The Isolated Statisticians group came into being in 1991 when Don Bentley (Pomona College) and Jeff Witmer (Oberlin College) put a note on a bulletin board at JSM in Atlanta inviting statisticians teaching at small schools to a meeting. Fourteen of us attended that first meeting, where we discussed the teaching of statistics and the role of a statistician situated in a mathematics department, with no statistics colleagues in that department. We also collected email addresses (half of which were for the bitnet network!), which eventually led to setting up a listserv at Oberlin College (which was then firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jeff Witmer wrote an article in the AmStat News, which helped raise awareness of the group prior to the 1992 meeting at JSM in Boston, which had attendance in the low 20s. The 1993 isostat meeting at JSM in San Francisco had 21 in attendance and an agenda that included involving undergraduates in research and consulting, using graphing calculators (the TI82 was a hot new product), and favorite software packages. By the fall of 1993 there were 53 names on the isostat distribution list.
The group met in Toronto at JSM in 1994, with 22 present. We continued to say "If you feel isolated then you probably are" and membership was open to anyone. "Membership" meant having one's name on the isostat listserv, maintained by Jeff Witmer, who served as convenor of the group. Of the 50+ members, perhaps 10 were at larger schools (e.g., Purdue and Florida) while almost all from small liberal arts colleges.
By 1995 we had 69 members, of whom 35 attended the "annual department meeting of isolated statisticians" at JSM, where we discussed the math stat course, the CUPM guidelines, the job market, and other topics. We were up to 140 members by 1996 and 55 attended the meeting at JSM in Chicago, which included a visit by ASA Executive Director Ray Waller and ASA President-Elect-Elect David Moore (an isostat member from early on).
In 1997 Dex Whittinghill stepped up to become moderator of the group (while Jeff Witmer continued to maintain the listserv). Attendance at JSM in 1997 was 41, including Ray Waller and 4 other non-members. We talked about the new version of S-Plus that had an easier interface that made it more suitable for teaching, degree programs in statistics (including undergraduate concentrations), the new AP Statistics exam, and issues related to finding research partners, among other topics. In 1998 there were 38 statisticians at the JSM isostat meeting, where topics included the Quantitative Literacy project and support for Isostat-ers coming up for tenure.
In 1999 attendance at the usual Sunday evening isostat meeting at JSM was 43. Topics included calculus-based introductory courses, undergraduate statistics majors -- only two schools had a statistics major, 6 had a concentration in statistics, and 10 or so had a minor in statistics -- the difficulty of hiring statisticians at liberal arts colleges, web assisted courses, and other topics. In 2000 attendance stood at 38 and major topics were the relationship of the Isolated Statisticians and the MAA's new SIGMAA on Statistics Education, the status of MAA Guidelines, the Undergraduate Statistics Education Initiative, and whether isostat should formalize its existence. The listserv had a little under 200 names at that point.
The 11th isostat meeting was held at JSM in 2001, hosted by Dex Whittinghill, with 45 present. Discussion touched on the MAA's SIGMAA on Statistics Education, the function of the listserv, course management software, and ASA membership. At JSM 2002 Ann Cannon took over as moderator of the group and 33 members attended the annual meeting.
In 2009 the Isolated Statisticians became an official Subgroup of ASA, which meant writing a charter and formalizing the positions of Convenor and List Keeper.
The group has seen much growth over the years. In 2004 there were 195 members on the listserv. By 2007 that number was up to 225 and by 2011 that number was up to about 250. It was around 275 in 2012, then around 300 in 2013, 325 in 2014, 335 in 2015, 375 in 2016, 400 in 2017, 425 in 2018, and 450 in 2019.
In 2012 there were approximately 35 in attendance at the annual meeting at JSM in San Diego, where topics included defending statistical collaboration as scholarship, the MAA-CUPM guidelines for students majoring in mathematical sciences, and venues beyond JSM for students to present their work and learn about the statistics profession. This was the first year that Isostat sponsored a session at JSM (on "Expanding the Job Search").
In March 2017, Mine Dogucu (previously at Denison University now at University of California Irvine) became the convener of the group. Even though, usually conveners change every two years from JSM to JSM, KB Boomer had served five years for her two year position. Mine will serve until JSM 2020 for this position. During her time as a convener, the only JSM business meeting she could chair was in 2019 (thanks to Jeff for chairing all the rest). Prior to this meeting, she had prepared a list of job openings for isolated statisticians. The discussions during the meeting included the state of the job market and how to attract highly skilled early career statisticians to the Isostat group and to our campuses.
As of 2020 there are slightly over 460 members on the listserv.