The Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award

The Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award

The Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award recognizes the achievements of individuals who, while working in the private sector, have made significant contributions to the development of publicly funded state service systems for people with developmental disabilities through research, the design of new service models, training, technical assistance, and consultation.


Award for Nancy Thaler

Nancy Thaler

November 2019, Ms. Thaler's career began in 1971 serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities both in the private sector and in the public sector. She began working in Pennsylvania provider agencies in the early years of community services as a direct care worker, a houseparent and in a range of supervisory positions. In 1987, Ms. Thaler joined Pennsylvania state government and served until 2003, for the last ten of those years as the Deputy Secretary of what is now the Office of Developmental Programs. She returned to the position and served again from 2015 through 2018. Between her two stints as Pennsylvania's state director, Ms. Thaler served as the Director of Quality Improvement for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2003-2006 and was responsible for developing federal waiver application and oversight of state-operated Medicaid home and community-based services waiver programs. From 2007-2016 she served as the Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS). Nancy is currently working as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services to expand and develop services for children with complex medical care needs so they can live at home with family.

Award for David Braddock

David Braddock

November 2018, David was the Senior Associate Vice President of the University of Colorado System, Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and the Coleman-Turner Chair in Cognitive Disability in the CU Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine for 17 years.  

Award for Dr. William Kiernan, Ph.D.

Dr. William Kiernan, Ph.D.

November 2016, Gail Grossman, M.S.S.A. Former Assistant, Commissioner for Quality Management for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services.  Pictured- (Robin Cooper, NASDDDS Director of Technical Assistance (far left), Bernie Simons, NASDDDS Board President, (Second from left), Gail Grossman, (third from left), Mary Lee Fay, NASDDDS Executive Director, (third from right), Rie Kennedy-Lizotte, NASDDDS Director of Employment Policy, (second from right), Dr. William Kiernan, Ph.D. Dean, Professor, School of Global Inclusion, Director of Social Development, Insititute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston. (Award Recipient, far right). Dr. Kiernan received this award at the 2016 Annual Conference in Alexandria, Virginia.

Award for Michael Smull

Michael Smull

Michael has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the field of developmental disabilities and provided valued guidance to state policy makers. As far back as the 1980s, Michael understood that to have an impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities, it was necessary to work with public systems responsible for providing services.  Michael received this award at the 2015 Mid-year Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Award for Charlie Lakin

Charlie Lakin

With more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, researcher, consultant, and advocate in services for people with intellectual/development disabilities, Charlie Lakin was honored with the Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award for his significant contributions to the development of publicly funded states services for people with developmental disabilities.

Award for John O’Brien

John O’Brien

John O’Brien, Responsive Systems Associates, "who, with amazing persistence and patience has changed how people are supported across the states" received the Compass Award at the 2011 Mid-Year Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Award for Val Bradley

Val Bradley

Valerie Bradley, President, Human Services Research Institute received the Compass Award at the 2009 Annual Conference in Alexandria, Virginia "for her contributions to individuals and state systems serving citizens with intellectual and other developmental disabilities." Pictured - Nancy Thaler, NASDDDS Executive Director (on left), Valerie Bradley (center), and Kenneth Ritchey, NASDDDS Board of Directors President (on right).

Award for Bob Gettings

Bob Gettings

Robert "Bob" Gettings received the Compass Award at his retirement ceremony held at Mount Rushmore during the 2007 Mid-Year Meeting in South Dakota for his 37 years of commitment to building the association and supporting the leaders of state agencies.


Award for Gary Smith

Gary Smith

The first person to receive the Compass Award was the late Gary Smith in 2001. It was Gary’s contribution to the advancement of public services for people with developmental disabilities that inspired the NASDDDS Board of Directors to create the Compass award. Gary was a guide to all states and he effectively pointed state agencies in the right direction.