By John F. Schuessler, Former International Director [2000 - 2006]
MUFON officially began on May 31, 1969. At that time it was known as the Midwest UFO Network. As it outgrew the Midwestern state boundaries to become a world class UFO organization, the name was changed to Mutual UFO Network. That allowed the acronym MUFON to remain as the organization matured. Allen Utke, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wisconsin State University was selected as the first MUFON Director. A year later Walter H. Andrus, Jr., replaced Dr. Utke as the MUFON Director, a position he held until 2000 when he retired and John F. Schuessler took over as International Director. John retired in November 2006 and James Carrion became the International Director. James Carrion resigned at the end of 2009 and Clifford Clift became the International Director. He resigned in January 2012 and David MacDonald became took over. And now, at the 2013 MUFON Symposium in Las Vegas, Jan Harzan became the new Executive Director.
MUFON is born...
During the 1960s Walt Andrus worked hard as a member of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) to develop a cadre of qualified investigators living in the Midwestern states surrounding his home state of Illinois. In 1967, he organized the Tri-State UFO Study Group operating in the states of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois and he recruited John Schuessler to join him as an investigator and volunteer as a consultant to APRO.
During 1968 and 1969, a number of events took place that had an impact on the UFO field. The University of Colorado completed the government-financed UFO study, with the study head Edward Condon presenting a very negative picture of the worth of further UFO studies. These results enabled the U.S. Air Force to close its administrative UFO office dubbed “Project Blue Book.” The press didn’t bother to look at the details of the University study and reacted only to Condon’s summary of the study by using the media to declare that the UFO mystery was solved.
At the same time the APRO management reacted to the government’s words by reinforcing their centralized management approach. They wanted to direct the work of each investigator in the field from the office in Tucson, Arizona; thereby eliminating the need for mid-level management in the field. They ignored the fact that industry was turning to the decentralized management style. Walt was still getting a flow of UFO reports from the Midwest in spite of the government’s declarations that nothing was going on. To respond with alacrity, Walt needed the latitude to induct and train field investigators and to make decisions about how investigations were conducted in his own back yard.
Pleas to the APRO management only made them more determined that the Midwest contingent was a hindrance rather than a help to APRO. Walt coordinated with a number of the affected Mid-western workers and finally concluded that it was necessary to add some grassroots structure to the organization because the sightings were happening in local areas. The only way to deal quickly and effectively was to have people ready and enabled to respond when a report came in. On May 31, 1969, Walt convened a meeting of a number of the active UFO investigators from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. In the interest of improving and correlating UFO observation reports, Allen R. Utke, Ph.D., Consultant to APRO in Chemistry and Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wisconsin State University in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, proposed the organization of the Midwest UFO Network to include the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.
MUFON, then to be known as the Midwest UFO Network was born as the grass roots organization envisioned by Allen & Walt. An observer network in community areas formed the basic investigating level in MUFON. The observers reported through geographical state section directors to the State Director. The State Directors made up the Board of Directors who reported to the Midwest UFO Network Director. Dr. Utke was selected as the first MUFON Director. It was decided that MUFON would be affiliated with APRO, but not controlled by APRO. This was seen as an early step in inter-organization cooperation, a hallmark for the future of MUFON.
For some time Walt, John and several others had been active contributors to SKYLOOK, a Missouri-based UFO newsletter edited and published by Mrs. Norma Short. As a result, SKYLOOK quickly became the official organ of the Midwest UFO Network. Although the name was eventually changed to the MUFON UFO Journal, the publication continues and issues are still distributed monthly.
The annual symposiums begin...
During the first year it became obvious that MUFON should host an annual conference where detailed papers could be presented. It was a way for investigators and researchers to meet face-to-face to share the results of their work with the MUFON membership and the general public.
The first day-long conference was held in Peoria, Illinois, on June 13, 1970. The conference began with Dr. Utke speaking to a near capacity crowd on “UFOs and the Problem of Scientific Evidence”. Ted Phillips then presented “Burned Circles and Saucer Nests: What is Their Significance?” John Schuessler followed with “The UFO – Just Beyond the State of the Art.” Then came professional photographer Robert Smulling with an interesting UFO slide show. APRO secretary Coral Lorenzen presented “UFOs – 1970, An Up-to-Date Report.”
The evening session featured Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who concentrated on the future of UFO investigations. Dr. Hynek advised the “progress in UFOs will be made by dedicated individuals in the next few years, using their own funds and specializing in one area.” In the final analysis, he said, bringing scientific recognition to the UFO problem boils down to upgrading the data about UFOs.”
At the second Midwest UFO Conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1971, the presenters were required to submit copies of their planned presentations before the conference. These papers were bound as the proceedings of the conference and were made available to the conference attendees. That policy continues and a very professional set of conference proceedings is available at every MUFON Annual Symposium. This is a fantastic record of the outstanding work done by UFO researchers.
Walt Andrus replaces Dr.Utke as head of MUFON...
Soon after the 1970 Peoria conference, Dr. Utke resigned his position as the Midwest UFO Network Director and the Board of Directors unanimously selected Walt Andrus as his successor. The selection of Walt as director was a wise choice. Walt was employed by the Motorola Company, as Assistant Plant Manager for the facility in Quincy, Illinois. Coupled with his experience in UFO investigations, aviation experience, weather monitoring experience, and ham radio experience, Walt brought his strong business management and human resources knowledge to the leadership role of MUFON.
Under Walt’s leadership, MUFON soon outgrew the Midwest. Individuals from around the world recognized the potential of the grass roots nature of MUFON and clamored to join. In 1973, the name was changed to eliminate the regional connotation of “Midwest.” The acronym “MUFON” was retained, as was the organizational concept of “UFO Network.” Since the word “mutual” best described MUFON’s dedication to sharing UFO information and research data, the new name for MUFON became the Mutual UFO Network.
MUFON recognized the need for cooperation and communication...
While some organizations were telling their members they couldn’t belong to other organizations at the same time or that they should avoid cooperating with other organizations, MUFON was looking for ways to increase cooperation in the UFO field. Some examples of MUFON's cooperative ventures are shown below.
MUFON’s credentials and summaries of MUFON activities were continuously presented to hundreds of writers, newspaper reporters, radio and television program representatives, television producers, independent researchers and MUFON members.