Daniel Burg has just been elected to serve as chair of American Mensa, which with 50,000 members is the largest national group in the largest and best known high IQ society in the world. So what will this 12-year member of Oregon Mensa do next?
He’s moving to Tulare County.
Now that the schoolyear has ended, Burg will move to Springville later this month with his sons, David, 8, and Aaron, 5. His wife, Ember, has already made the move south to become the assistant director of the pharmacy department at Sierra View District Hospital in Porterville.
Burg, a patent attorney who became a stay-at-home dad, met his wife at a Mensa leadership conference in 2000. He was there to present a program and she was the local secretary of the Iowa Mensa group. “She started emailing me to ask about Mensa business, but the conversation drifted to other things,” he said.
His main goals as chair include maintaining financial stability, increasing membership and providing more services for Mensa members. “We want to continue to expand our use of social media and revitalize our testing program,” he added.
Burg also plans to get Mensa more involved in community service during his two-year term. He noted a recent poll of members that supported the idea of increased visibility through community work.
“My philosophy of Mensa is simple: It is a gathering-place for intelligent people,” he explained in his first column in the Mensa Bulletin, the group’s national magazine. “Mensa is an amorphous body with no central goal around which everything is organized other than intelligence. This is a direct contrast to many membership organizations, which exist to, for example, help the needy or run chess tournaments or collect stamps. We have special interest groups that do each of these things, but Mensa’s whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Mensans talk about the weather and sports and the latest political scandal just as the rest of the population does, but with a difference: These people are intellectual peers.
“It has been said that, ‘During any Mensa party a serious discussion is likely to break out, and during any serious Mensa discussion a party is likely to break out,’” he continued. “Mensans are quick, and lively, and conversations really move. Personally, I like the fact that I can make a pun in a room full of Mensans and everyone ‘gets’ it right away. We also have our more serious side, such as giving scholarships and trying to restock damaged libraries, but each activity is inevitably stamped by Mensa’s blend of wit and camaraderie. Whatever we do will be uniquely Mensan, and that makes all the difference.”
But first things first. As this issue goes to press, Burg is preparing for the move to Tulare County. “This is going to be a big thing, with the boys going to different schools,” he said. “Springville is a different environment than Portland, and Portland is the only environment that they know.”
Burg will also notice a major difference in the local Mensa group from what he is used to in the 800-900-member Oregon Mensa. Tulare Kings Mensa is the southernmost area of San Francisco Regional Mensa, one of the largest and most active local groups in the U.S. In Tulare and Kings counties, there are currently 30 members who have been getting together at Panera Bread in Visalia on the second Thursday of each month for the past few years, and have recently started to hold Mensa Game Days at GameQore in downtown Visalia. Two years ago, San
Francisco Regional Mensa held its regional gathering at the Visalia Marriott, featuring talks by Supervisor Phil Cox, local historian Terry Ommen, a sing-along, a paranormal investigation and talks about a variety of subjects.
Burg was asked if Mensa was an elitist group.
“In one sense, perhaps it is,” he said, explaining that people have to qualify for membership based on IQ tests. “But in another sense, we’re the least exclusive and most inclusive group. Our members include dropouts through doctorates, doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers and truck drivers. We have no restrictions. You don’t have to be voted in. If you qualify, you can be a member. It’s a big tent. We have people from many backgrounds.”
Prospective members can apply by submitting evidence of scores from prior intelligence tests, according to the American Mensa website, us.mensa.org. Many members have qualified based on a test they took in high school, in the military or to qualify for law school. Mensa also offers proctored tests, which have been given at the Visalia Marriott three times in the past two years. A score in the top 2 percent of any accepted test qualifies someone for membership.