Apra established the Margaret Fuhry Challenge Grant in 1997, the same year Apra was granted 501(c)3 status. Now called the Margaret Fuhry Professional Development Scholarship, it provides recipients who demonstrate leadership, mentorship and volunteerism with a $500 stipend for professional development.
Who, you might ask, was Margaret Fuhry, and why has she been memorialized by this award? Fuhry began her career at the St. Louis Museum of Art as a research associate. She later became a development officer for grants and research at Missouri Historical Society. Her final position was director of advancement services at Webster State University in St. Louis, Missouri. Her life was unexpectedly cut short by a blood clot in 1996.
The following year, many members heard about her death when the first award was announced at the Apra conference. After the initial, shocked hush, people began reminiscing. Fuhry’s many contributions to Apra and wonderful character were recalled with heartfelt sadness.
Michel Hudson, owner of 501(c)onsulting and one of the St. Louis chapter’s original board members, described Fuhry as “a great mentor to everyone she met and willing to give of her time. She was especially willing to mentor new researchers and always encouraged professional development.”
Fuhry was very active in Apra during its formative years. She first joined the Apra board in 1991 to fill in as professional development director when the position was vacated partially through its term. The following year, she became conference vice co-chair and also helped set Apra’s Missouri (now Missouri/Kansas) Chapter. The chapter was established very quickly so it could host the 1993 Apra conference. Fuhry continued as conference co-chair in 1993 and also served as second vice president of the board.
The 1993 conference — before the prominence of cellphones and tablets — was the first to offer computer stations for attendees to check their email, a special touch of connectivity that Fuhry helped implement.
“When she chaired the conference, she took it to the next level,” Hudson said. “She gave Apra a greater sense of professionalism and organization.” She also mentored Hudson to become an Apra leader, and Hudson followed her onto the board.
Fuhry also helped make the conference fun. Margo Knight, director of advancement research at Bates College, described a room Fuhry set up at the 1993 conference where attendees could meet and mingle while rolling around on large, inflatable soccer balls. Fuhry was Knight’s mentor when Knight joined the Apra board. She remembered Fuhry as innovative, funny and a real advocate for the research profession.
Jon Thorsen, associate vice president of development and advancement services at George Washington University, was on the board with Fuhry. He characterized her as effervescent, engaging, caring and artistic. She coached him for his first meeting as president of the Apra board and helped him talk through issues the board faced. “She was so fun to work with because she jumped into things full bore,” he said.
Thorsen and Knight both described the mid-1990s as a difficult time for Apra because of board turnover and financial difficulties caused by rapid expansion. Fuhry, they said, helped steer Apra through this challenging time. Knight noted that Fuhry’s strategic thinking during Apra’s redesign of its conference format and chapter structure “helped keep Apra true to its mission to educate members, while being practical with available resources.”
The Margaret Fuhry Professional Development Scholarship continues to honor her commitment to helping researchers learn, grow and achieve. She would be proud of the accomplishments of the award recipients and all the people she mentored during her memorable and impactful time with Apra.
Chris Mildner is the senior philanthropy analyst with Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon, and the principal of Strategic Edge Resource Consulting. She has given presentations about research and prospect management to regional and national groups and was an editor of the Internet Prospector. She also is also a former member of Apra’s editorial advisory committee.