ASSE Foundation Staff

Harry Taback

One of the more memorable and rewarding moments for me was the presentation of the donation to establish the Harry Taback 9/11 Memorial Scholarship fund. Harry Taback was one of our members who lost his life on Sept. 11, and he was responsible for establishing one of ASSEF's first corporate scholarships through Marsh. Harry was always so generous, never thinking twice about asking Marsh for scholarship funding. When I would see him at the PDC, I would thank him for the gift, and he would say, "Mary, just get the money to the kids-the profession needs them."

When Harry died, his daughters, Tracy, Cheryl and Lori, decided to establish a scholarship in his honor through the ASSE Foundation-a $23,000 gift. For the presentation at the conference, Marsh sent the entire family to the PDC. Stephen Bennett, who worked with Harry at Marsh and also sits on the Foundation Board of Trustees, said, "They lost their father-it's the least Marsh can do."

The presentation at the conference was very emotional and, I am sure, very difficult for them. But it was worth it. Harry did so much for the Foundation, and here were his daughters continuing his legacy. Afterward, I received a letter from Harry's daughter Tracy Catalono thanking us for helping honor their father. "It means so much to us to have that memory," she wrote about the presentation. "It truly helps to meet people who regarded our father so highly."

Mary Goranson

The ASSE Foundation (ASSEF) is the charitable arm of ASSE. With its own bylaws and budget, ASSEF is fiscally and organizationally separate from ASSE. It does not fall under the councils in the Society's structure, rather, it is administered by a Board of Trustees, which is made up of 10 positions, including a chair and vice-chair. New trustees are appointed by the existing board and must be approved by the ASSE board. Each trustee serves a three-year term and can serve two consecutive terms.

While ASSE supports the member, ASSEF supports the profession. The mission of the Foundation is to promote the advancement of the SH&E professions engaged in protecting people, property and the environment by providing the necessary resources. The Foundation currently supports these initiatives:

  • Fostering future safety and health professionals. Award scholarships, internships and fellowships to students and faculty pursuing safety and health studies in accredited college and university degree programs.
  • Conducting applied safety research. Support safety and health research initiatives and publish findings that advance accident and illness prevention.
  • Expanding accreditation of safety and health curricula. Provide funding and direction to colleges and universities with safety degree programs seeking ASSE/ABET accreditation.

Click here to donate to the ASSE Foundation.

Mary Goranson, ASSE Foundation manager
Date of hire: March 15, 1988 (full-time Foundation manager in 1996)
(847) 768-3412

SU: What are your primary responsibilities in this position?
MG :
Under the direction of the Foundation Board of Trustees, I plan, develop, implement and oversee all activities related to fundraising, Foundation special events-such as the silent auction and donor reception-and the scholarship, professional development, fellowship, research grant and ABET accreditation support programs.

A big part of my job is negotiating gifts. Negotiating is not so much about what the Foundation is selling as it is about what the donor is buying. Many want to direct their charitable dollars toward a specific program-I make sure the Foundation can support and implement the program for the donor.

That probably all sounds pretty dry, and in a way it is, but my job is rewarding because I have the pleasure of meeting all of the students we've helped. Throughout the year, the students appear to me as names on paper. At the conference, I get to meet them and hear their stories. We work very hard all year to raise the money. When we are successful, we turn around and give the money away. Seeing the students at the conference, hearing their stories and learning that we've made a difference in the life of someone who really needs the help-it's very rewarding. I have one of the best jobs at ASSE.


SU: Describe current and ongoing projects in your department.
I work with corporations, and ASSE chapters and members to raise money for Foundation programs. The scholarship program is our largest and most popular program, with more than $90,000 available to SH&E students in 2006. Essentially, I work with donors to obtain the gift and create the criteria for the scholarship or grant program they would like to support.

Once we raise the money, we turn to the students, universities, researchers and members, and "give it away" by funding various programs such as scholarships, research grants, safety research fellowships, professional development grants, ABET accreditation support, the Future Safety Leaders Conference, Career Guide to the Safety Profession , etc. . . . all to benefit the safety profession.


SU: How do these projects benefit members and support the Society's strategic plan?
Scholarships for higher education bring a pool of bright, young, educated minds into the profession, which keeps the profession thriving. Student members benefit through the financial assistance to complete their SH&E degrees and members benefit from the applied safety research results (grant program) published in Professional Safety. Professional and general members benefit from funding available to help advance their professional credentials, making them more marketable. This is all tied into goal eight which supports the student members of ASSE to advance the SH&E profession.


SU: What's the benefit of the silent auction?
The silent auction is a special event held at ASSE's Professional Development Conference. Since many people may not want to make a cash gift, the auction gives them an opportunity to donate something fun-perhaps it's an item from their company's product line, or something native to their geographical region. We've been holding the silent auction since 1996, and the members who attend the conference have come to expect it. It gives them a reason to visit the ASSEF booth. And it's a nice way to raise what used to be a small amount. In 2003, the silent auction raised $4,000; in 2004, $6,000; and last year, we raised nearly $12,000. The trustees used to ask whether it was worth staffing-no one asked this year.


SU: How has ASSEF grown over the years?
MG: When I started working with the Foundation in 1996, we raised less than $30,000 per year. Now we're up to $400,000 per year. Since 1997, the Foundation Board has raised nearly $2.5 million. I attribute that success in part to Fred Fortman, ASSE's executive director. When I started as Foundation manager, the position was part time. In 1997, Fred Fortman transferred my non-Foundation responsibilities to another department, making the ASSEF staff position full time. His philosophy is that the Foundation is the Society's best public relations vehicle, so we should use it to its full potential. That change served as a springboard for the Foundation's growth.

The other large part of the Foundation's success is the committed, dedicated and competent board members. They ask for the donations from corporations and visit with regions and chapters to explain our programs. My task is to support them and give them all the tools they need to get the job done. As you can see, they have come through.