Judy’s lovely entry in this Winter 2018-19 SAG marks her last entry for the CDF. We take this opportunity to thank Judy for this sustaining gift as she completes her nine-year work as a CDF Trustee. Judy has written many “Foundation Facts” for the Shav-A-Gram and our website, some galant, some funny (see ClaraTee’s interview), some poignant, and all so lovely to read. 

On behalf of the CDF Board of Trustees, Judy, may your gifts of pen and thoughtful word continue to inspire you as giver, as much as these gifts inspire those to whom you have given.

Gratefully yours,

Brenda Seal, CDF President


In that no other Trustee has been as vigilant in documenting the CDF’s meetings, memberships, awardees, and activities in preserving our past for the future, as our CDF secretary, Margaret McElroy …

In that no other Trustee has undertaken to find meeting places, schedule lunches, and prepare accommodations for CDF meetings as effortlessly as she, Margaret McElroy …

In that no other Trustee has been as gracious in offering encouragement and praise to other Trustees, while always deflecting praise and attention away from herself as she, Margaret McElroy …

In that no other Trustee has given so much of her values, hopes and aspirations for the CDF’s welfare in supporting future speech-language pathologists and audiologists, as she, Margaret McElroy …

The Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia, on this first day of December, 2018, extends a warm farewell to our dear Trustee, with deep appreciation for all you have done (known and unknown to us and so many others), with deep affection for all you have been as a genuinely dedicated member of this organization; and on behalf of all who have gladly served with you over these 18 years, Margaret,

May your days of continued enlightment and energy nurture unlimited good deeds for others while filling your own deep well of human kindness!

Brenda Seal, CDF President

Team of Champions

Steadfast foundation believers, that is to say, CDF Board members and supporters alike, place high value on individual achievement.  This is evident in the scholarships and other awards we make possible.   So, too, in our daily lives, most of us likely encourage family members, students, clients, colleagues, and even ourselves to strive and persevere, to reach ever upward.  This quest for being the ‘best we can be’ seems to be in our collective DNA.  And yet, as we well know, individual effort does not necessarily mean one can or should do everything alone.  A helping hand, an encouraging word may be just what is needed to succeed in certain endeavors.

 Some tasks are just too big or complex for one or even a few persons to handle.  A group of people may be called to together to work toward a common goal, a mission, a purpose, a cause.  All of us have been members of various kinds of groups throughout our lives:  family and friend circles; neighborhoods, towns, schools, churches; workplaces, professions, organizations, foundations; boards, councils, committees; and the list goes on.  Members often have a connection with others in their groups, a commonality that binds them together--a shared interest, occupation, talent, or passion.  There are likely to be differences as well.  Differences among group members can be enriching; they can enhance the group’s work.  Or they can become sources of conflict and impede the group’s work.  How to ensure the former and minimize the latter?  Teamwork seems to be at least part of the answer.

 Teamwork is a beautiful thing. You know it when you see it, especially if you experience it in a group that has become a team where everyone pulls together in the same direction.  The essence of teamwork is captured in this official dictionary definition:  “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.”  Creativity and innovation often flourish in an environment of group problem-solving.  Goals are reached; projects are completed; progress is made.   And the payoff is great:  the feeling of group accomplishment can be exhilarating.  If cooperative teamwork is continued over time, one success can lead to another and then another.

 The CDF Board of Trustees exemplifies teamwork at its best.  First and foremost, Board members are devoted to the Foundation cause, as stated in its official motto, “Supporting Achievement, Honoring Excellence.”  From there, other signs of effective teamwork follow, among them--

  • a solid work structure with processes and policies in place, for example, a regularly updated set of functional bylaws; a comprehensive development plan that outlines member responsibilities and goals (each person has found a niche); an established routine for meeting dates and agendas, the accurate recording and full Board review of meeting minutes, and other documentation; a self-assessment tool for trustees to evaluate their own performance;


  • a positive work environment that values and encourages individual participation within the group, fosters the formation of smaller groups to work on specific projects; praises successful efforts and offers suggestions when a different path is called for; facilitates congeniality and colleagueship;


  • a long (32 years and counting) history of successful fundraising, scholarship- and award-giving accomplishments, whether in lean years or more prosperous ones; learning from the ups and the downs; offering a consistently reliable presence--auction, exhibit table, student poster session--to annual SHAV conference goers; relying on the lessons of past experience to shift gears and move in new, bold directions.

