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Lessons Learned From ASHRAE Life Members

Lessons Learned From ASHRAE Life Members

From eSociety, November 2017

By Mary Kate McGowan, Associate Editor, News

After at least 30 years as an ASHRAE member, Life Members are still going strong and advancing the society—even after retirement.

Since 1956, the Life Members Club has transformed from a primarily social group to a working group focused on supporting the Society at large and young engineers, according to William Harrison, Presidential/Life Member ASHRAE, and chair of the Life Members Club.

“It still has a very good social component. We enjoy seeing each other, and we really enjoy working with each other,” he said. “We’re a really unique group. We don’t feel right unless we’re working hard.”

Life Members must be at least 65 years old and active in ASHRAE for 30 years. The club is split into thirds fairly evenly with members who are retired, semiretired and still working, he said.

“None of us are candidates for the Young Engineers in ASHRAE,” Harrison joked. “We do recognize that if we want the Society that we have worked hard for and love so much to succeed, that we are going to have to continue to attract the right people into ASHRAE. Consequently, a lot of our activities are directed at young engineers who have the potential to become contributing members of ASHRAE.”

The Life Members Club’s activities that support research grants for graduate students and the annual E.K. Campbell Award that helps support graduate and undergraduate ASHRAE member research are funded by donations. With the typical donation averaging $100, the Life Members Club consistently raises about $40,000 to $50,000 in donations every year, according to Harrison.

“We want to work with other groups in ASHRAE to make sure that we have a steady stream of bright, young engineers joining the industry and joining ASHRAE,” he said. “It’s very appropriate for those of us that are exiting to support those people who are coming in at the bottom to start their careers.”

The Life Members Club meets at the ASHRAE Winter and Annual Conferences. The Life Members Club Luncheon is scheduled for Jan. 23 during the ASHRAE Winter Conference in Chicago.

From lessons learned on the job to swapping stories about ASHRAE conferences from years past, the ASHRAE Life Members Club is full of invaluable information and experiences that can help set young engineers on the right course for their careers.

Harrison and other Life Member Club members—Richard Hayter, Ph.D., P.E., Presidential Member /Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE, and Ken Cooper, Ph.D., Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE—share what they have learned throughout their careers that could help other engineers.


William Harrison, Presidential/Life Member ASHRAE, joined ASHRAE in 1966. During his tenure in the Society, Harrison served as the Society President, the vice chair and chair of the nominating committee and other positions. He is currently serving as a member of the Development Committee for Fundraising and the chair of the Life Members Club.

Harrison has dedicated more than 50 years to his career in HVAC&R and has served as the chairman and CEO of Harrison Energy Partners since 2011. Harrison, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., has won several awards in ASHRAE, including the 2010 Exceptional Service Award.

1.  Can you give a piece of advice for engineers who are starting their careers?

One of the things that’s pretty easy when you’re starting out in a new position or new career is training on the job specifics that you’re going to be dealing with almost every day. Almost every company has a great training program to prepare somebody who’s fresh out of school to start on the path to success. But one of the things that is often missing in those programs is an opportunity to develop leadership skills. A local ASHRAE chapter and, certainly, working with the Society is an outstanding leadership laboratory where you can learn to motivate people and work toward common objectives.

I’ve often said that if you could motivate volunteers, then you can really soar when you start trying to direct people you’re paying to do what you want. The opportunity to go through the leadership positions in an ASHRAE chapter really prepares a young person to succeed in their vocation.

2. What is one thing you enjoy about the Life Members Club?

The other thing about Life Members is we all recognize that our memory ain’t what it used to be. It’s nice to be socializing with a group of people that don’t look askance at you whenever you have to reach back in your memory and stop in the middle of your sentence and pull out a word that’s not right at the tip of your tongue anymore.

3. What is a lesson you learned from one of your projects you worked on?

It’s hard to say it’s a lesson, but I can say that several years ago, I had the chance to go to the University of Arkansas to speak to a student group. They asked me to speak on critical factors for success, and I believe that it was No. 6 before I got to a technical subject. The first thing that I said was the ability to community effectively, both verbally and in writing. [And the] ability to participate in collaborative teams [is important]. All those things in my opinion came before being able to design a correct widget.

That’s one of the reasons I feel so strongly that young people should take part in industry organizations...Because you really get a much better opportunity to hone those nontechnical skills when you’re working in a volunteer group collaboratively than you do when you’re just pursuing your vocation.

One of them [the students] asked me what my definition of success was, and I said, ‘That’s pretty easy. That’s being able to drift off to sleep at night when your head hits the pillow. To go to bed knowing you’ve done your best that day, and you’ve done nothing that you’re worried about showing up in the front page of the newspaper the next morning.’ [Success is] the ability to end your day knowing you’ve done your best, and you’ve done nothing that’s not in the highest of accordance with standards of ethics.


