be able to call the go-to guy you know, who will be much more willing to take the time to help you figure out how to find a solution.

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30 May 2023

Memorial Day thoughts: Veterans, space probes, and a CSI Fellow

In the many years I’ve been working with the College of Fellows, I often have considered writing about the Fellows who served in World War II and other conflicts. Given the years the US was involved in WWII (1941-1945) and in the Korean War (1950-1953), it’s not surprising that many of the early Fellows served. I usually think about this in April or May, just before Memorial Day, but a more appropriate time would be Veterans Day, which honors everyone who has served. 

This year, I again thought about writing an article about Fellows who served, and again wrote nothing. I did post Memorial Day profile and cover photos on Facebook, though, and the photo of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reminded me of an interesting way the people named on that wall were honored. 

On 7 February 1999, NASA’s Stardust space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral. This mission was designed to collect interstellar dust, collect dust from the comet Wild 2, and return the capsule of samples to Earth. The mission required three orbits of the sun, visiting comet Annefrank in 2002, capturing samples from Wild 2 in 2004, and returning the samples to Earth in 2006. The probe itself remained in space, put into hibernation after the samples were delivered. It was reactivated in 2007 as Stardust/NExT, then sent to visit another comet in 2011, after which it was shut down permanently. The probe remains in orbit, but the capsule containing the samples is on display at the Smithsonian.

Late in 1997, The Planetary Society, working with JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), collected names to be placed on a microchip that would be mounted inside Stardust. 136,000 names were collected and etched onto the chip. The “Send Your Name to a Comet” drive was so popular that more names were collected. The first chip had already been mounted in the probe, so a second one was created. Two copies of each chip were made; one pair is in the capsule at the Smithsonian, along with a list of all the names on the chips, and the other pair will remain in orbit about the Sun for a very long time.

“That’s interesting,” you’re thinking, “but what does that have to do with Memorial Day?”

13 December 2018

A Dickens of a tale, revisited

This is an update of a piece I first published in 2007. I tweaked it just a bit to update some of the references. I hope you enjoy it!

 Scrooge's Third Visitor, John Leech
Scrooge's Third Visitor
Scrooge was an old man, set in his ways. And why not? He had been doing things the same way for many years, and the resulting success was sufficient evidence of the wisdom of continuing in that path. Whenever it was suggested that change might be a good thing, “Bah, humbug!” was his response. “I like things the way they are! I started this business, I’ve been doing things the same way for fifty years, and I don’t see any reason to change! All this new-fangled stuff is just a fad.”

One evening, a strange series of events befell our dear Mister Scrooge. Having had a particularly trying day, he tried to enjoy a rich repast and a few glasses of wine in an effort to forget his problems. As he fell asleep, he was thinking of how much fun he had had in his youth.

02 August 2018

Memories: TeamCS and MWGTW

I've been having a lot of fun lately, going through boxes of old Construction Specifier magazines, paper files I accumulated at the office, and digital files I've acquired in the last forty or so years. Among my own articles, I found a couple of series I wrote for CSI that might be interesting to look at again.

One of them was TeamCS, CSI's first attempt at an online magazine; forty-one issues were published from 1998 through 2003. Each month, a topic was given to four authors, representing the four team members as envisioned by CSI at that time. There were a couple of changes in authors over the years, but the ones I remember were Tom Deines, speaking for the constructor; Paul Bertram, speaking for the supplier; Phil Kabza, speaking for the designer; and me, speaking for the owner.

I don't know how many readers we had, or what the response rate was, but I suspect both were low. Nonetheless, we authors had a good time. Here is an example:

22 May 2018

The CSI College of Fellows on Facebook

The CSI College of Fellows has two Facebook pages. One, at, is the official page, where announcements from the College are posted. It focuses on College of Fellows announcements and activities. Formal reports of the passing of Fellows are posted here, as is information about new Fellows, the Celebration of Fellows, and College of Fellows history.

The other page, at, is more casual. This one is a group page, with membership restricted to CSI Fellows. It's a place for Fellows to talk with other Fellows about what they're doing. Members (again, restricted to Fellows) automatically are notified about new posts. For the last several months, we have been playing a game of "Who, when, and where?" A picture of Fellows from a past event is posted, and visitors are invited to guess who's in the picture, when it was taken, and where it was taken.

Anyone can visit either page, and anyone can comment, though comments from non-members may be moderated. Watch both of these pages for news about the College of Fellows, and when you have a few spare minutes, see if you can answer the "Who, when, and where?" questions. For a start, who is in this picture? When was it taken, and what are they doing? Post your answers on Facebook, at

14 May 2018

Head to head

It's been thirty-three years since I took my first job as a specifier. This glorious career came to an early end a few months ago when I left my last office, where I had worked for twenty-two years. Add to that the years I worked in "real" architecture after graduating from architecture school in 1975, and it's been a long road.

My last firm regularly announced milestone anniversaries, and, beginning with the tenth anniversary, each honoree was given the opportunity to say a few words. At my tenth and fifteenth anniversaries, I took a project manual to the lectern, opened it, and intoned, "And now for an interpretive reading of a specification section." The next time you speak, try it; it's always good for a laugh.

For my twentieth anniversary, I couldn't help but think back on my career. I decided I should compare myself to another writer, and, for reasons I can't explain, I chose Tom Clancy. That might sound crazy, but we're both prolific writers, and there is a resemblance…

21 February 2018

Construction documents - are they worse than ever?

Two women operating ENIAC; Wikepedia
Two women operating ENIAC; Wikipedia Commons
One of the presentations at the 2017 convention in Providence was a panel discussion titled Hot Topics and Emerging Trends, which included comments about the decline in the quality of construction documents. I found this to be an interesting subject, as I had seen many attacks on document quality over the years. Not only that, but I had made presentations on the subject.

In 1997, Michael Chambers and I presented “Document Coordination” for the Minnesota chapter of AIA. We discussed the roles of drawings and specifications, document quality, coordination techniques, short-form specifications, and MasterFormat 1995. Our handout included reprints of several articles about document quality; some, with scary titles, tried to prove that construction documents were atrocious and getting worse, while others how quality depended on coordination of construction documents.*