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Personal Growth. Global Impact.
Feed the Roots.

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Mick Schwedler P.E., ASHRAE Fellow, LEED AP | Inaugural Presidential Address | 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Annual Conference

Personal Growth. Global Impact. Feed the Roots.

Mick Schwedler P.E. | ASHRAE President's Leadership Moment | 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Annual Conference

ASHRAE’s growth is, and always has been, a direct result of our members’ personal growth. Today we’re going on a journey and we’ll see that since its inception, our Society has focused on that individual growth.

We’ll explore our rich history, not for history’s sake, but to appreciate how our founders established three sets of roots to help us grow – and how these roots led to our society’s global growth and impact. Then we’ll come full circle to understand the importance for each of us to “Feed the Roots” today, and for future generations.

Mick Schwedler, 2021-22 ASHRAE President
Mick Schwedler, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, LEED AP, 2021-22 ASHRAE President

ASHRAE’s heritage, our roots, begin in 1894 when 75 engineers meet in New York City and found our predecessor, the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers, or ASHVE. Charter Member Harrie Crane put into words reasons for founding this Society.

We wanted to form acquaintances – and as many of us have found, lifelong professional and personal friendships.

…to exchange theories and experiences…

Whether it’s been in our workplace, a chapter meeting or arguing about new designs at a happy hour, we’ve all done this – and often times, vigorously.

And, we get to consult and network as we learn from one another.

These establish our member-to-member connections.

From 1894 to today, this root of personal growth remains a tenet of our Society.

We now fast forward twelve years to our convention in Chicago.

On July 19, 1906, Illinois Members request formation of a Chapter – sanctioning the “opportunity to congregate.” This directly follows Mr. Crane’s vision and enhances individual Members’ growth

Chartered in 1906 this second root – known as our grassroots is an ASHRAE hallmark. These “grassroots” build upon and support individual member growth. Special thanks to our Illinois members for your foresight.

The opening video showed our first Chapter outside of the U.S. chartered in 1922, in Ontario, Canada. And, by 1956 we had grown significantly and organized into regions, but we were still exclusively North American.

In fact, it wasn’t until 90 years after our founding, when our global journey began with chapters in Singapore and Hong Kong. Then India, Africa, Mexico, Europe, and South America. Today, we are 199 Chapters with the most recent being Peru, Libya and Alexandria, Egypt. So, our second set of roots – our grassroots – have spread, strengthened, and led to amazing growth throughout the world.

Now, let’s pause and ask a question: How did you get here today and become part of this expansive root system? Who helped you grow, encouraged you, that is, who “fed your roots”? 

Please take out a paper and pen, your phone, or some other way to make a list. Now take 10 seconds to physically list the first names of 2-3 people who invested in you and helped you grow. That is – fed your roots.

Here’s a collage of people who fed the roots of President-Elect Advisory committee members…those involved in developing this year’s Society theme. For many of us, it’s probably hard to narrow down to 2-3 names.

It was for Mick.

So, many have guided and helped mold Mick, but here are the first.

In 1981 he received a job offer from a group led by Neil Patterson. At that time, he didn’t realize that Neil would become ASHRAE President about a decade later. And, we didn’t have today’s simple and polite way to connect a colleague to ASHRAE. Neil could be pretty firm and had his own “connect a colleague” method. Mick recalled Neil’s words were, “…you will be involved in ASHRAE,” and then he provided the support to do so.

That support resulted in Mick attending Technical Committee meetings. The first two TCs weren’t good fits. Then, one Monday evening, he walked into TC 1.5, Computer Applications.

The leaders, including Charlie and Mike, invited everyone to “the big table,” – to be involved. They encouraged and mentored Mick as he foundered in his first subcommittee chair assignment, and even convinced Mick, as a new, naive member, to be TC secretary for not two, but FOUR years as they restructured the TC.

All have been amazingly supportive mentors to Mick. Neil has passed away, but today, Mick gives a big thank you to Mike Brambley and Charlie Culp for feeding his roots.

Now, on to our third root, technology, which develops in 1917 with the founding of our Research Bureau. Led by E. Paul Anderson and one of our first female members, Margaret Ingels, here we are – over 100 years later still independently funding our research.

And, just two years later subcommittees were formed to oversee the research.

These were precursors of our present Technical Committees – now responsible not only for research, but also our Handbooks, conference sessions, and identification of Standards. These are our deep technical roots. These three strong and resilient roots have spread globally to our membership of more than 53,000.

Each of us here today has grown immeasurably due to being part of ASHRAE. As volunteers we’ve gathered and served – in our grassroots Chapters and Regions and through our technical contributions.

Collectively, our personal growth and united efforts have produced global impacts … to serve humanity…the first three words of our mission.

Let’s look at just a few of these global impacts.

First, our technical, education and training materials are well-known and respected worldwide…and available to everyone through our technology portal. They help ensure the built environment is efficient, resilient, reliable, and addresses our world’s ever-changing needs.

Next, in the last 104 years you and members like you have funded research, and since 1959 donated more than 78 million dollars. This leads to quality, independent research. Thank you.

As a board member, Mick has had the privilege to represent ASHRAE at other organizations’ conferences. Many of those associations absolutely covet Young Engineers in ASHRAE, known as YEA – who are now about 20% of our membership. YEA was a vision of many, and the young women and men who began in YEA are now leading us into the future and providing strong connections to young professionals and students entering our industry. And, our most recent global impact is our Epidemic Task Force.

Through volunteer efforts of more than 130 experts, ASHRAE is a beacon, providing needed information to mitigate the spread of disease, reopen buildings, and deliver education for building owners and operators. All to improve Indoor Environmental Quality – and keep people safe. The impact has been global and touched each of us locally.