A thriving team and its dictionary-defined teamwork necessarily depend on something that holds these elements together.  And that something, of course, is glue.  The glue in this context is the people, the Trustees.  Ranging in Board experience from several months to 28 years, these committed persons support one another in many ways.  They serve as mentors, volunteer helpers, and cheerleaders for each other.  They offer suggestions and join their colleagues in lifting heavy loads or exploring new ideas together.  In other words, they build the structure, embody the positive environment, and create the history.  They are the glue that holds the elements together in a cohesive, effective whole.  They make the whole thing work.

 And yet, the Board is actually not the whole thing.  Not at all!  You, our Foundation supporters, make possible everything that the Board does.  Without you, there would be no reason for the Board to do its work, no reason for any elements or for the glue to hold them together.  Without you, there would be no team.  Why?  Because, of course, you are an integral part of the team.  Thank you for being the most crucial element of all.  Your continuing participation has enabled the foundation to become more than the sum of its parts.  Your continuing participation completes the team, and then some.

Judy Rassi, Contributor

Investing in the Future, With a Glimpse at the Past

The quarterly SHAV-A-GRAM offers a chance to communicate with patrons, colleagues, and professionals (old and new), as Virginia’s audiology and speech-language pathology stakeholders, about our investments. In the 33 years the CDF has existed, we’ve managed to grow a small portfolio ($39,102). Annual auctions, letter-writing campaigns, membership donations, and your unsolicited gifts have far exceeded that amount, but where we’ve invested dollars, and pennies on the dollars, to reach ALMOST $40,000 (our Raymond James Investors and Union Bank brokers told us in August), we’ve ASLO INVESTED THE BULK in student awards. Julia Spong (UVA) and Emily Speaks (Radford) mark our 49th and 50th scholarship recipients since 1990. (Read Judy Rassi’s interviews in the post below).

And here’s a pitiful fact: $20 doesn’t go nearly as far in the movie world or at the drive-through today as it did in 1990; but your $20 does combine with another’s $10-, $50-, or $100-donation to move us closer to the $40,000 milestone. We’re almost at the point where our investment allows us to draw from the interest without touching principal.

We believe that investing in those who promise quality AUD and SLP prevention, evaluation, and intervention services to our parents, children, spouses, friends, and to us when we become the clients, deserve our investments now. The return is so much more valuable than the cost of a move ticket or drive-through burger.

Visit the donate link and HELP US REACH $40,000!

Thank you so very much,

Brenda Seal, CDF President

Interview with the 2018 Scholarship Recipients

Bright Future:  As regular readers know, the CDF interviews its annual scholarship winners.  Following is a brief exchange with our 2018 recipients.  Ponder their words, words that will surely give you a sense of pride in the quality of students entering our field and confidence that the field will continue to thrive in their capable hands.  Also evident here is the continued excellence of Virginia’s educational programs.  So join Julia Spong of the University of Virginia, 2018 Rita Purcell-Robertson Scholarship awardee, and Emily Speaks of Radford University, the 2018 David H. Narburgh Scholarship awardee, as they share their thoughts with us.

CDF:  What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?

Julia:  I am incredibly grateful to be the recipient of such a generous gift promoting the importance of education and academic growth for emerging speech-language pathologists.  My clinical work in the university clinic thus far has deepened my conviction that there is so much work to be done in our field.  Receiving this gift reminds me of the role I play in providing people of all ages and all language disorders with high-quality therapy.  This financial support means I will be able to focus even more of my energy this coming academic year on my coursework, lab work, and therapy.  In addition, I feel empowered to pursue my dream medical internship next summer at a top national rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord and brain injuries.  This gift will give me the freedom to move to wherever that internship may take me.  I am humbled by the CDF of Virginia’s generosity and commitment to the future generation of speech pathologists and audiologists, and am eager to begin my journey towards becoming the best speech-language pathologist I can be.

Emily:  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to live out the values and hopes Mr. Narburgh set out for aspiring clinicians regarding continuing education and networking.  Receiving the scholarship award made me feel equally humbled and proud.  Something like this is an outstanding honor, but I take seriously the responsibilities to follow through on my part by doing the work it takes to live out the notions of interprofessional communication to ensure continuity of care, as well as lifelong learning in order to continually grow and adapt my practices as a future clinician.

CDF:  At this stage of your educational preparation, what areas of the field appeal to you as possible career choices?  Why?

Julia:  Prior to beginning my graduate studies in speech-language pathology, I taught early childhood education for three years.  While working in a Title I school, I was exposed to a number of children with high emotional, financial and health-related needs.  The challenges I encountered and problem-solving skills I developed as an educator sparked my interest in pursuing the diagnosis and treatment of medically complex cases, particularly traumatic brain injury.  I love the critical thinking process involved in devising a treatment plan and crafting individualized therapeutic experiences for patients in critical need in intensive settings.

