Ivy League education, top research analyst for Chevron, adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University, consultant, entrepreneur, philanthropist.
While the list is long and distinguished, Roger is most noted as a caring and giving person that is dedicated to his family and the organizations he supports. Hope Manzanares, development director for Bethesda, has worked closely with Roger for many years. “Roger is a man of his word and full of movement. He’s been an active participant and supporter of planning and policy development, community and organizational development and fundraising and support development for Bethesda. He’s also a fabulous husband and father to daughter, Pam. Roger is everything you’d want in a board member.”
As Roger prepared to step down from Bethesda’s board of directors, we caught up with him to talk about his accomplishments and expectations for Bethesda’s future.
How and why did you initially get involved with Bethesda?
I was initially on the board for Good Shepherd Communities in California before it merged with Bethesda in 2006. Following the merger, I was one of five Good Shepherd board members to be elected to the Bethesda board in 2007. My election to the board was due to my familiarity with Bethesda’s operations, leadership on various committees and overall board experience despite Bethesda being much bigger in terms of assets, people supported and a more professional management structure.
My wife, Carol, and I have a daughter, Pamela, with autism and learning disabilities. She lived at home until she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 22 years old. At the time of her diagnosis, Good Shepherd was not equipped to manage her medical needs. Bethesda stepped forward and said they’d become certified to support Pamela. It took six months, but Bethesda received the necessary certification.
How would you describe your board experience? What have you enjoyed the most?
Throughout my career and in retirement, I’ve served on a number of boards, including Good Shepherd and the Lutheran High School of Orange County, Calif., among others. In each instance, my responsibility in crisis has had the most impact. Being proactive as well as reactive and knowing how organizations manage the public, its shareholders and the media are critical.
As a Bethesda board member, it’s been self-fulfilling and rewarding to work with a group of like-minded people who are all passionate about supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I will miss those working relationships and the comraderies we shared.
What did you try to accomplish as a Board member?
I didn’t have an agenda other than to trust and support the strategic plan, support policies and trust management in the process and make the best decisions on behalf of the organization.
Accomplishments that have given me the most satisfaction are the ones that were achieved by the board, working closely as a whole, with senior management. Specifically, they were the continuing improvement of our group homes and services, the creation of a top-notch senior leadership team, and addressing financial solvency by carefully analyzing each service group and moving into new and more financially viable lines of service.
What is a piece of advice you think is important to tell future Board candidates?
To serve a social-service ministry like Bethesda, board members need to have an equal amount of heart for ministry and business sense. Board members need to be able to respect management and upper management to run the organization properly and be able to balance hard decisions based on finances. Fortunately for Bethesda, the organization is in very capable hands. While most of the executive leadership team were not part of a social-service ministry prior to joining Bethesda, everyone is very engaged. President and CEO Mike Thirtle recently gave a devotion detailing his trip to Jerusalem and to the Pool of Bethesda. It was a very powerful presentation.
Roger Burtner retired from Chevron Oil Field Research Company as a senior research associate where he performed research in support of Chevron’s worldwide exploration for petroleum. After retirement, he became an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University and with a few colleagues formed Remote Sensing Exploration, a consulting company that identified mineral prospects in Chile, Peru, and northern Mexico by processing and interpreting Landsat satellite data for junior mining companies. Roger, a former National Science Foundation Fellow, holds a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University, a master’s degree in geology from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s degree in geology from Franklin & Marshall College.
Roger and his wife, Carol, and daughter, Pamela, reside in California.