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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
Since 1992, the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations has worked to support our members to become a source of excellence for VA Research and Development. Over the course of Fiscal Year 2017, NAVREF will be promoting 25 stories from our members, friends, and stakeholders recounting our unique heritage, culture, and spirit.  You can look forward to 2 recollections each month culminating on September 10th in Las Vegas where we will host our 25th Annual NAVREF Conference.  Thank you for your support of NAVREF’s vision of a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education.

Our First Story: Impressions

When I attended my first NAVREF conference in 2009, I didn’t expect much.  I was new to the VA nonprofit world, and I’d had a couple of great phone conversations with Barbara West, but I figured she was just being nice to the newbies.  After 20 years in academic research administration, I’d been to dozens of large conferences where I’d pick up a couple of new contacts and maybe a handful of helpful tips.  Mostly, though, I remember being on my own to navigate the seas of research administration.

My first hint that NAVREF was different was at the conference registration desk, where Barbara and Angela Murakami were greeting each registrant personally.  Even though I was new, they welcomed me like an old friend and seemed to remember everything about me.  Boy, that’s unusual, I thought.  Probably just a lucky coincidence.  

After getting settled in my hotel room, I came back down to the opening reception, expecting the usual cocktail banter.  Instead, I was immediately surrounded by intelligent, friendly people who seemed genuinely interested in me and my nonprofit, and actively offered up advice and guidance.  Huh, I thought.  I must have just fallen in with the right group of people.  Lucky again, I guess.

The next day it slowly dawned on me that it wasn’t luck, but rather some special brand of NAVREF magic.  By the time I left the conference, I was hooked.  I’d come away with real colleagues, significant resources, and a true motivation to use my nonprofit to do good for Veterans.  Most importantly, I didn’t feel alone.  Even though my office was tucked away in rural Vermont, I felt that I had a whole network of resources to support me when I needed guidance.

In my past five years on the NAVREF board, I’ve had the honor of working with many incredibly smart and dedicated NAVREF staff and board members.  Without exception, they’re people who have a genuine passion for serving Veterans.  I’ve also come to realize there’s a lot of hard work behind that NAVREF magic.  

Over the years, my admiration (and I’ll admit, outright affection) for NAVREF has steadily grown, and I’m grateful to the people who had the foresight 25 years ago to create such a valuable organization.  We’re an unusual group of folks, thrown together with an unusual set of pressures and challenges, answering to many masters.  But we’re lucky.  We’re lucky to have such an honorable mission, and very lucky indeed to have the NAVREF family.

Contributed by Ms. Priscilla West
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