Lindy Ritz came to OU for a degree in fashion merchandising. She met her husband, John, a petroleum engineering major, during her senior year. When her aspirations of fashion merchandising did not align with opportunities available, she pivoted to an entry-level position with the Forestry Service. She and her husband moved from New Orleans to Corpus Christi, where she took a financial position at the Naval Air Station and was soon able to apply for a career management internship that led to her discovering a love for human resource management. A colleague at the time offered advice that has stuck with her.
“He said, ‘Well, are you going to apply for that job?’ and I said, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘So you think you’re the best person for the job?’ I was embarrassed and thought, well, I’m not going to say that, but then he looked at me and was very stern and said, ‘Remember one thing. If you don’t think you’re the best person for the job, don’t even show up…You need to, in your heart and mind, know you’re the best. You may or may not get it, but if you’re not convinced you’re the best, don’t even waste their time.’”
When her husband and a business partner decided to begin their own petroleum business and come back to Norman, Ritz used her network to interview for a position at the Federal Aviation Administration. She steadily rose to higher positions within the organization.
One mentor, the former director of the FAA Aeronautical Center, offered continuous support, pushing her to aspire for the director position.
It’s a huge responsibility to be a mentor because you have to be very factual with people. You’ve got to look them in the eye and kind of kick them in the rear when you need to. And we was like, ‘You can do it; you just need to get on with it.’ Over and over, I thought about how everybody, as much confidence as people seemed to have deep down, everybody needs that encouragement…what are some of their biggest fears, biggest insecurities, and help them work through that.”
Ritz said one thing she tries to share with the young women she has mentored is that it’s never too late to change paths.
“Too often, I think we put a huge price on that you have to know exactly what you want to do and you stay with that…it’s never too late. You just have to touch base with what brings you joy.”
Ritz was named the director of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City in 1997. In 2008, she served as the acting deputy assistant administrator for Regions and Center Operations in Washington, D.C., and as the acting vice president for technical training for the Air Traffic Organization.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from OU, a degree from the FAA Senior Executive Candidate Development Program, has completed graduate programs at the University of Michigan and the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and received a master’s degree in aviation and space from Oklahoma State University. She is a member of aviation advisory councils for OU and OSU and serves on the advisory board for the OU College of Arts and Science, among many other advisory roles.
The Air Traffic Control Association awarded Ritz the George W. Kriske Memorial Award in 2007 for an outstanding career that has added to the quality, safety or efficiency of air traffic control, and she received the first FAA Golden Compass Award for Exemplary Leadership in the same year. She received the Leadership Oklahoma Distinguished Graduate Award in 2000 and the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Community Leadership Association in April of 2001.