Upon leaving the corporate world, Jim Postl moved over to another realm: the nonprofit world.
His plan was simple. He'd find organizations that matter to him, then offer them the expertise accumulated over 30 years in management at PepsiCo., Nabisco and Pennzoil-Quaker State, where he was president and CEO when he retired.
Nonprofit organizations eagerly welcomed Postl. Soon, he worked his way to chairman of the board of one after another, including the American Heart Association.
Postl's devotion to the AHA starts at a deeply personal reason: His father died of a heart attack at 54, making heart health a key factor in his own life. Then, years into his AHA career, Postl's wife, Beverly, survived a heart attack.
His commitment was solidified early in his time as a volunteer, when he witnessed the impact the organization was having to save and improve lives. Yet something else strengthened his bond with the AHA, something that he said makes this organization stand out among the many he serves.
"The people," he said. "I've made some of the very best friends that I've ever had. When you build close relationships, it really solidifies the linkage that you have with that organization."
Postl began volunteering with the AHA in Houston in 1999. He retired from business in 2002, then joined the national board in 2004. He's been part of it pretty much ever since, taking on numerous high-profile duties, particularly including his term as board chairman from 2017-19.
His impact is evident from his local level in Houston to all around the world for his invaluable efforts growing the organization's global strategies. For all his efforts, he'll receive the Gold Heart Award, the AHA's top volunteer honor, on June 14, in an online awards ceremony that's open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. Central.
"Jim's business savvy and vision are among the reasons the AHA is the dynamic, thriving organization it is today," AHA Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown said. "His wisdom and innovative thinking have helped us achieve tremendous mission impact across the U.S. and around the world."
Postl's start with the AHA came soon after he became COO of Pennzoil. First, he was told the company was a platinum sponsor of the Heart Walk in Houston. Then he was told, "You're going to be chairing it."
Liking what he saw, Postl joined the local board, then the regional board. Along the way, he spearheaded all sorts of successful events and projects, including creating the local office's first strategic plan and building its new facility. He and his wife were among the donors for the building; a meeting room is named in honor of his father.
"He was an immigrant from Austria who worked as a foreman at a bedding factory and never made more than $5,000 a year," Postl said. "He was very adamant that my two brothers, a sister and I get a good education and have better opportunities in life than he had. I consider myself so fortunate."
In addition to hosting meetings, the Joseph Postl Room has become a go-to place for volunteers and staff to come together in fellowship.
"My dad would be so proud of that, too," Postl said, smiling.
Over the nearly two decades since Postl joined the national board, he's served on a dizzying list of national committees.
They range from roles befitting his business background (Audit, Administrative Cabinet, and Compensation Benefits and Human Resources) to those overseeing the bedrock layers of the organization (Research, Advocacy, International and Emergency Cardiovascular Care).
Now he's on the national board, co-chairs the International Committee and is on the Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee.
"I also chair the Second Century campaign," Postl said.
In that role, Postl hopes to leave a lasting mark for generations. In fact, that's what he tells potential donors about the future of the AHA, which turns 100 in June 2024.
"We saved millions and millions of lives in our first century, and going forward into our second century, we really have the opportunity to dramatically improve access to health care and to continue to invest in groundbreaking and lifesaving research," he said. "So, it's a wonderful opportunity to have a significant impact on life in America and beyond."
During Postl's tenure as national board chair, the AHA launched new research centers on atrial fibrillation, vascular disease and brain health in aging populations as part of its Strategically Focused Research Networks; championed legislation expanding access to care for heart attack and stroke patients; and launched new guidelines in blood pressure and cholesterol management, stroke care and heart disease and stroke prevention.
Also on his watch, the AHA centralized various aspects of its business, including "modernizing the structure" of how the national office works with offices around the country.
"It played out in a way that I think made the AHA a much more efficient organization," he said.
As proof, he pointed to the fact that the AHA reached the milestone of $1 billion in annual revenue soon after, then the organization weathered the financial storm related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were able to pivot very quickly and make the kinds of changes that were necessary to allow us to continue to thrive," he said. "The new operating model has allowed us to be more fleet of foot and more responsive to both opportunities and challenges."
Postl sees $1.5 billion in revenue as the next financial milestone.
"And I'm confident that we will get there," he said.
His confidence is rooted in the stewardship of Brown and the leaders surrounding her, both on the business side of the organization and in the volunteer ranks.
"When you work with the AHA," Postl said, "you're working with a team of all-stars."