Trust bids farewell to Senior Program Officer Robert Berger
The Trust is saying farewell to one of our longest-serving and highly regarded staff members, Senior Program Officer Robert Berger, who retires Jan. 31.
Phoenix – (Jan. 27, 2021) With a 21-year tenure, Bob has been at the Trust since nearly its beginning. When he joined the Trust in 2000, he was part of the small group of employees who gave shape and structure to the young organization. Along with helping to develop grantmaking strategies and internal processes, Bob set the Trust’s course in environment and animal welfare work and provided leadership, both within the Trust and the greater community, in developing and refining initiatives that measurably improve the environment and the plight of companion animals in Arizona and Indiana.
The Trust hired Bob for his diverse background in conservation, nonprofit leadership, fundraising and business. He began his nonprofit career with the American Cancer Society and continued at The Nature Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale before joining the Trust. Additionally, his time spent working in the corporate world helped him hone skills valuable in the early days of the Trust.
Since its inception, the Trust focused on protecting animals, in keeping with Nina Mason Pulliam’s dedication to animals and nature. In prior decades, over 35,000 cats and dogs were euthanized each year in Maricopa County. Bob led the Trust’s collaboration with PetSmart Charities and local animal welfare organizations to develop the Fix.Adopt.Save. campaign, focusing on spay/neuter, adoption and wellness. Since the initiative launched in 2012, euthanasia rates in Maricopa County decreased 86% and dog and cat intake in area shelters is down 43%. Bob worked with Trust staff to develop a similar program in the Indianapolis animal welfare community focusing on Marion County, which has since seen a 98% increase in adoptions and 73% drop in euthanasia.
“Bob’s leadership, sharp thinking and ability to forge strategic alliances helped change the course of animal welfare in Maricopa County and resulted in a model we could replicate in Indiana – and the outcome couldn’t be more significant,” said Trustee Lisa Shover Kackley. “What a tremendous legacy Bob leaves us with this framework for caring for our communities’ animals.”
To develop the Trust’s environmental strategies, Bob drew on his deep understanding of the environment, as well as strong relationships with environmental nonprofits, natural resource management agencies, businesses and local and global foundations. He looked for opportunities to form collaborations among organizations and projects that led to greater impact. As an example, Bob joined with funders and partners working on behalf of the Verde River watershed to improve the health and flows of the river. This initiative helped retain 1.8 billion gallons of water in the river in 2020 alone.
“Bob is a pillar in Arizona’s environmental community. He has spent most of his career working on environmental concerns. He knows the terrain philosophically, historically and literally,” said Trust Chair Carol Schilling. “For 21 years he has led this Trust’s substantial work on environmental concerns, which range from animals to land conservation to strategic planning to stewardship of water and rivers. I am so grateful for all the good leadership and education Bob has provided the Trust. We will miss him greatly and rejoice that he will have lots more time to spend in the outdoors that he loves so much.”
Beyond the environment and animal welfare, Bob contributed to the Trust’s human services work with the elderly, children, housing and food security and oversaw the Trust’s support of numerous capital projects. Mirroring a program created by the Lilly Endowment in Indiana, Bob worked with multiple funders, nonprofits and corporate partners to develop the Summer Youth Program Fund in Arizona to help disadvantaged youth take part in learning and adventures during the summer months. He ultimately advanced to vice president of programs at the Trust, overseeing grantmaking in Indiana and Arizona before converting to part-time in 2019 in anticipation of his retirement.
“Bob was key to our grantmaking efforts in Arizona. He had his finger on the pulse of the community. He was thoughtful about the greatest needs, was dedicated to caring for the community and was always cheerful and a joy to work with,” Trustee Kent E. Agness said.
Trust President and CEO Gene D’Adamo said he could not overstate Bob’s contributions to the Trust.
“He is a passionate leader within our organization and in our communities, and that passion is evident to everyone he encountered,” D’Adamo said. “He has a mischievous bent that made every meeting and project more enjoyable. Bob loved what he did and spent his career advocating to improve quality of life for people and animals and preserve our natural environment. It is an honor and privilege to work with Bob and to call him a friend.”
Upon retiring, Bob plans to spend more time with his grandson, Theo, partner, Wendy Meier, and in the outdoors skiing, sailing and finally spending time on his long-abandoned boat, which is waiting for him in a marina slip at Lake Powell. After a bit of rest, he plans to volunteer and tackle endless home projects.
“I am so fortunate for my experiences and great career at the Trust, one that has been engaging, fulfilling and rewarding. Countless words like family, friends, commitment, partnerships and impact define my love for the work,” Bob said. “Being part of the Trust afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with amazing people both within this organization and in our community. And for that I couldn’t be more thankful.”
We at the Trust cannot adequately describe the indelible impact Bob made on the organization, our communities and each of us. T.S. Eliot reminds us, “To make an end is to make a beginning.” Here’s to many new beginnings, Bob.
If you would like to send Bob a farewell message, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.