A familiar name has been given a new role and responsibility for the AAPG Foundation, which itself is intensifying its efforts to build support and community among Foundation advocates.
Rick Fritz, a past AAPG president and, before that, executive director of both AAPG and the AAPG Foundation, has been named chair of AAPG Foundation Advancement – a new position created to develop and maintain a community of donors.
His engagement is the response to a need the Foundation leadership discussed throughout the past year, said Trustee Chair Jim McGhay: How can we remain relevant and re-energize the Foundation’s approach to its mission?
The move comes at a crucial time for the Foundation, which successfully continued to support geoscience activities and initiatives throughout the pandemic but is now seeking a renewed vitality and higher profile – both within and outside of the profession.
“We believe that our future is bright, strong and necessary, and we want to be involved in a robust and active way for our beneficiaries,” said Jim McGhay, chair of the Foundation Trustees.
“We in the geosciences – particularly related to energy, the environment, the climate and the welfare of mankind – are uniquely situated to play an important role in all of these topics, but we must become part of the discussion,” he said. “We want to be included.”
Having Fritz return to the Foundation as the point person for the new initiatives and profile-raising endeavors was an obvious choice for the Trustees.
First, Fritz remains active in the industry and profession and can relate to professional dynamics; he is president of Fritz Energy Partners and is about to start a new venture developing prospects.
Second, “As a TA himself, Rick is a very active, involved and knowledgeable member of the Association, and as a past executive director, almost everyone knows Rick,” McGhay said.
“And he loves to talk and connect with our members,” he added. “He is the perfect person for this role.”
The Fresh Connection
Fritz’ work already is under way, starting in the early spring when he began to personally telephone loyal Foundation supporters – most typically, members of the Foundation Trustee Associates – to re-establish human connections.
“We needed to find out what we are doing right and what else we could be doing,” McGhay said, “and we thought that by direct personal contact with the TAs we could uncover some of the issues and opportunities to support the efforts.”
So far, the outreach experience has been not only beneficial for the Foundation, but a lot of fun for Fritz.
“It’s a great opportunity to reach out to (people),” Fritz said, “and it’s great to call an old friend and hear the welcome and gladness in their voice that you called.”
He’s been able to talk to colleagues and “old friends” that he’s missed, in some cases, for several years, as well as meeting new people who may be unaware of the Foundation’s reach and impact.
“I’m surprised with every phone call,” he said. “I have the privilege to reconnect with some of the most successful geoscientists in our profession, (and) I hear a lot of great comments and ideas, such as what’s going on in our industry, what jobs are available … suggestions on how the Foundation can better serve.”
Admittedly, some who answer their phone have been “a little more reserved” on the calls, he added, “as they are trying to figure out if I am a robocall or asking for money.
“Once they realize that all I want to do is see how they are doing, they warm up very quickly.”
Fritz’ first thread, especially with those he knew, usually included just getting a response to the simple question, “How are you doing?”
“Many of our senior members are dealing with health issues,” Fritz noted, “and they are amazing in their resiliency and determination during times of suffering.”
During the conversation, however, he typically finds the opportunity to remind all – even the loyal supporters – of what the Foundation has accomplished over the past several years:
- Scholarships and grants to geoscience students around the world
- Increased professional development opportunities – often virtually, which meant programs such as the acclaimed Distinguished Lecture series were available on a global scale
- Expert geoscience insights and support for projects that directly impact the public’s understanding of the energy industry
- Financial support of international humanitarian projects involving – and often requiring – geoscience knowledge
And here’s the important part: Fritz then listens to what loyal supporters have to say – input and data that will be important for the Trustees as they navigate the Foundation’s future.
“I’ve heard many great ideas and stories,” Fritz said. “I appreciate all of these very special people.”
Q&A with Rick Fritz
Below are responses from Rick Fritz regarding his new role with the AAPG Foundation. Some comments have been edited for length.
