For University of Findlay’s Thank a Donor Day, on February 25, 2021, in an effort to recognize them for their giving hearts, we are publishing a short series telling the stories of some of our donors. We thank these, and all, donors to UF for their philanthropy and friendship, and are immensely grateful for their contributions to the Oiler family.
Studies and sustainability. Environment and education. Safety and school.
Call it what you will, but it’s the passion of the Brungard family. More specifically, it’s the Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHSS) and the Education programs at University of Findlay that the Brungards hold so dear. And it’s strong enough to have drawn them toward creating a scholarship to help support students involved in those areas; students not unlike the Brungards themselves.
Tom M.S. ’96 M.B.A ’98 and Deb Brungard know what dedication is; they’ve been devoted to each other in marriage for 45 years, and they’re dedicated to their three children and six
grandchildren. Their devotion to UF began after Tom was relocated to the area in the mid-nineties by Owens Corning, for whom he worked for seventeen years. Shortly after taking root in the community, his leader at Owens Corning offered to pay for his master’s studies. “I had been trying to finish my master’s every step of the way,” Tom said. “I was global leader of environmental health and safety so I wanted that degree.” After some research he landed on UF, and noticed quickly that what, at the time, was called the Environmental, Safety, and Occupational Health program, was nationally recognized. Soon, he found himself working full time during the week and attending campus on the weekends. It was challenging for not just Tom, but the family as a whole. “I think it was even more difficult for Deb than it was for me,” Tom said. “We had three young children. Deb basically had 100% responsibility for them then. It was eight hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday, and I’d set up my office in the dining room to study.” But their resoluteness to provide a better future for their family trumped all of the hard work and heartache, and Tom, with Deb behind him for every step, earned both a Master of Science in Environmental Management and Master of Business Administration in Organizational Leadership within two years.
And to say it was the right choice for Tom and Deb and the Brungard family would be understating it quite enormously, they said. “Life changing for all of us,” said Tom. “I left Owens Corning to work for BP as an executive.” Tom became the Health, Safety, Security and Environmental Affairs Manager, as well as the Compliance and Ethics Leader, for BP.
It was during that time at BP when the Brungards began to hone their philanthropical dedication to UF. As a part of his job, Tom said, he was able to help establish a partnership between BP Toledo and UF that provided scholarships and investment money. The partnership led to a great number of improvements to the EHSS program at UF. A ventilation lab, a windmill, and solar panels were created on campus, and the partnership additionally funded the curriculum for the program and provided five scholarships every year. The proverbial giving ball started slowly rolling, at that point, and the Brungards began giving to the Findlay Fund, eventually moving toward Findlay Forward scholarships alternating between helping students from both the EHSS and Education programs at UF. Most recently, the ball has gathered some steam for the Brungards, encouraging them to launch the Brungard Family Endowment, a permanent source for funding those same programs.
The interest in assistance to the education program comes as a result of that previously noted dedication to family for the Brungards, whose oldest son Andy ’05, a member of the Oiler football team during his time, and daughter Emily ’11, who was in both the Oiler Marching Brass and the orchestra at UF, both graduated with Bachelor of Science in Education degrees, and whose daughter-in-law, Tracy, has both a BS and an MS in Education from UF. And the education-affiliation with Findlay doesn’t end there. Tom, after retiring from BP, became an adjunct professor in the EHSS program. He’s found, he noted, that this newfound passion for teaching only strengthens his dedication to UF and its students. “It is extremely rewarding, and not just academically,” Tom explained. “Deb says often that the reason I do it has a lot to do with relationships.”
Those relationships and the responsibility of leadership for both UF and their family are additional catalysts for why Tom and the Brungards feel the pull to give back to the University. Tom is quick to note that one of the leaders he regards most in his UF family journey is Deb. “Really, it was her who got us through it all, and our children going to UF is as much her as me,” he said.
“Although I didn’t attend the University of Findlay, I felt included in the experience while four of our family members were students there,” Deb noted. “Some of my fondest memories as a ‘UF Mom’ include tailgating at our son’s football games, meeting our future daughter-in-law and volunteering at the Oiler Brass band camp.”
Another leader for whom the Brungards give much credit to regarding the UF family’s success is UF President Dr. Katherine Fell. “Young folks need good leadership,” Tom said. “And I love it when Dr. Fell says ‘Findlay is hallowed ground.’ That’s amazing leadership. If you want to hold up examples of what life is like in the good world educationally, Findlay is there.”
And that’s why it’s so important for Tom, Deb, and the rest of the Brungard family to give back to the University. “[We] feel grateful and blessed to be able to ‘pay it forward’ and help current students and their families enjoy all the University has to offer,” Deb said.
Devotion and directorship. Two more reasons for why people like the Brungards share their generosity toward UF; and UF is profoundly fortunate to have even more reasons for which we are so grateful and devoted to helpful families and friends just like them.