Bob Berlam is a member of Class VIII and President of GNL for the upcoming year 2011-12, and he has a vision for GNL.  Part of that vision is to take advantage of multiple opportunities to bring new energy and fulfillment to the membership. Recognizing the incredible backgrounds of so many, he strongly supports the gifts and talents of everyone who is dedicated to making a meaningful contribution to the lives of others, and he wants to understand what motivates this service.  Bob will use his wonderful one-on-one style of leadership to probe that issue throughout the year.

Looking at Bob’s past, it is easy to see why he has a passion for “making a difference in the lives of others.”  Bob says, “In high school, I wasn’t interesting in learning, until one young ninth grade teacher, whose personal attention and mentoring turned my life around.”  As a result of that teacher’s positive influence, Bob spent the majority of his professional career as a teacher and administrator, who worked closely with local, state and national Congressional legislatures to help shape public education policy.  “A teacher never knows where or how their efforts will influence their students,” remarked Bob.

Upon his graduation from Rhode Island College, Bob became a high school math and chemistry teacher in Cranston, Rhode Island and later obtained an MS degree in Counseling and a doctorate in Educational Administration.   Simultaneously, he successfully campaigned for a seat on the Warwick, Rhode Island School Board, and became Rhode Island’s Director of Government Relations for Education–a job that included weekly travels to and from our nation’s capitol.  It was there that he met Ann Elmore, his pretty and gracious counterpart from North Carolina.  They were married on May 26, 1984 in Lincolnton, North Carolina, complete with a post-nuptial horse and buggy ride around the center of town and a sustained round of applause from all the townspeople lining the streets.

Following his stint as the Director of Government Relations and Lobbyist for the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, Bob and Ann moved to North Carolina where he headed up Staff Development and Communications for all 58 campuses of North Carolina’s community college system.  He arranged to have satellite dishes installed on every campus and introduced interactive televised teacher training programs.

With the increasing use of computers in the 90’s, Bob recruited graduate students to train teachers in Internet use that connected the campuses to global educational resources.  He set up an on-line statewide teacher training system, curriculum and guide covering all K-12 programs in 100 school districts. The program, LEARN NC, worked with teachers to develop hundreds of how-to lesson plans which were then posted on the internet and made available to all educators in the state and remains in effect today.

In addition to Bob’s educational career, he retired as a full Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves.  As part of his military career, he proudly served for 20 years as a volunteer Admissions Counselor for the Air Force Academy.

Licensed as a commercial, instrument-command pilot, Bob owns a Beech Bonanza airplane that he pilots 2 to 3 times a week.  Currently active in the Civil Air Patrol’s search and rescue team, Bob spent three weeks during the BP oil disaster, photographing oil slicks in and around the Florida Panhandle and Pensacola.  Last fall, he flew numerous training missions for a US Army Missile Battalion assigned to protect a variety of potential US terrorist targets.  Bob currently works with other CAP pilots to train Florida Air National Guard fighter pilots to intercept slow moving aircraft.  He is also a “mission check” pilot for the Civil Air Patrol.

At a recent Rhode Island College annual banquet, Bob was inducted into their Athletic Hall of Fame. The award was made for his three sport athletic participation: soccer, track, and basketball.

Full-time residents since 2001, Bob and his wife, Ann, a member of Class VI, are the first couple to both serve as president.   They are proud of their “four great kids”!  Two sons are engineers and live in New England with their families, including Bob and Ann’s five grandchildren. One married daughter lives in Schweinfurt, Germany; her husband is currently serving in the Middle East with the US Army. Bob and Ann’s other daughter and her husband live nearby in Cape Coral, Florida.

“How do we help our members best meet their own personal needs?” and “What motivates our over 400 alumni to give so much to others?” are two questions that are on Bob’s mind and heart.  With openness and innate curiosity, Bob has already embraced some innovative thinking about GNL’s mission, and possible future organizational directions.  He would like to expand the role and importance of class reps and encourage their “going beyond the social aspect” to truly help those less fortunate in our community.

When asked about a legacy, Bob Berlam said he would like to be remembered as “a person who was sensitive to the needs of others in our midst.”  That heritage already seems secure.

All photos courtesy Bob Berlam

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