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Why I turned down membership in “Who’s Who in America”

Individuals become eligible for listing by virtue of their positions and/or noteworthy achievements that have proved to be of significant value to society.

Marquis website

… an honor, but not necessarily for me

It is not that I believe that I have not made some contributions to society.

I have made some, but to receive this message was a surprise,

We recently came across your profile and would like to invite you to apply for inclusion in the 2023 edition of Who's Who in America …

LinkedIn Message, March 2023

Everyone wants to receive plaudits for his or heraccomplishments, but when I first heard of Who’s Who in America, I thought of people in the upper echelon of society in terms of their accomplishments.

I did not, do not, think that I belonged in there, but I agreed to submit an application for consideration.


The complete message was this,

Hello Hugh,

We recently came across your profile and would like to invite you to apply for inclusion in the 2023 edition of Who's Who in America, representing America's Most Respected Educators!

There is no cost or obligation to be included in Who's Who in America!

This is an Invitation-only opportunity and inclusion is contingent upon verification and acceptance by the Marquis Submissions Department.

Marquis has been publishing the biographies of the world's most influential professionals since 1898. Inclusion is considered by many to be the pinnacle of success!

LinkedIn Message, March 2023

My first concern was whether Marquis Who’s Who is legitimately Who’s Who in America.

It is.

That led to an email with a request for an interview on March 23, which was very professional and upbeat. We went through my resume and accomplishments in life, some of which are not on my LinkedIn bio.

Certainly, I earned academic awards at Penn State, including Phi Beta Kappa. That was also a surprise for me when it happened — I think that I was probably an overachiever.

In and of itself, though, that was not sufficient for me

And certainly, one thing that Marquis noted is that I am still working in education even as I was about to turn 76 six days later. They were impressed that I set up a website for a business at the age of 75.

Still, I was not convinced that I belonged.

The woman who interviewed me was, and she invited me into membership in the 2023 class of Who’s Who in America.

I asked for more time

The conversation continued, and I was not certain that I belonged, though I did not say that. Instead, I listened, but then was told that I had to accept at that time or someone else might take my spot.

What made me more concerned with the rest of the conversation. Perhaps I did not understand it completely, but this is my interpretation of what was said.

The woman said that there were a variety of levels of membership. The first would cost $1399 and would be something like superior and the other was $1199. She went through what would be included in the membership. Maybe those are not the exact numbers, but they are close.

I had expected to purchase a book or something of value, but the numbers and that they basically sounded like a requirement were a surprise. Maybe I misunderstood, but after reading some information on the Better Business Bureau website, I think that I am right.

She asked if the amount of money was a problem for me, and I said that I could easily afford it. Money was not the problem.

She then said that there was a membership for $899, but at that point, I was turned off by it.

However, if I felt that I belonged, I would have spent the money and gone through with it.

Then, I started to do some research.

Portland State

I found a comment from a professor at Portland State University in which he said that he had paid more than a thousand dollars for some of the awards he had attained — and he had no problems with that.

However, one of the deans at Portland State disagreed,

Many PSU employees say they have received e-mails and letters asking to be in these publications, but some employees ignore them, brushing them off as a form of vanity. Scott Dawson, dean of the School of Business Administration, said he has received many emails asking him to buy awards, but he ignores them.

“It seems like a scam to me,” Dawson said. “You are trying to buy influence or awareness. It seems like a racket…it’s fluff.”

“Paying for prestige: the cost of recognition,” PSU Vanguard, February 15, 2007

In fact, the state of Oregon investigated Marquis at that time,

Jan Margosian, consumer information coordinator for the Oregon Department of Justice, said the state has looked into these types of companies before and has put many of them on notice for false advertising over the years.

The American Biographical Institute, the International Biographical Centre and Marquis Who’s Who do not have a record of upheld complaints with the state, Margosian said. She called all three companies “pretty tacky” and said customers should be wary.

“I don’t know why they would put you in there if they weren’t hoping to get you to buy the book,” Margosian said. “You truly have to look at how they are marketing and what the spin is. It’s something you might want to watch out for.”

“Paying for prestige: the cost of recognition,” February 15, 2007

I do not think that earning recognition in Who’s Who is a scam, but making membership contingent upon paying money was the final death knell in my consideration.

When I went through the list of people who were inducted last year, many have distinguished resumes. So, this is not intended to denigrate those who have been selected.

It is just that I believed that I have not achieved enough in my life to be on the same echelon as they are -- though I am grateful to even be considered.

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