Long time Rockford Ambulance Board Chair and member Fran Roberts set to Retire.
A legacy of hard work – Caring
Fran Roberts still remembers her first Rockford Ambulance Board meeting in 1985, “It was a cold blustery autumn evening, opening the door to the Rockford Department of Public Works, there was only a single overhead lightbulb…it was a little spooky”.
Nearly four decades later Fran Roberts’ service is drawing to a close with the organization she led as Board Chair for 15 years (1999 – 2013), culminating nearly four decades of Board Service.
Much has changed since that November night in 1985; Rockford Ambulance has grown from a local, largely volunteer staffed team of 16 first responders to the region’s largest not-for-profit EMT provider serving over 550 square-miles, with a fleet of 16 ambulances, and a staff of 84.
Founded in 1968 with equipment loaned by the City of Rockford, it is now a fully integrated and certified ambulance company with nine locations and a budget just over $10,000,000.
Roberts – a longtime educator with Rockford Public Schools, is described as a “creative disrupter” by former fellow Lakes Elementary teacher Diane Lincoln. “Fran possessed a ‘big picture’ vision – coupled with tenacity and the organizational skills to put that vision into practice. She organized scores of in-class, and out-of-classroom learning experiences for her first grade students, ranging from field trips to the Lake Michigan shoreline to study the magnetic properties of sand grains – to ski trips to Cannonsburg ski area,” said Lincoln.
Jill McClain another former Lakes Elementary teacher described Fran as strong believer in – and practitioner of – lifelong learning. “Fran had wonderful curiosity, and always kept abreast of new developments in teaching, often built them into the school year plan for the students,” said McClain. “Her leadership skills were exemplary and inspiring,” added McClain.
Roberts, Lincoln, and McClain team taught first grade at Rockford Lakes Elementary School for over 20 years beginning in the mid 1970’s. Together they created cross-disciplinary learning experiences considered novel at the time. A mutual love of lifelong learning has grown into a lifetime friendship among the three – who continue to meet frequently.
Long time Rockford Ambulance CEO, Roger Morgan, credits Roberts with “dogged determination” in her decision-making skills. “Fran was an innovative leader willing to take risks during periods of challenge and growth often when there was no alternative. She truly leaves a legacy of hard work – caring”, said Morgan.
“My risk taking probably resulted in part from not knowing what could – or more importantly could not – be done”, said Roberts. Among the many accomplishments during her Board leadership, she is especially proud of the Rockford Ambulance Care Program, which allows residents of the region to pay a nominal annual fee, and entitles them to medically necessary ambulance transportion at no out of pocket expense if insured; uninsured members are provided a 50% discount on their total bill.
“My success as Board member and Chair is owed to the visionary leadership of the company’s long time and current CEO Roger Morgan. His visioning included the need for a community room attached to the ambulance offices on Courtland. He could see the need to have satellites throughout the 550 square miles in order to provide rapid life-saving service to rural areas. He developed partnerships with other entities such as Lowell, Grand Rapids Township, and most recently opening a center in Solon Township to better serve the Cedar Springs area. Roger was excited about developing a first rate ambulance service and suggested we go after accreditation soon after ambulance accreditation became available, and Rockford became the first small ambulance company to receive accreditation.”
Current Rockford Board Chair Dr. Steven Perry noted that “Fran’s many contributions to Rockford Ambulance are woven into the culture of the organization which she so capably led.
Roberts officially retired during Rockford’s year-end Board meeting on Oct. 27, 2022. In recognition of her service Rockford Ambulance has donated $5,000 to the Rockford Education Foundation and has re-named the Community Center at their offices, in her honor.
Roberts and husband Ray are long-time residents of Plainfield Township and enjoy their summers at a seasonal home on Drummond Island.