Alumnae News & Highlights

Frances Seiberling Buchholzer ’52 has dedicated her life to conserving and managing natural resources, energy issues and environmental protection. Her passion for these topics is rooted in her upbringing, she says, which occurred on several hundred acres of land in Northfield, Ohio with two working farms.

“Coming from an outdoor background I was always very interested in nature and the natural world,” notes Fran, who felt a close connection with Biology teacher Miss Reeves during her HB days. Even so, she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Education and English from the University of Akron and pursued an early career as a teacher. Later She earned a Master of Arts in Geomorphology (the study of landforms and the various natural and environmental forces that shape the earth) from the University of Iowa in 1970 and began working in related fields, first for the Ohio Petroleum Council as Director of Environmental Affairs and then as Director of State Government Relations for the BF Goodrich Company.

Her interest in public policy led her to serve on various state and national environmental organizations such as the National Park System Advisory Board. In 1991, she was asked to serve on then-Governor George Voinovich’s cabinet as Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). With 3600 employees reporting to her, “I had the second-largest agency in the state,” says Fran. She was also the first female ever to hold the position and played an instrumental role in helping pass a $200-million bond issue benefitting Ohio parks, forests, wildlife areas, and other outdoor recreational facilities.

A staunch advocate for sustainability, open space, biodiversity, and environmental quality, she was appointed in 1995 as a Summit County Metro Parks Commissioner – a position she’d hold for 18 years. Even today, Fran remains actively involved in several state and national environmental and conservation organizations and maintains seats on boards ranging from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute in Washington, D.C. to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Board of Great Lakes Biomimicry (an organization that “looks to nature for solutions to many of today’s challenges,” notes Fran).

Fran’s early home life may have contributed to her field of interest, but she credits HB with contributing to her overall success. In fact, English teacher Miss Bruce “changed my life,” Fran says, mainly because “she taught you to organize your thoughts, think on your feet and to stand in front of a group of people and speak in an articulate fashion, with poise and confidence.”

These lessons served Fran throughout her career, but especially when she was asked her first day as Director of ODNR, with only two hours’ notice, to give a speech to an audience of 2500 Ohio Farmers. “You can’t worry about it,” she says of the experience. “You just do it. But at the time I thought: ‘Thank heavens for Miss Bruce!’”

  • Distinguished Alumnae Award