History of TOPS®
Since TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) was
founded in 1948, we have made some significant
achievements and grown both as an organization
and as a family. We're looking forward and
planning for the future, but we always want to
remember our past!
The idea of meeting with other dieters
for mutual encouragement occurred to Esther S.
Manz as she awaited the arrival of her fifth
child. While participating in group sessions
designed to prepare women for childbirth, she
witnessed the power of mutual support in helping
the women stay within their doctors' guidelines
for pregnancy. She discussed the idea with her
personal physician who encouraged her to carry
TOPS was born around a
kitchen table (wouldn't you know it!) in 1948
when Mrs. Manz and two friends gathered with
others at the Beulah
Milwaukee. Their desire
was to support each other to thinner figures and
Milwaukee Journal published an
article about the new group, Esther recalled,
"So many people showed up that we could hardly
get through the crowd to our meeting room!"
From the very beginning, TOPS decided that
anyone who succeeded in losing a lot of weight
deserved royal treatment. Within a year, TOPS
crowned its first queen. Queens have been
crowned in every year since then—and kings,
By the end of TOPS' second
year, Esther Manz was riding the bus to TOPS
chapters all over town, carrying the TOPS scale
and records in a shopping bag. "No wonder I lost
weight!" she said. To help keep all these new
members informed, she started publishing a
modest mimeographed paper called
Soon TOPS was
earning headlines everywhere and receiving
letters from as far away as
April 9, 1951, Esther's story appeared in
magazine. By then, TOPS had grown to about 2,500
South Dakota. Esther's
telephone rang constantly from 6 in the morning
until 11 at night. That disrupted the party
line, and TOPS had to get its first business
phone. TOPS ended the year with chapters in
every state and a total membership of over
6,000. In 1952, TOPS was incorporated.
Celebrating its sixth
anniversary in 1955, TOPS held its first
national convention (the forerunner of today's
International Recognition Days) in
Chicago at the American
Medical Association's headquarters. From the
very beginning, the AMA had helped TOPS
establish the sound medical ties that made it so
different from commercial weight-loss
organizations. The first KOPS (Keep Off Pounds
Sensibly) graduation was held at this 1955
In 1955, TOPS' first
Canadian chapter was chartered in
1962, TOPS moved into a building on
South 27th Street in
Milwaukee—but within two
years, TOPS had outgrown that structure. A new
TOPS headquarters was constructed at
4575 South Fifth Street,
and dedicated in 1965. The bricks for the
building were purchased by the members. With
several additions, it now comprises 48,000
square feet and is the home TOPS occupies today.
Esther S. Manz had long
dreamed of a research program to help find
causes and remedies for the problems of
overweight. In 1966, thanks to members'
contributions, this dream came true with the
establishment of the TOPS Club, Inc. Obesity and
Metabolic Research Program. By 1971, more than
200 TOPS members had participated in its
short-term inpatient studies in
Milwaukee. These studies
have expanded and continue to this day.
dream came true in 1975, when 59 women gathered
for the first TOPS retreat. Esther saw retreat
as a time for members to receive motivation in
their battle with overweight.
1980, TOPS published a monograph on nutrition
based on a dietary food exchange system. That
year, TOPS' first 25-year KOPS were honored.
Today it is not uncommon to honor KOPS of 40
years and more.
1991, Esther S. Manz retired as president after
43 years of dedicated service. Betty Domenoe
assumed TOPS' presidency at that time. That same
year, Dr. Ahmed Kissebah, a recognized expert in
obesity, was named as the new director of TOPS'
Obesity and Metabolic Research Program. He
succeeded Dr. Ronald Kalkhoff, who had recently
In 1994, the Medical College
of Wisconsin dedicated the
Center for Obesity
and Metabolic Research to recognize the $4.5
million that TOPS Club, Inc. had donated for
medical research. The center includes the Esther
S. Manz Laboratory and the Dr. Ronald K.
Kalkhoff Library. Current donations to obesity
research exceed $6.5 million.
Mrs. Domenoe retired in 2002
and was succeeded by LaNeida Herrick, who helped
streamline TOPS to complete its entry into the
21st Century. During her leadership,
the printing of
TOPS News was totally automated and printed
in full color, TOPS massive data base was
computerized and made available for Field Staff
to serve members more completely and quickly,
and the first TOPS Retreat Cruise was offered.
She retired in 2004. Though her years of service
were not many, her contribution to the future of
TOPS is substantial.
TOPS’ current president is
Barbara Cady, who was elected in 2005 after
LaNeida retired. Still proudly nonprofit, still
incredibly affordable for all people, the
organization continues to be innovative and
creative while remaining true to the original
principles and philosophy established more than
six decades ago. Outreach has extended to the
Internet, and more support is available than
ever before—and that support is here for you
24/7. With the support of TOPS, and Dr.
Kissebah’s groundbreaking research in the study
of the genetics of obesity, the promise for a
safe, scientific way to prevent, manage and
treat obesity glows brightly.