“We thought that maybe you and your team needed a financial hug during this difficult time.” –Freshwater donor Dick Fowler
The year 2020 turned our world upside down. Families, businesses, and nonprofits are under immense strain. But thanks to the generous spirit of donors like Dick Fowler and his wife Mary, our waters are still being cared for. During COVID, due to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders, he and Mary had leftovers in their travel budget that they decided to direct to charity instead. This fall, Dick was kind enough to share his story with us. Keep reading to learn about his lifelong connections to water and how he was able to give extra this year to Freshwater.
The Watery World of Dick Fowler
I grew up in outstate Minnesota, spending most of my formative years in Moorhead, where lakes are hard to find. My grandparents had a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, where I spent several of my summers fishing and swimming in the clear waters and sandy beaches. I also experienced a 2-week canoe trip to the boundary waters as a middle schooler. Together, these early experiences gave me a deep-seated sense of the importance of water in my life.
My family moved to Saint Paul between my junior and senior years of high school. What I envisioned as a traumatic event in my life, turned out to be a positive, uplifting experience. My one year at Alexander Ramsey high school introduced me to a new, higher level of viewing the world. Due to this higher outlook, I decided to attend the University of Minnesota, enrolling in Forestry school. After two quarters logging and measuring trees, I switched to the more technical, industrial major of Forest Products. After graduation, this led me to the Andersen Corporation for employment.
The year was 1968. I was hired as a chemical process technician. In my curiosity about the plant processes, I discovered that some of the plant waste materials were getting into the storm sewer system and ending up in the wild and scenic St Croix River. I reported this to management and was told to: “fix it.” There was no Environmental Protection Agency or Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at the time. By 1974, these agencies existed, and Andersen had a Federal Storm Water Discharge permit. Over the years, I continued to focus on environmental issues at Andersen. This led to my role as Corporate Environment Manager many years later. The year 1968 was also important because it’s when I first become a member of the Freshwater Institute. The institute had been doing important work on Lake Minnetonka.
For volunteer service, throughout my life I’ve valued giving back to the community. I was the president of the Lake Owasso Association for several years. After retirement in 2000, I remained active in non-profit organizations serving on the boards of the Environmental Initiative, Minnesota Waters, and the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries.
Today’s COVID driven world has affected our philanthropic behavior. We are retired; our ability to travel has been restricted. This year, we decided to take the money we would typically use for travel and significantly increase our support of organizations like Freshwater.
Dick and his wife Mary lived on Lake Owasso in Roseville for more than 40 years. They support many important causes in the community. When making their gift this spring, Dick said, “We thought that maybe you and your team needed a financial hug at this difficult time.” Thank you, Dick. We did. And we send a virtual hug right back!