Rejuvenated UC experience ignites volunteer leader’s Bearcat spirit
Ask anyone who knows him. They’ll tell you that Jerry Fritz’s level of passion and enthusiasm for his alma mater runs unusually high. Yet many of his fellow alumni can identify with the UC road traveled by the man who serves as Vice Chair of the UC Alumni Association.
As a member of the UC Foundation Board’s Alumni Engagement Committee, Fritz helps to provide strategic direction and oversight to the UC Alumni Association and its ongoing efforts to strengthen involvement and support within its 327,000+ alumni across the U.S. and throughout the world. Considering the powerful potential of a highly committed and engaged community of Bearcats, it’s a vital role.
The native of Cincinnati’s west side came to Clifton primarily for the tremendous possibilities promised by the business college and its co-op program. Majoring in marketing, Fritz landed a co-op job in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s advertising department. Meanwhile, his class and co-op schedule facilitated an active campus life, and he felt prepared to hit the ground running upon graduation in December of 1972.
"Co-op was a big advantage,” he recalls. “Coming out of school and looking for jobs, they ask you about your job experience, and I could cite two and a half years of actual experience, which gave me a huge leg up when I came to interview to begin my career.”
Especially in Fritz’s era, many young alumni would become somewhat disconnected from their university as they got established in the work world, possibly moving from city to city and often starting families.
“After I left school, there was minimal contact with UC,” he says. “I got married, moved away, started a family, and UC was my ‘former life.’ As far as ‘people contact’ goes, there was a 10- or 15-year blackout while I lived in New Orleans, Jacksonville and Toledo before winding up in St. Louis. A good thing about our connected world today is that I doubt someone like me would be completely ‘blacked out’ like I was then. Now we have ways to stay closely connected regardless of where you go.”
Getting Reacquainted with His University
About 15 years ago, outreach from a UC Foundation representative kickstarted Fritz’s reconnection via the College of Business (several years before it took on the Lindner name). A couple years of initial conversation led to much bigger things.
“I was invited to join the dean’s Business Advisory Council in 2008, which became the single biggest springboard that led to what I’m doing today,” he says. “That was a great ‘coming home’ opportunity because I met so many people who went to UC around when I did but I hadn’t known before. I formed some wonderful relationships and friendships that way. And I felt as a members of the Business Advisory Council we could make a difference in a student’s educational and experiential journey.”
The process of getting to know the UC of today as a volunteer leader has exposed Fritz to the excellence of today’s students as well as a university focused on shaping the future.
“When I was running my business, we probably had a half dozen UC co-ops in St. Louis, and they were world-class people and contributors,” says Fritz. “I’ve become an advocate for the students, and to me, that’s the most contagious part. It’s about them and their education, and then how they use that education to change their lives as alumni. Volunteering with the college and the Foundation builds relationships throughout the university which opens doors and broadens my perspective.”
Fritz is proud of UC’s long track record for innovation — from the creation of cooperative education over a century ago to today’s 1819 Innovation Hub and Digital Futures enterprise and the medical breakthroughs within UC Health like the Gardner Neuroscience Institute. And he’s just as excited by the UC Alumni Association’s innovative use of giving days to help bring about a widespread culture of philanthropy among alumni. The annual Giving Tuesday in the fall and UC Day of Giving in the spring make it easy for Bearcats to support their favorite UC causes through a regular schedule of giving.
Supporting UC and the Alumni Association Benefits Everyone
“What I’ve come to love about giving days is the number of first-time donors we attract, which is probably more important to me than the actual dollars raised,” Fritz says. “On our most recent Day of Giving, we had hundreds of first-time donors, and hundreds more who hadn’t given in a number of years. You ask someone to give something — it could be $25 — and direct it wherever in the university they choose … Maybe next time they can give $100. So giving days allow us to encourage people to begin to be philanthropic to the university. You’ve got to give once to give 10 times.”
Fritz feels an easy way to get started and make an impact on the UC community is by becoming a member of the UC Alumni Association’s Loyal Bearcat Society.
“That’s as simple as making an annual gift of $50 or more to any of UCAA’s various funds,” he says. “There are dozens of possibilities, and whichever you choose, you’re making a significant impact by strengthening the Alumni Association which strengthens the university, and you’re enhancing your own alumni experience.”
Now retired from a rewarding business career and living in northwest Arkansas, Fritz is pouring himself into his university so that others can enjoy UC-driven success too. He and his wife, Connie, who did not attend UC but has adapted easily to being a passionate Bearcat, fund a pair of scholarships in the Lindner College of Business. And in his UC Foundation role, Fritz is always thinking about ways to elevate engagement and philanthropy in the UC community. It’s all motivated by his recognition of the larger picture and a university’s power to alter the trajectory of its students’ and alumni’s lives.
“I would imagine most of our alumni have had some sort of a-ha moment when they thought, ‘I’m thankful for how UC has changed my life for the better,’” he says. “That’s good, because it’s an eye-opening question: ‘Where would I be today without my UC education and my network of UC connections?’ If someone asks themselves that question, then I feel it’s an easy and logical step to becoming more actively involved.”
The UC Alumni Association exists to serve the University of Cincinnati and its 327,000+ alumni across the United States and throughout the world. Learn more about how to stay connected with your alma mater and get involved in more than 50 college-, interest- and location-based alumni networks, including the UC Carl H. Lindner College of Business Alumni Network.