Emily:  At this point in my studies, I find myself open to many areas of the field and am excited to learn all I can through hands-on practicum placements this coming year.  With that being said, I also know I have developed a particular clinical interest since beginning graduate school in acquired brain injuries, how they impact an individual’s communication abilities, as well as the post-injury treatment and recovery processes.  I am looking forward to opportunities to work with individuals of this population in acute care or inpatient rehab settings as I find the intricacies of the brain regarding speech, language, and cognitive functioning to be fascinating, given that no two individuals or cases are ever the same.

CDF:  Your interests are certainly similar!  Tell us more.

Julia:  I am interested in working with neurological injury patients for a variety of reasons:  I am drawn to the mystery of the human brain, its ability to recover, and the immense precision and patience required when working with traumatic brain injury patients.  I currently work in the NeuroVoice lab at my university and have really enjoyed learning about the relationship between the brain and language and the role of various cortical structures in interpreting and controlling speech and language.  I am very passionate about rehabilitative therapy and helping people regain the skills needed to interact more fully in their daily environments.  Communication is a human right and all people should have access to communication that fits their personal needs.  My hope is that through a future career in rehabilitation therapy with traumatic brain injury patients, I can help reconnect people to their worlds, physically, perceptually, and emotionally.

Emily:  This coming year, I am fortunate enough to be participating in the New River Valley brain injury support group for adult survivors, led by two of my professors at RU.  I appreciate the chance to gain better understanding of the short- and long-term implications of brain injuries, in addition to the impact the care and support from healthcare professionals has on survivors and their loved ones.  I think this will be especially beneficial to me as a future clinician--as our jobs rarely end with treatment for the physical (speech and language), cognitive, and social aspects of communication, but extend to being there for patients and families who may experience emotional changes or adjustments as well.

FF:  Thank you, Julia and Emily, for reminding our readers--our CDF donors--that their ongoing scholarship support is indeed a worthwhile investment in the professions we value so much.  In you, we see a bright future filled with great promise.

Judy Rassi, Contributor

Help Yourself By Helping Others!

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get.  You make a life by what you give.”  I believe in today’s culture and society this still holds true.  So often, as individuals we are caught up with our own agendas and plans for what we expect this life to give us.  We work hard to further our education, careers, and personal and spiritual growth.  We provide unconditional support to our family, friends and loved ones. But what about providing the same supports for the benefit of our community, both immediate and professional?

My son, Dustin, diagnosed with Autism at the age of two and now a young adult, initially spurred my volunteer and advocacy efforts within our educational system and community.  For the past 20 years, through my personal experiences as a mother, my career, and volunteer efforts, I have continued to develop and build new skills that have boosted my confidence and my personal, professional and social resources.   All skill levels and experiences are needed to create a well-rounded volunteer community.  I found this to be true very early on as I was learning about my son’s diagnosis and searching for supports in our community.  When there were none to be found, I sought to remedy the problem and so began my first volunteer experience.  Doubts crept in and I was unsure I had anything to offer other young mothers and families going through similar situations.  I was so wrong!  I found out that others were craving and needing exactly what I was searching for.  As our small family support group grew, I saw other mothers grow in confidence and ability and, in turn, my confidence in my abilities as a mother, advocate and volunteer grew.  Volunteering to support others helped me in ways I could never have imagined.  Any skill that a person possesses can provide a great benefit and contribution to an organization or may provide a positive impact for even just a single individual in the community.   Either way...well worth the efforts!  I cannot tell you the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with knowing how playing such a positive role to the benefit of someone else feels!  

As a new clinician, and knowing the benefits of volunteerism, I sought out volunteer opportunities that provided a positive impact to my profession.  I myself had benefited from a grant/scholarship opportunity which enabled me to complete my graduate education.  I can personally speak to how this supported me in reaching my educational goals.  The educational grant I received was a tremendous blessing to me and my family and was essential in obtaining my degree.  Now, as a volunteer on the CDF board, I am thrilled to see young clinicians receive the fruits of this board’s volunteer efforts.  Through the Rita Purcell-Robertson and David H. Narburgh scholarships, future clinicians receive support to help their dreams come true.  It is essential to support our future clinicians as they too will someday be in a role to support those newly entering the field as well as families and communities in need.  

