COMMENTARY / POSITION REPORT
...and a new president!
ORIGINALLY, I HAD PLANNED to use this month’s
entire column to share my future plans and how
they relate to EAA’s direction and service to
members and the aviation community. Before
doing that, however, I must address something
special: the impact of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
2010 on EAA and the aviation community. I’ve
been chairman of “Oshkosh” for 35 years. Never
before have we faced the challenges that we
did this year. The extensive rain and flooding
that took place just prior to the event surpassed
anything we’d ever experienced. It presented
us with extraordinary circumstances that
threatened AirVenture’s success.
What happened next, though, is more
noteworthy. AirVenture 2010’s ultimate success
is a lasting tribute to EAA volunteers and staff.
They performed a “herculean miracle” in
response to the weather challenges, overcoming
obstacles that bordered on the impossible.
These dedicated people brought tangible
culture, attitude, and passion. In addition, EAA members and guests
were extraordinarily understanding and supportive in adapting to
the conditions. I extend my heartfelt congratulations and thanks to
all volunteers, staff, and members. Your efforts made this convention
special, not only for me, but for all EAA members, their families, and
guests who attended from around the world. You earned a new level
of respect and admiration that reinforces AirVenture Oshkosh as
The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration. The attitude throughout
the week was “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” And finish
strong we did!
Now, on to the original topic. On June 23, 2005, I met with EAA
Board Vice President Louie Andrew and EAA Board Director Alan
Ritchie to discuss succession planning, focusing on the process of
transitioning to EAA’s next president. In its 57-year history, EAA
has had only two presidents—my father, Paul, and me. I knew then
that the third president would not have the last name of Poberezny.
It was important to plan a positive and successful transition that
allowed EAA to continue to prosper, while maintaining our culture
Rod Hightower (left) will take the reins September 7, 2010,
following in Tom (right) and founder Paul Poberezny’s footsteps.
The process of selecting a successor was
well thought out and implemented carefully.
The Search Committee and I established
key selection criteria, including:
• Have the “EAA DNA.” In other words,
be an EAA member who understands and
“lives” the organization’s culture.
• Be an experienced leader with
extensive business/operations background.
• Have the ability to use technology
to communicate, share information, and
expand social networking globally.
From more than 700 initial candidates,
we selected Rod Hightower from St.
Louis, Missouri, as EAA’s next president
and CEO. He will officially take office on
September 7, 2010. Rod, an EAA member
for 20 years, his wife, Maura, and their
five children spent the week at AirVenture
Oshkosh 2010 meeting EAA members
and their families. All who have met Rod
are impressed with his background and
passion for EAA. He will be an outstanding
leader and serve the organization well as
we continue to improve service to you and
evaluate future opportunities.
During this transition process, I have
been asked questions such as: “Are you going
to retire?” “Are there health issues?” The
answer to both is no. Rather, this change
will allow me to expand and focus on my
responsibilities as chairman of the board.
I will continue as chairman of AirVenture
Oshkosh, primarily addressing the programs
and themes that will strengthen participation
and facilitate continuing improvement of the
event. In addition, I will ensure a productive
transition that will maintain the culture,
standards, and respect that EAA has earned.
I will also cultivate and build relationships,
both business and philanthropic, that will
grow EAA’s endowment and bring depth
and stability to EAA’s financial health. My
goal is to provide Rod and the EAA staff the
additional financial resources needed to
provide more value for you and your fellow
members. These resources will also support
EAA’s mission to grow aviation participation.
Rod and I will collaborate to ensure
a strong EAA that will maintain an
active leadership role within the aviation
community. The expectations for EAA
are higher than they have ever been.
We are ready to meet and exceed those