David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Patricia Dougherty

Patricia Dougherty

Director, Retiree Relations; Executive Director, UW Retirement Association

Nominated by Paul Rucker, Executive Director, UW Alumni Association and Assoc. Vice President, Alumni & Stakeholder Engagement; Míċeál Vaughan, Professor Emeritus, Comparative Literature and UWRA President, 2018-2019

Awarded 2019

We consider it our great privilege to submit this nomination of Patricia Dougherty, Director of Retiree Relations and Executive Director of the UW Retirement Association, for the David B. Thorud Leadership Award.

In our nearly 30 years in higher education administration and 40-plus years as a professor, respectively, we judge Pat Dougherty among the most dedicated, professional, empathetic and caring colleagues with whom we have had the privilege to serve. For nearly 20 years, she has led the UW’s Retiree Relations/UW Retirement Association (UWRR/UWRA) with vision, wisdom and heart, resulting in immeasurable impact on literally thousands of current and former UW staff and faculty members.

Pat exemplifies the excellence that comes when knowledge and skill are paired with foresight and openness. Pat’s longevity in her role means that she has seen UW retirees through a generation of change. Perhaps its greatest challenge during Pat’s tenure came in 2010, when the national economic crisis led to drastic cuts at the UW, including the elimination of UW financial support for the Retirement Center, which was the home for the UWRA. On very short notice, Pat was notified that the portion of the Center’s budget that paid staff salaries – including her own
– was no longer available. If Pat were just an employee, she would have moved on to another job. But Pat is not just an employee; she is a committed and farsighted leader. With her calm, creative and practical guidance, UWRA’s volunteer board succeeded in reinventing the organization and its relationship to the UW. They developed a stopgap fundraising plan, which kept the organization running while they reached out to new UW partners. Pat led through this transition by example, working reduced hours when full funding for her position was not available. Evidence for the quality of Pat’s leadership can be seen by looking at the organization today: it has come through this challenge as a stronger group, with more diversified programs, a growing constituency and a solid financial foundation. It also has made the office of Retiree Relations an essential office for the University.

Since bringing retiree relations in formal alignment with University Advancement, Pat’s leadership role has expanded. She has taken on the task of educating University Advancement colleagues about the important role and impact UW retirees have within this community. Their heightened awareness again benefits both the university and its retirees. Meanwhile, as a senior member of the Alumni & Stakeholder Engagement leadership team, Pat has served as mentor, role model and sounding board to a new generation of Advancement leaders.

Under Pat’s leadership, UWRA (through UWRR) provides opportunities for retiree involvement with the UW that strengthen the commitment and pride of affiliation that was so much a part of retirees’ work careers. Pat creates a culture of pride and inspires retirees to stay engaged.

Pat’s commitment to the retiree constituency and outstanding achievements at UW were amplified in her leadership in organizing and hosting a wildly successful national conference of the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE) on the UW campus in 2016. Pat had a vision for the conference theme and structure. She championed UWRA’s bid to host the conference, convincing AROHE national leadership that the UW campus would be an excellent location. Planning efforts began more than a year in advance; Pat was in planning mode from day one and was the catalytic leader who kept the process going.

Two UW retirees who worked with Pat on the conference, Charles Chamberlin and Georgia Mosher, noted, “We worked almost daily with her on the conference planning committee. She was in communication with local UWRA Board members, campus partners, volunteers, the local planning committee, as well as the national AROHE Board and planning committee. She was involved in every facet of the event, and worked tireless hours—no detail was too small for her attention. Thanks to Pat’s coordination and communication skills, there was outstanding interaction between the UWRA Board and the national AROHE Board members, which contributed greatly to the success of the conference. Attendees representing 60+ academic institutions from all over North America widely praised the conference, likening it to a grand slam home run.

One of the most important outcomes of the Conference was the positive – even transformative – impact involvement with the Conference had on UWRA members. Pat made sure local members were fully engaged in the conference and dozens came away energized, full of ideas and excitement about what more UWRA could do to enrich the lives of UW retirees and what retirees could do to further the mission of the UW. No other individual could have orchestrated the conference with such precision and with such resounding success.

So far, we have described Pat’s strong leadership at the front of Retiree Relations. But, as Prof. Emeritus Jim Whittaker says, “Pat is first and foremost a leader who listens. In her quiet, non-threatening and welcoming way we have observed Pat drawing out the very best in ideas from all around the table, including those perhaps reticent at first to speak freely. That these groups are frequently composed of people new to their status of retiree and new to one another speaks volumes about the exquisite communication skills Pat possesses. She listens well, draws from the best that the group has to offer and then, frequently, distills these often-disparate ideas into a coherent plan of action. She is a master at summarization and at presenting succinctly the goals and activities of our UWRA group.”

Pat’s leadership reflects her knowledge of the issues facing retirees as well as her vision of what is next as the culture of retirement rapidly expands and changes. She draws on her deep and wide network of UW contacts to build programming that showcases the best of the UW and serves the social and emotional needs of UW’s retirees. She has led programming efforts that highlight issues of critical importance to retirees and combine the considerable expertise within the UW community with the deep reservoir of practical wisdom that exists within the UWRA membership.

As one example, Pat and her team have produced three open forums on issues related to housing for seniors. These sessions featured noted UW experts on gerontology along with carefully selected panel members from among the UWRA membership who had made a variety of choices with respect to housing options. What emerged from these presentations was an elegant blend of the latest scientific research buttressed by the lived experience of the membership. Together these highly valued sessions drew literally hundreds of participants both from the UWRA membership and the wider universe of UW alumni.

Another innovative, collaborative program is the Retiree Resource Fair, which has grown from a few explanatory exhibits into an annual event showcasing thirty different units from all across the UW. The event serves the units by providing them with a way to reach retirees with information and engagement opportunities, and it serves the UW retirees and current employees who are searching for a convenient way to access that content. This event shows Pat’s visionary ability to meet the needs of her constituents while serving increasing numbers of units within the UW.

Perhaps the best example of Pat’s foresight and creative leadership is in the development of the UW’s Encore program. Pat was quick to spot the value in the work of Marc Freedman, founder of the national Encore movement that seeks to help retirees find meaningful ways to use their knowledge and experience in service to the greater good. She brought Freedman to the UW to speak to UWRA’s board and other UW stakeholders; she organized a public lecture where Freedman presented his ideas to an audience from across the city; she secured a grant from the Encore foundation that funded two retirees as Encore Innovation Fellows. One of those fellows, UW retiree Bob Roseth, says, “Pat encouraged us to dream big and to develop a framework for future development which still serves as a guide for retirement association work. It’s much harder to do what she has done than to implement ideas that are universally supported and encouraged. But Pat has chosen to be a change agent in a challenging environment. This requires a unique combination of skills and a dogged determination to keep the ultimate goals in sight. This is the kind of effort that will be of long-term benefit not just to retirees but to the UW as a whole.”

We have told you of our experience of Pat’s leadership. We cannot imagine a better leader for UW’s Retiree Relations over the past two decades. In the following supporting letters, you’ll hear from just a few of those Pat’s leadership has touched: her small staff of employees and volunteers, whose loyalty to and admiration of Pat speak to her skills as a listener and community-builder; the past presidents of UWRA, leaders in their own right who demonstrate Pat’s unique ability to work across the widely varying constituencies that are part of her role; and the national leadership of the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education, who see Pat from the outside for the national-caliber leader that she is.

We personally join with them in thanking you for this opportunity to share our observations of this transformational leader who has accomplished wonders at the UW and has taught us all so much.

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