Compassion and empathy for others are important for success in any organization.  I believe in what the Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia stands for, and I love being a part of paying it forward.  While facilitating a stronger sense of community, volunteering with the CDF has enabled me to expand my personal and professional network, gain confidence, learn new skills, take on new challenges, and have fun!   Volunteering should begin where you feel the most passion.  My story as a volunteer and advocate began with my son and has led me to where I am today.  Let your love for the profession create a positive change in your community.  I encourage you to look beyond yourselves and consider the role you can play in serving others.   By giving back, you can reap countless rewards. 

Elizabeth Edens M.S., CCC-SLP
CDF of VA, Board Trustee
Arc- South of the James, President
VCU Center for Family Involvement, Family Navigator

Each one should use whatever gift he/she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:10

Elizabeth and Dustin

Elizabeth and Dustin

The "Interprofessional" CDF

These contemporary terms—interprofessional practice (IPP), interprofessional collaboration (IPC), and interprofessional education (IPE)—are making a growing impact on what we do in our 2018 SLP and AUD practices, on how we look at and value working with other professionals, and on how we educate future SLPs and AUDs. The word interprofessional is replacing multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary to draw attention to the human, the individual, the “professional,” not so much to the discipline(s). It is always the professional who makes a difference for those with communication, vestibular, and swallowing needs.  

In borrowing from the interprofessional focus, the CDF calls your attention to the numerous causes so many individuals support from year to year: campaigns that raise money for charities; for our local churches, fellowships, temples, and mosques; for art, music, dance, and theatre; for local school drives and benefits; for sports teams, clubs, and organizations; for cancer, dementia, and other health care research. As donators, we trust professionals to manage our donations to the best interests of those in need.

The CDF is made up of a group of volunteers, all professionals at one stage or another, and all committed to the two professions we love: audiology and speech-language pathology. We volunteer to serve on the CDF to raise money for scholarships and awards, for current and future AUDs and SLPs, investing in their professional futures. We reach out, in a spirit of collaboration. WILL YOU make a donation to the CDF?  WILL YOU ask other professionals with whom you work to make a donation? WILL YOU help us grow our contributions in these summer months? Will you COLLABORATE with us as donors? PRACTICE stewardship with us as givers to the future? EDUCATE others about the Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia?

Visit our newly revised website at and give whatever you can. No amount, however small or large, is without tremendous value when it’s given to help others and in a spirit of (inter)professional collaboration.       


Brenda Seal, CDF President

CDF Celebrates SHAV’s 60th with a Banner Year Auction!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the auction. Your donations were wonderful, earning us a little more than $6000. We’ll donate $5,000 to scholarships for the 2018-19 academic year, and offer another $1,000 to next year’s poster winners. We also appreciate the University gift baskets, bags, and treats that increase the auction proceeds, and the special talents of all the artists who contributed personal works. The CDF is all about honoring achievement and awarding excellence of current and future professionals. Every gift, every bid, and every purchase is reworked to benefit students. And, of course, Verbalina’s 15-year retirement and ClaraTee’s debut added special moments to the auction excitement (see their conversation recorded below)!


Welcome the CDF's newest ambassador: ClaraTee


ClaraTee is CDF’s version of the word, clarity.  Depending on your special path in this field, you may seek clarity of speech, clarity of language, clarity of hearing.  Or you may strive for clarity in teaching, in learning, in research, or perhaps in administration.  It’s a common thread all of us pursue.  ClaraTee promises to live up to her symbolic name in the work she will soon begin. 

Two Dolls Talking ....While the act of eavesdropping is generally considered to be impolite and improper, there are those occasions when it serves a worthwhile, informative purpose. This appears to be one of them. It happened at the Williamsburg DoubleTree on Thursday, March 22, right there at the CDF Silent and Live Auction just a few minutes before the festivities began. As I wandered around the tables, looking at all of the auction items on display, then counting the many gift baskets lined up on the edge of the stage, I heard that familiar whispered word that tends to grab one’s attention: “Pssst!” On seeing who uttered the word and to whom it was directed, I came to realize that I was about to observe an historic event, a once-in-a-lifetime happening that would never be known to others unless I, the witness, told someone else. Dutifully, therefore, I hereby describe for you what I saw and heard, to the best of my recollection. 

The scene: Verbalina, the straw ambassadorial doll, relaxing on a chair next to the podium while awaiting her retirement ceremony; Verbalina, the CDF maven well-known for her coolness and savvy. And ClaraTee, the youthful, soon-to-be replacement, crouching on a shelf inside the podium, listening, wondering what was about to happen. 

The conversation: 

VB: Pssst! 

CT: Who’s that? 