What do respondents point to as the Foundation’s strength? What do they like about the Foundation?
Fritz: There really is not one strength – (that answer) varies from person to person. Some say its strength is in the people, others say it’s the fact that Foundation stays on its mission, and many see the strength of the Foundation in its support of student programs.
What do you think is the Foundation’s strength?
Fritz: I think the primary strength of the Foundation is both in its mission and its people. The Foundation is designed to meet certain needs in our profession, and the Trustees do a great job at recognizing and meeting those needs. Regarding people, the Trustee Associates represent some of the greatest and most successful geoscientists in our profession. It’s great that they are willing to pay it forward.
What are the challenges facing the Foundation and, specifically, the ongoing success of the TAs?
Fritz: The big challenge, of course, is related to the change in the job market – fewer petroleum jobs for now but also significant changes in geology departments and schools as they wrestle with the oncoming integration of energy resources. We will figure it out, and the Foundation will adjust to the needs of students and geoscientists.
The success of the TAs has always been the personal and professional relationships and the desire to give back after a good career.
What has surprised you most about the responses?
Fritz: I’m surprised with every phone call! I have the privilege to reconnect with some of the most successful geoscientists in our profession! I hear a lot of great comments and ideas such what’s going on in our industry, what jobs are available – both petroleum and non-petroleum, how the geosciences are changing in universities, suggestions on how the Foundation can better serve, etc.
One common thread is TAs would like more information on Foundation program spending and efficiency. To that end we are preparing more information to distribute online and at local receptions. We also are planning to hold a few Zoom calls each year to provide the Trustee Associates the opportunity to ask questions and build a little more community.
Why are people who have been retired for so many years still active in/connected to the Foundation?
Fritz: We have a wide range of retirees in the TAs, from 52 to 102 years old, so they stay active for various reasons. The TAs initially formed as a group to support the Foundation but also to stay connected as a professional group. Geoscientists form very strong bonds in their careers, and they want to keep them as long as possible.
Of course, as TAs age they begin to focus on other parts of their life – family, close friends, hobbies and health. Even so, most still give something to the Foundation each year.
What thoughts do you have about attracting a new generation of Foundation TAs?
Fritz: I think there is a lot of potential. The “Greatest Generation” led the way in forming the TAs and now the Baby Boomers are taking leadership roles. There are a lot of Baby Boomers retiring right now so this is a good time to recruit.
I start with contacting people I know in the profession who are not TAs. And many TAs I call have recommendations.
We also have started a new program called “University Alums to Trustee Associates.” Many of our TAs are familiar with alumni from their university so we are asking them to make contacts. Many of these alums have never been asked. Our test case is with Oklahoma State, and we have several who are interested. I am working now with TAs from the universities of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and Texas A&M.
On a personal note, why are you getting re-involved in the Foundation?
Fritz: As a past president, I realized the Association’s future will be determined by others. Although I am one of many who help the current president with strategic thinking, I am really out of the loop – I’m pasteurized – (but) as a result of my history with both the Association and the Foundation, I could see a great need in the Foundation to work with the Trustee Associates. The Trustees and staff had already recognized this need, too, and had started the process with surveys, newsletters and receptions.
As an AAPG volunteer I knew the power of direct contact. I had started calling members as House of Delegates membership chair and later as president-elect, but this was short-cut by the pandemic. As the result of our earlier calling, I also realized it was difficult for a volunteer or volunteers to make these calls. Life gets in the way. So, I made a proposal to the Trustees, they already recognized the need, so here I am calling all 300 Trustee Associates and looking for more.
What are your thoughts regarding the Foundation’s future?
Fritz: Geoscience and related professional societies are having a tough time staying relevant across the world. The Foundation represents the backbone of AAPG in that they are built to survive long-term, and they support many of the important and effective programs managed by the Association.
The Association will not survive without the Foundation, and as the AAPG and professional needs evolve I’m sure the Foundation will be there for support well into the future.