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Conversation with Larae Bakerink on Mensa and Events: (Former) Elected Chair, American Mensa; (Former) Member, International Board of Directors, Mensa International (2)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/11/08


LaRae Bakerink was the Elected Chair of American Mensa and a Member of the Executive Committee of the International Board of Directors of Mensa International. She has been a Member of San Diego Mensa since 2001. Bakerink earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an M.B.A. in Management. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Steve. She discusses: Mensa International membership and a 2016 presentation; and Mensa presentations.

Keywords: American Mensa, Executive Committee, intelligence, IQ, Lancelot Ware, Larae Bakerink, Mensa Foundation, Mensa International, Roland Berrill, San Diego.

Conversation with Larae Bakerink on Mensa and Events: (Former) Elected Chair, American Mensa; (Former) Member, International Board of Directors, Mensa International (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: And just to give people who are reading this an idea of the age difference compared to every other organization under the label of a high IQ group or society organization, it’s old.

LaRae Bakerink[1],[2]: Mensa International is 100. I think we’re over 150,000 now. I have to go back and look at the numbers.

Jacobsen: I mean Triple Nine society has close to 2,000, the Mega Society, maybe, has 26 to 40, or something. It’s not a lot of people, comparatively, and so Mensa International is really tapping into a good rarity and longevity as an organization.

Bakerink: Yes, this year, we’ll be 75 years. It started with Lancelot Ware and Roland Berrill.

Jacobsen: Yes, so, this kind of organization is, as far as I can tell by doing all of the interviews that I’ve done so far and some of the writing, unique in terms of size and longevity and growth rate, just a continual what would appear to be a year-on-year growth. So, how big is American Mensa?

Bakerink: I think we are at 49,000 right now because we only have a renewal once a year. It’s like our numbers go up, up, up, up, up, up until November 31st and then April 1st it goes back down for those who have not renewed. We’ve lost some members over the years because there’s so many different things out there now. There’s Facebook and different social media groups and MeetUp and all that kind of thing that gives people another avenue to find smart people or likeminded people. I know that British Mensa has been losing some members for the same reason. But the newer national Mensas are like the new ones coming in, like Mexico and Peru and India. They’re really starting to grow because Mensa is new there. So, it just depends on the outlook. And I think that we will be able to bring things back around after Covid.

Because one of the things that American Mensa, I think Mensa International in general, is good at is our events. That’s what really gets people excited about it because of the different things we do at our events. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my life and Mensa conferences are the most unique I’ve ever been to. Because there are no parameters on what’s going to be discussed or what presentations, they’re going to be everything from aardvark to zoo, just the whole range. I think we had this young man who built his own robot. He’s eight or nine years old. Built his own robot, programmed it and then came and gave a presentation on it. Just amazing, amazing, young man. And then we have people talk about how to travel, where to travel, the best ways to travel, just everything you can think of. But it’s all going on at the same time at the same conference.

So, you’re never at a loss for something to go look at. Plus, there’s a huge games room because our people are really into games and puzzles. And pretty vicious about it, sometimes, the tournaments get real, and then some of them just want to sit around and talk. We have a debate room that goes from like Wednesday all the way through Sunday. And every hour there’s a different thing that they’re going to debate on, and the room is always packed. Because it’s like, “I have an opinion on that, I must let you know what it is.” It’s the in-person version of like online stuff. And they talk about everything, controversial stuff to just really benign. And if you want to learn anything, there’s a way to find it out because there are some experts in it or someone who has so much knowledge that you can learn from them.

And then we have the entertainment, we always have great speakers. My favorite, of course, was Wil Wheaton because that was my speaker. In 2016, I was the chair of the annual gathering here in San Diego. We had 2,400 people and we took over an entire hotel complex. It was all Mensas for four and a half days and Wil Wheaton was our keynote speaker. And he was amazing, I sold 900 tickets because the dinner and the keynote is like separate from the whole rest of the conference. But we sold 900 dinners to be able to see him.

Jacobsen: So, in the 2016 presentation, what’s the keynote speech? What was the particular presentation?

Bakerink: What he talked about is what it was like growing up Star Trek. He talked about how the nerds have won because by that time all the new Marvel movies had been coming out and it’s like all this stuff that as I was a kid and the comic books and stuff that I read, it’s like all coming to life and people aren’t making fun of it now. They’re standing in line at the theaters to go see it. So, that’s kind of what he was talking about is like hey guys we won, the nerds one. But then he talked about his depression and how he deals with it, very, very emotional and there were people in the audience half of them were in tears. He was supposed to talk for about 30 minutes, about 50 minutes later he’s finally walking off of stage just to outrageous standing ovation because he spoke at our level and spoke to a lot of the people that felt odd or different or misunderstood because that’s how he felt about himself. So, he was very, very relatable. But we’ve had like Penn Jillette, we’ve had I can’t remember the guy from Mythbusters.

Jacobsen: Is it the guy with the…

Bakerink: No, not Jamie, not the guy with the moustache, the other guy. But I know I just completely lost his name. He was our keynote one year. In Florida it was Penn Jillette. We’ve had astronauts, we’ve had Dr. Demento. We’ve had over the years some really wild keynote speakers. And it gets people excited and it’s something that we can do for our members as an organization. And it’s something we provide at pretty low cost compared to anybody else. I know all my business type conferences were super, super expensive. But the annual gathering cost’s about a quarter of it and it includes a lot of the meals. So, people are just hanging out and having a great time. And that’s one of the things that really, really gets our members excited is some of the events we put on. But it’s not just our annual one.

Each of the local groups, we have 128 local groups in 10 regions in the United States. And there’s probably 30 of what we call regional gatherings a year and it may be one local group or maybe a couple of the local groups get together and they put on a mini conference. And these are all throughout the year. So, you could travel from what we call RGs because we have all these acronyms, RGs, AGs, everything. But you can travel from RG to RG all year long and visit with Mensas all across the United States. Now there’s always something going on; there are lunches. With Covid, we’ve been doing Zoom meetings like crazy. Zoom presentation speakers just to keep everybody involved. Our groups have been doing Zoom movie nights and puzzle evenings and cocktail hours and wine tastings to where they’ll all order the same wine, and then they’ll get together and taste on Zoom and compare if they’re there together.

So, they’ve gotten really creative with it. And it’s nice because one of the benefits, I think, that’s come out of this whole covid thing is because of Zoom and that availability. A lot of our members that would not go to something in person. Now, they’re hitting New York and Florida and Indianapolis and attending events there all online. But they’re keeping themselves interested and involved.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Former Chair, American Mensa; Former Member, International Board of Directors (Executive Committee), Mensa International; Former Ex-Officio Member, Mensa Foundation; Member, San Diego Mensa.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 8, 2021:; Full Issue Publication Date: January  1, 2022:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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