This hit home personally for Mick.

Mick’s wife, Jen has an ASHRAE magnet on her van, and was speaking with her college roommate who works for the La Crosse County Health Department. Jen’s college roommate said, “ASHRAE, we use their information.”

THAT is impact.

In today’s terms, it’s time for a shout-out. We would not have made it through the past 16 months without the vision of President Gulledge to embrace technology. Who would have thought we could do our “work,” serve chapter members and carry on our mission-- without leaving our homes for months. 

Chuck, thank you for leading us through these tough times. But we all know that being fully digital has been hard.

This phenomenon was explained by author Alvin Toffler in his 1970’s book “Future Shock.” As our world uses higher technology, we need and crave personal connections. We all really understand his point today. To explain this, Toffler, coined the term “High-Tech / High Touch.”

How do we use this to move forward?

Many times, Mick has heard people say, “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.”

Please take no offense, but Mick doesn’t think we have any desire for “normal.” What we really want is the ‘extraordinary” we have. We will use our best virtual and personal practices, combined with historical roots, to move on to extraordinary.

First, our deep technical roots will continue to be fed through education, training, research, and other materials produced by our volunteer experts – delivered both virtually and in person. The Distinguished Lecturers who present to your chapters are often described as ASHRAE’s most successful program. They will continue to be available virtually (high tech) and when it’s safe for the chapters and lecturers, ASHRAE will get back to face-to-face presentations to provide the high touch.

Next, within our grassroots chapters, the Presidential Award of Excellence has been streamlined and encourages intraRegion and intragenerational events and communications. Utilizing technology, we can connect, member-to-member, with other cultures and experiences.

Also, our Chapters Regional Conferences are using hybrid configurations that combine virtual training and pre-meetings with the conferences. Now people who can’t travel can still participate. But, we all know there is no replacement for all of us being together. We began with our 1906 convention make up – where everyone looked like Mick but some had hair…and ASHRAE has changed.

The member-to-member connections we have today is astounding and vibrant. Vintage. Young, Women. Men.…global cultures. So, in addition to our present membership, we’ll continue to broaden inclusion through support of Young Engineers in ASHRAE, Women in ASHRAE and students.

Also, the Board’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee will recommend ways to reach out to those presently under-represented within ASHRAE. Because it’s all of us, together, that make ASHRAE extraordinary. And the fact is, nothing happens without each of you – our volunteers.

No matter how you choose to volunteer, you are our lifeblood and provide those resilient, deep and widespread roots that weathered the storm and brought ASHRAE through a global pandemic. You are extraordinary.

Moving forward, three new ways to feed our historical roots have been developed. The first provides personal growth.

We’ve developed Learning Pathways to help each of us grow personally. The first pathway is HVAC Design. It’s a curriculum for young professionals, those new to the industry, and others who simply want to improve their knowledge and ability to serve customers.

The second, Pathogen Mitigation, is of very high interest today and also prepares for future health issues. Additional Learning Pathways will be based on what you want and need! Our second initiative uses technology combined with our grassroots to connect with one another and has two parts.

ASHRAE is already active on social media platforms – but not all of us participate. Shown here is a picture of Mick being dragged kicking and screaming into his wedding ceremony with Jen. Yes, it’s staged. Mick has felt the same way about social media. But, social media is a different and more personal way for each of us to connect with our next generation of members.

So, Prez Mick is enthusiastically on ASHRAE Society’s Instagram page…and hopes you’ll join him.

Second, patterned after U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats, ASHRAE will deliver a series of member-to-member, informal video shorts addressing various topics. We look forward to seeing you each month.

Now, if you take one thing away from today, let it be our final initiative – which includes a request to you. Earlier, you made a list of people who fed your roots. Now, it’s time for each of us to determine whose roots WE will feed.

Please take out that list maker again and create your list of 2-3 people whose roots you will feed in the next three months. It can be friends, professional, ASHRAE or at your workplace – someone who you already admire, and you want to help them grow.

Now that you’ve made the list…reach out.

Each time you do this, you literally bring us back to our roots of Harrie Crane’s vision for ASHVE 127 years ago…and ASHRAE as we move on our extraordinary and impactful future. And whether we’ve helped someone else grow or they’ve helped us, let’s share our “feed the roots moments” – perhaps on social media!

Here’s how Mick’s roots were fed this past year. It reminded him to feed the personal roots of those closest to him …who sacrifice so much so we can volunteer and serve others. He knew of Heather through her contributions as a Young Engineer in ASHRAE but hadn’t volunteered with her until attending the combined Region 9 and 10 Chapters Regional Conference in August of 2019.

The night before the CRC, Mick met her husband, David and learned that they were expecting their first child.

Throughout the CRC Heather tirelessly led a very small team – literally 3 to 4 people -- who did all the behind the scenes work to deliver an amazing CRC. What a dynamic and extraordinary volunteer.

Little did Heather and Mick realize the next time we would see each other would be a year later – during the 2020 Region 10, virtual CRC.

And 9-month old Cohen would be with her. Our global impacts serve Cohen and his generation too. We’ve come full circle. Guided by our mission we get to serve humanity – every day…and that is an honor and privilege.

We each are involved in ASHRAE for different reasons and volunteer in our chosen ways. We do it because we grow – professionally and personally – and help others do the same.

We do it because collectively we have tremendous global impact.

We do it because that global impact serves the world’s – as well as our personal – future generations. And all this occurs because we our true to our deep and widespread technical roots, grassroots, and personal roots

Ladies, gentlemen, Feed the Roots.