Foundation Leaders Report Record Fundraising, New Initiatives

Despite the global health crisis and the International Institute for Ammonia Refrigeration’s switch to an all-virtual annual conference, leaders of the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation said they are optimistic for the future and steadfast in the Foundation’s mission.

Incoming chairman Bruce Nelson said the pandemic has not affected the Foundation as it relates to its core mission, adding that he’s hopeful operations will return to normal as soon as safely possible. “I see us returning to normal sooner rather than later,” he said. “This is what we do as Americans – we rise to a challenge.”


To that end, the Foundation’s commitment to helping sustain the industry is unshaken. One of the main ways the Foundation accomplishes this, he said, is through the Founders Scholarship program.

In the last school year, 2019-2020, the Foundation supported a total of nine students through the Founder’s Scholarships. “This is something I’m just thrilled about,” Nelson said. “We were very successful in managing those scholarships.”

When the scholarship began, it was limited to a small number of recipients. IIAR’s Scholarship Subcommittee Chair Bob Port said that the program has grown significantly over the years, culminating with the most recent cohort of nine new and returning students.

“The big success [this year] was the numbers,” Port said. Recipients had competed among 26 total applicants – the largest field the Foundation has seen. Additionally, the Foundation voted to double the number of scholarships awarded, helping the program expand significantly. This year three new juniors received scholarships as well as three seniors. Three more returning seniors continued their scholarships as well.

Although their educational experiences were disrupted by the pandemic, Nelson said many of the scholarship recipients were able to adapt to their new learning environments and thrive despite the upheaval. “I was relieved and happy to hear that – that all of our students were able to complete their studies effectively,” he said.

Additionally, Nelson said he was happy to report all of the students felt very supported by the Foundation staff in the administration of their scholarships. “Each of them said they really appreciated all of the help and support – I felt really good about that. We’re doing an excellent job, in my view, of supporting our scholarship students.”

Nelson said he wants to encourage IIAR members to spread the word about the scholarship program. Several of this year’s student group heard about the program through their families, and others in the past have applied because of family friends that work in the industry. Outreach is an important element of promoting the scholarship, but word-of-mouth is still a very powerful tool to that end.

“ As the Foundation Chair, one of my goals has become to encourage our board of directors and encourage the membership generally to be aware and communicate to coworkers and other companies in the industry to make them aware of the Founders Scholarships.”

– Bruce Nelson, incoming ARF chairman

“As the Foundation Chair, one of my goals has become to encourage our board of directors and encourage the membership generally to be aware and communicate to coworkers and other companies in the industry to make them aware of the Founders Scholarships,” Nelson said. “I suspect that not everyone in our member companies is fully aware [of the program].”

There’s an annual cycle of application, evaluation, and granting of scholarships. Right now, the window of application for the upcoming cohort has been closed, “but we’ll be able to fund a significant number of scholarships again – that’s great news,” Nelson said. Additionally, Nelson encouraged students to continue to apply for the next scholarship cycle and to learn more on the Foundation website. “You can apply at any time,” he said. “It’s never too soon to start thinking about it.”


In addition to the continued prioritization of the scholarship program, the Foundation continues its mission to provide cutting-edge research to help industry members increase safety and efficiency in their facilities. “The research committee has been extremely active with a lot of committed members,” Nelson said. “We’ve just completed piping research… [we’re working] on moving the deliverables from the research project into our publications so that we benefit from that work for a long time.”

While that process is ongoing, the Foundation’s research arm keeps busy with other projects. Wayne Wehber, the Research Committee Chair, said there are currently three projects in the works.

The first is well underway: the project uses CFD simulations of ammonia dispersion within an engine room to determine appropriate ventilation rates.

“What we’re trying to do is a complete analysis revisiting the question of ‘what is the necessary ventilation that we need to have’,” Wehber said, adding that while there are guidelines in the IIAR-2 standard, they were developed years ago without the technical rigor included in the current project.

“We’re going to look at small and large machinery rooms and get a look at different ammonia leakage rates and types of leaks,” Wehber said. “We’re then going to evaluate different ventilation rates and configurations.”

tion rates and configurations.” Wehber said right now the modeling is underway, and he expects to have initial findings by the 2021 IIAR conference. Ultimately those findings will be finalized and used to revise the IIAR-2 standard, and influence the design of engine rooms in the future.

Additionally, two other projects are currently in the planning stages. The first is a relief-valve piping sizing program that would develop a software tool and user’s manual to help calculate appropriate sizing. The software will include the ability to have a library with published relief-valve data and components as well as non-standard data. The second is a proposal to develop a guideline to help estimate and report ammonia releases.


The Foundation’s educational offerings and research efforts are made possible with the financial support of the foundation’s trustees and individual member donations. Joe Mandato, Chair of the Foundation Trustees, says that his fundraising efforts – while impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak – were largely successful this year.

Recognizing those who committed during the 2019/2020 fiscal year, there were a total of six trustee-level donors. The donors include RDS – its second pledge as a trustee — and four new trustees: Calibration Technologies Inc., United States Cold Storage, Clauger North America, and R.E. Lewis Inc. One donor preferred to remain anonymous.

In terms of large individual contributions, Mandato said the Foundation is recognizing Bluvas and Associates and FES Southwest Inc. for donations of $10,000 each. Finally, the Kahlert Foundation donated $35,000, which was earmarked for course development at IIAR’s Academy of Natural Refrigeration.

Additionally, this year’s annual golf tournament – although canceled – still raised over $86,000, largely because individuals and companies donated their registration and sponsorship fees despite the cancellation. “It was a very successful event,” Mandato joked. “I think the kudos go to those IIAR members and individuals who were willing to allow the monies they allocated for the golf tournament to be turned into a donation to the Foundation. It was very generous and very much appreciated.”

generous and very much appreciated.” Mandato also extended his thanks to Dennis Anderholm – chair of the tournament – and his volunteers for handling the cancellation with aplomb.

“There’s an energy surrounding the Foundation and the activities it’s doing for the good of the industry,” Mandato said. “Overall, the future looks very bright.”

Looking to the future of the Foundation, Nelson says he hopes the greater IIAR membership will get more involved in education and research initiatives. “There’s always a need for dedicated, passionate committee members,” he said. “It’s such a noble mission – what we do at IIAR – and these two committees are particularly important to our membership and the public.”