VB: It’s Verbalina, your predecessor, the one who paved the way for you in this scholarship-funding business. I know who you are. You’re ClaraTee, the new CDF doll being groomed to take my place. I’m here to wish you great success in your new role! 

CT: Thanks a lot. I must admit that I’m nervous. The thought of stepping into your big shoes is daunting. You’ve done such a good job of attracting auction bids for your time and representation each year, every year, for fifteen years, raising over $3000 for CDF causes! I am in awe of what you’ve accomplished. And, quite frankly, downright scared. 2

VB: I understand your feelings completely, ClaraTee. Why? Because I felt the same way when Rita Purcell-Robertson introduced me to all those SHAV and CDF folks at my first auction back in 2003. But the butterflies in my stomach soon disappeared when I began to meet and network with my gracious hosts at Longwood University that first year. And, after that, well, you just wouldn’t believe how much fun I’ve had traveling around the commonwealth, visiting SLPs and audiologists, professors and students, joining them in their professional as well as recreational endeavors. It’s been a blast! I wouldn’t trade those years for anything! 

CT: Wow!! That does sound like fun. Maybe this work won’t be as uncomfortable as I thought it might be. Even so, you do know that I’m much younger than you, Verbalina. Without your maturity and life experience, will I be able to meet others’ expectations of me? Will they trust me to do my job well? 

VB: Of course, they will. In fact, it’s quite appropriate that, as I retire, a much younger emissary has been selected to take this position. As a key spokesperson for CDF scholarships and poster session awards, you represent youth serving the needs of youth! You represent fresh thinking, new ideas, and hope. Indeed, you are the face of the future, the future of our professions. 

CT: Okay, I get it! But now you’re making me nervous again. That sounds like a heavy responsibility. 

VB: Well, it is important. No doubt about it. But there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. You’ll be working with the most wonderful people in the world. They’re congenial, reassuring, helpful. They’ll hold your hand, pat your back, answer your questions, give you suggestions, validate your feelings, and give you encouragement. They’ll smile. They’ll tell you what a good job you’re doing. It is no coincidence that those individuals who will choose to become your caretakers and hosts are, by their very nature as well as their training, exactly the kind of individuals you need the most to guide you on this journey. 

CT: Phew. What a relief! Now I feel better again. Actually, I’m really getting excited now, excited with anticipation. What you’re telling me is that these individuals will be my colleagues, my friends. How fortunate I am to have this opportunity to work and play and serve--all the while having fun and being supported. A dream job, to say the least. So I’m going to be okay, more than okay. But what about you, Verbalina? Where will you be spending your retirement days? 

VB: Right back in the place where I started this odyssey: Longwood University. I have traveled full-circle with CDF, and I couldn’t be happier about spending my retirement with the great Longwood people who gave me my start. Like you, ClaraTee, I, too, am fortunate. Fortunate beyond words. 

CT: Good for you, Verbalina. I’m so glad we had this conversation. It’s just what I needed to help me start my new job with a confident, positive attitude. I thank you for your wise words and for all of the excellent work you’ve done over the years. 

VB: You’re welcome, ClaraTee. Good luck to you. I’ll be thinking of you in the days and years ahead. 

And that’s the way it happened. A conversation for posterity. 

Judy Rassi, reporter
Peggy Agee, archivist

Verbalina Announces Retirement

Get ready!  Verbalina, the straw doll first introduced to SHAV Conference goers by Rita Purcell-Robertson at the CDF auction in 2003, has decided to retire.  As you likely know, Verbalina has been a hard worker, dedicating her time and energy to our field, always doing her part in raising funds for CDF scholarships and awards.  Understandably, the rigorous demands of this important work have taken their toll.  After devoting so much of her career visiting and networking with those who were fortunate enough to offer the winning bid for a year’s worth of her delightful company, Verbalina looks forward to this well-deserved time of rest.  She is quite tired, even a bit worn out.  And so it is that she plans to step down from her ambassadorial role and take it easy.  Please join us on the CDF Board in wishing her well.


This retirement, of course, leads to the inevitable question:  Is there someone waiting in the wings to take Verbalina’s place?  Well, yes, there is.  For now, though, we are keeping the identity of this individual a well-guarded secret!  Here are a few clues:  she’s a she; she’s a doll; she’s cute and soft and cuddly; she’s loveable; and she’s younger than her predecessor.  That’s it for now!  To find out her name and actually see her in person, be sure to attend the CDF Live Auction at the 2018 Sixtieth Anniversary SHAV Conference.  And, while you’re there, please offer your bid on this brand new representative of the next generation.

—Judy Rassi, CDF Contributor