Richard B. Hayter, Ph.D., P.E., Presidential Member /Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE, has dedicated just under 49 years of his life to ASHRAE as both an academic and practicing engineer.

Hayter, who lives in Manhattan, Kan.—the home of Kansas State University—started his career at the university as a graduate fellow in 1970. He worked his way through the university and retired as the Associate Dean of Engineering for External Affairs.

A former Society president, chair of the Members Council, various technical committees and other committees, Hayter still serves on ASHRAE’s          Grassroots Government Advocacy Committee. Hayter won the Andrew T. Boggs Service Award in 2011 and the Exceptional Service Award in 2002.

1. Why do you think Life Members continue being involved in ASHRAE?

I bet you all Life Members would agree that their participation in ASHRAE has enhanced their career, not only their career, but their ability to service humanity through heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration. As a result of that, I think Life Members, most members actually, want to give back to the industry what our industry gave to us, which was knowledge and understanding and ability to serve our clients.

2. How are you still involved in the HVAC&R industry after retiring?

As it relates to ASHRAE, I’m still involved at the Society level in a few committees where I hope some of the skills that I’ve gained through my profession are helpful. I’d like to be able to share those, and ASHRAE gives us a path to make that happen through our publications, our seminars, our educational programs, and really one-on-one with engineers, technicians and the whole industry involved in HVAC&R.

3. Outside of ASHRAE, do you volunteer anywhere else?

Oh sure, on a national scale, each state has a licensing board in one form or another for engineering and other professions, so I serve on our state board here in Kansas called the Kansas State Board of Technical Professions. By doing that, I am active at the Society level of that activity by serving on some committees as well. That’s not in so much as the technology as the emphasis that states put on quality engineering in projects that will be serving in the local state.

4. What advice do you have for people who are starting their engineering careers?

Always be open to receiving suggestions from those that have been practicing as engineers. It’s one thing to learn the field through academia, which is critical, butexperience is very important. Be open to the suggestions and seek those from people who have been in the practice for a career.


Ken Cooper, Ph.D., Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE, joined ASHRAE in 1974. In his 40-plus-years as a member, Cooper has served on various Society Standing Committees and most recently, the Society’s Technical Activities Committee. He is currently a member of the Electronic Communications Committee, the Environmental Health Committee, the Life Members Club Executive Committee, the College of Fellows and is an alternate for the Standards Appeal Board. Cooper has won several ASHRAE awards.

A resident of Seven Valleys, Pa.—located about 30 miles east of Gettysburg—Cooper is retired and an active volunteer in his community. He is the “technical person” on numerous committees in his local Rotary Club chapter and visitssecond grade classes in his community’s schools. He is preparing to serve on the building services committee for his local YMCA.  

1. Why is it important for the Life Members Club to support young engineers who are starting their careers?

Actually, it is not just the Life Members Club, but all active members need to support young engineers because without them there would be no ASHRAE down the road. Us ‘old’ guys may recognize this more than most. There is a lot of emphasis on YEA members just now, which is a good start, but that is aimed at a very specific segment of membership.

There is also a whole set of engineers who are not necessarily ‘young,’ but are either just starting their career in ASHRAE or are trying to figure out whether/how to maintain their involvement. Employers have limited resources to send their people to conferences like ours, and they have to be convinced that it is worth the continuing cost. Life Members can help by personal communication with employers.

2. What are a few pieces of advice for those younger engineers?

ASHRAE really can enhance your career, but you must choose to participate. Volunteer! When someone asks ‘raise your hand,’ it is that simple! ASHRAE Handbooks, research, standards and programs don’t just happen. Someone has to do it, and it should be you because you will get way more out of the experience than you put in.

You will probably have to convince your employer that sending you to Society meetings is worth the cost—not only in money, but in time spent away from the office. Do your homework—what skills can you improve by attending technical sessions, what knowledge can you gain by being involved in a TC [technical committee], how can your contribution to the work of a TC impact your employer, how can contacts you will make at these meetings help make you a better employee?

Your employer isn’t in business to just send you to some meetings; they want to know what is in it for them, and you, of course. Not everyone can go to every major Society meeting, but everyone can go to their local chapter meetings. There are a lot of activities at the local level that need volunteers.

3. What challenges have you faced in your career and what are the lessons you learned from those experiences?

In 1986, two partners and I started PoolPak Inc. If we knew then what we know now, it might not have happened. We were about as green about running a business as it was possible to get. Fortunately, we forged ahead to the great benefit of more than 80 current employees.

The lesson: When we started, I was the chief engineer, the designer, the accountant, the janitor and sometimes the assembler. You never know what you might have to do in your career, but whenever something has to be done, just do it!