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Volunteers of NANPA: Bernie Friel

By July 29, 2014No Comments

700_px1999_Photo_BPF_sc0150809a(1)Bernie Friel has been a professional photographer since he retired from his law practice in 2001. Following two years as an Air Force JAG officer, he began his civilian practice as a trial lawyer and eventually became a municipal bond lawyer. He was one of the creators of the National Association of Bond Lawyers and became its first president. Bernie’s interest in the outdoors draws him to worldwide adventure travel. He is a charter member of NANPA and a member of the prestigious Explorers Club, International Society of Aviation Photography and the Grand Canyon River Guides. His website is

What is your “day” job?

I do have a day job as a professional photographer, though today I seem to spend more time at the computer downloading and editing images than I spend in the field with a camera. I also have a motivational speaking program, which I present a couple dozen times a year, and several programs on adventure travel and photography. I began the motivational program initially as a speaker for the American Heart Association about seven years ago. It is entitled, “A Change of Heart—Taking Charge of Your Health,” and I wrote about it in Currents, Summer 2011.

What committees have you served on, when and what positions?

I joined the Environment Committee in 1996, during NANPA’s Summit in San Diego. The committee was chaired by Gary Braasch at that time. Environment is an area in which I have had an ongoing interest ever since I got involved in supporting the Wilderness Act of 1964. The next year the Summit was held in Corpus Christi, and I participated in the joint effort of the Environment and Ethics committees to draft the original “Principles of Ethical Field Practices.”

It was during this two-year period, between 1996 and 1998, that I had several discussions with our executive directors, Jerry Bowman and Francine Butler of the Resource Center, about our corporate structure and that of the NANPA Foundation. Those discussions ultimately led to my being involved on a pro-bono basis in attending to some corporate restructuring of both organizations. I also undertook, on the same pro-bono basis, to prepare and submit the NANPA Foundation’s application for 501(3)c tax-exempt status, which was granted by the IRS.

Probably as a consequence of my work with Bowman and Butler on corporate and tax matters, I was approached in Corpus Christi by Wendy Shattil, inquiring if I would be willing to be a Nominating Committee candidate for the NANPA board. I was both surprised and complimented by the inquiry and acknowledged that I was interested.

I was elected to the board in the fall of 1997, to begin serving at the time of the 1998 Summit in Haines, Florida. John Nuhn had been elected president, and before that first board meeting John took me aside and asked me to serve as treasurer. I refused, but by the third or fourth request, and after some support John received from Jerry Bowman, I finally agreed. My initial refusal grew out of a concern that I just did not know enough about the affairs of the organization to do an acceptable job. Those concerns were allayed with a better understanding of the support provided by our executive directors and their staff.

I was elected as NANPA president in 1999, and began my term at the 2000 Summit in Austin, Texas. I stayed on the board as past president the following year and simultaneously served on the foundation board for 2001 and 2002. I declined an opportunity to serve longer on the foundation board, for I felt that not only was it time for others to become involved, but since I had retired from the practice of law on January 1, 2001, I wanted to limit my involvement in other responsible work, an effort I can attest has not gone very well.

While I don’t currently serve on any NANPA committee, I do serve as the chair of the Past President’s Council, a group made up of all NANPA’s past presidents. The council was established by the NANPA board in January 2014 as an independent body to be advisory to the NANPA board and Executive Committee.

What were your greatest accomplishments or the highlights thus far?

I don’t know that I can point to any great accomplishments during my active years with NANPA. We had some serious financial concerns when I became treasurer, and I was able to favorably renegotiate our contract with our executive directors to alleviate a significant part of that concern. Still, it was not me or any other single person who was responsible for the success of our Summits or our financial or membership stability, but rather the efforts of many, with particular thanks to Jerry Bowman, Francine Butler and the Resource Center staff, and the many contributions of our professional members.

A great disappointment during my term as president was the resignation from NANPA of Galen Rowell, one of our premier professionals. Galen was upset that NANPA was not more involved in taking action to protect our threatened wilderness lands and taking action to add more land to that protected status. NANPA, I explained, did not have the resources or the staff or structure to investigate the issues in order to be a competent spokesman, but our similarly minded members were encouraged to join organizations that had such competency. My explanation proved not to be persuasive.

A highlight of my term as president was the opportunity to introduce Gordon Parks, who was a special speaker at the 2001 Summit in Las Vegas. Gordon’s background as a photographer, musician, choreographer, writer and film director truly qualified him as a “Renaissance” man. As it turned out, he and I had a couple of things in common. Though a decade apart, we both attended St. Paul Central High School, and as youths, we both worked on the Great Northern Empire Builder dining cars—he as a waiter and me as a cook.

How long have you been a NANPA member?

I have been a NANPA member since January 13, 1995. I am now a life member.

My current NANPA goals are twofold. I recently made the first goal, which was to deliver, as promised, highlights from my term as president to the chair of the History Committee. The second goal is to be available personally and through the Past President’s Council to provide advice as requested by the NANPA Board and Executive Committee.

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