The History of Virginia DECA

Virginia DECA works hard to serve as a springboard for opportunity and growth for its 13,000+ members throughout the state. The largest state association in the country for the last eight years, Virginia DECA helps marketing students prepare for careers in marketing, management, hospitality and finance.  ​

 

The Virginia DECA program of work is designed to create learning experiences that stretch beyond the traditional classroom experience.  DECA works to help students develop both personally and professionally by encouraging activities and employment experiences that help develop character, leadership and a sense of obligation to their communities.

 

The Early Days In 1937, Louise Bernard began working with the town of Waynesboro to develop training programs for the local business community.  A new plant had just opened in Waynesboro, bringing in a lot of new money to local employees.  Little of this money was being returned to Waynesboro and merchants were very concerned.  Miss Bernard spent three months analyzing the situation and educating local merchants and consumers about the wholesale-retail-service buying process.  The three month experiment was the basis for the establishment of the Virginia Distributive Education program. 

 

​The first Virginia Distributive Education Club was organized in March 1938, at Roanoke's Jefferson Senior High School with 44 members joining. The club was purely a social one, although its name, "Retail Club," might indicate otherwise. During the next five years, clubs were organized in another 12 schools, each one with a different name. In September 1942, the 13 local clubs formed a state organization, the "Distributors' Clubs of Virginia," and began planning for the first state convention to be held in Richmond in the spring of 1944. Under the direction of Miss Louise Bernard, State Distributive Education Supervisor, the new Virginia state club grew, and by 1947 included 32 schools with 638 members. Her leadership was instrumental in the Memphis Interstate Conference of state clubs where Virginia became a charter member of a national association. ​ 

 

During the early years, the Virginia association provided strong leadership to help ensure that DECA would become a viable national vocational youth organization. Louise Bernard and Ralph Rush respectively, served as DECA, Inc., President and Chairman of the Board for the organization's first five years. DECA was officially incorporated in Virginia in 1950. In 1953, the Virginia association provided funding for a national headquarters for the first DECA Executive Secretary, George Stone.  Virginia also hosted the 1955 National DECA conference in Richmond.  During the first 10 years (1947-1957), 20 Virginia students were elected to national office. Two students, Leonard Maiden (1949-1950) and Roy Horton (1954-1955) served as National DECA presidents.  

 

During the second 10 years (1957-1967) of the national association, Virginia formalized the district system forming statewide advisory board and policy committees to direct the course of the state association.James Horan, Jr. served DECA, Inc. as President and Chairman of the Board from 1960-1962. Virginian Walter B. Anderson persuaded L. G. Balfour Company to strike the DECA Diamond pin. In 1965, Ivan Perkinson was elected President of the postsecondary division of DECA. Also during the 1960s, Lucy C. Crawford of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) completed her landmark study, "A Competency-Based Approach to Curriculum Construction," that became the basis for the DECA competitive event program during the early 1970s. The second decade culminated with the awarding of an Honorary Life Membership to Virginian, Louise Bernard. 

 

The third decade (1967-1977) began with James Horan, Jr., succeeding Miss Bernard as State Supervisor and DECA state membership increased exponentially by 3,500 in one year (1970). I.W. Baughman served on the DECA Board of Directors from 1971-1974.  Many Virginians (John Hudson, Lynn Rhudy, Ivan Perkinson, Dale Clark, and Marvin Brown) were members of the DECA headquarters staff during the 1970’s. Many others offered leadership and technical services on a part-time basis.

 

The fourth decade (1977-1987) brought an increase in enrollment to 18,337 members.  Several research studies were conducted for DECA by the Virginia Tech staff during this time, the "Corbin Study and the "Berns Study," to name two. Dr. Richard Lynch provided national leadership in the development of competency based competitive events, and Dr. Vivien Ely and Ettalea Kanter also provided strong leadership at the national level. Elinor Burgess was elected Vice President of the American Vocational Association (AVA) in 1978-1981, thus becoming another member of the DECA Board. A permanent full-time Virginia DECA Specialist was employed in 1978, and in 1980, a complete in-service training program was given to all 358 DECA chapter advisors. In 1980, in commemoration of National DECA's 30th anniversary, Virginia DECA state officers presented a 50-year time capsule for burial at the National DECA Center. In 1984, Virginia DECA contributed $20,000 to the national building fund and the center's conference rooms were renamed theVirginia Rooms. Dr. Betty Heath-Camp was elected as AVA Vice President in 1987, and began her term as a member of the DECA Board. Since 1987, Virginia DECA membership has stabilized and great effort has been made to refine and improve the Virginia local program of work for chapters. Dr. William Price of Virginia Tech was a leader in this effort. 

 

James Horan retired in 1988, and James A. Gray, Jr., then DECA Association Advisor,  was named as the state's third State Supervisor. Virginia DECA offers scholarships each year to members in honor of past leaders in our organization.  The VA DECA Foundation manages all scholarships.  To donate or find out more information please visit the VA DECA Foundation webpage. Virginia DECA celebrated its 50th anniversary on March 5 - 7, 1993, at the George Washington Inn inWilliamsburg, Virginia. In 2002, Virginia DECA became the 4th state association to ever surpass the 10,000 member mark. In 2004,Virginia became the largest state association in the country, with more than 11,000 members. Virginia DECA reached an historic level in 2005, when it became the first state association in the history of the organization to surpass the 12,000 member mark with 12,435 members.  In 2009 we continued to set records by being the first state to surpass the 14,000 member mark and remain the largest state association in the country. VA DECA has been able to keep its standing as the largest state association in DECA consistently through out the last ten years.