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Building the Future: Matthews, Donegan Receive USO President’s Award

Friday, March 01, 2013

By Eric Brandner 

It takes more than bricks, mortar or even an impressive stone fireplace to make a building.

If the USO learned anything while creating the state-of-the-art USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., it’s that you can’t create something this large without outstanding personnel.

That’s why USO Director of Logistics and Facilities Jonathan Matthews and USO Director of Information Technology Valerie Donegan have each received the 2013 USO President’s Award.

The USO President’s Award is presented to staffers who have made a significant impact on their department or the organization. It’s the highest organizational honor a USO employee can receive. USO Camp Marmal center manager Michael Eyassu also received the award this year.

In the nomination form, Matthews and Donegan were praised for both the quality and volume of their work in bringing the largest USO center to fruition.

“Jonathan in particular has been the guy day to day to really manage multiple streams of activity, whether it’s construction, outfitting, donations or donor recognition,” said USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, who – along with USO Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff John Pray – nominated the duo. “He’s really had his hand in all of that stuff to make sure we were making our way aggressively through the timeline.”

Matthews, an England native, handled oversight of every aspect of the day-to-day logistics and construction on the center for more than a year: everything from countless meetings with the builder’s representative and Scott-Long Construction to rolling up his sleeves and assembling a drum kit in the music room the night before the center’s grand opening last month.

Where Matthews was the logistics guru, Donegan led the technical charge, meeting with multiple vendors and then coordinating the installation of the center’s most impressive technology. One of the crown jewels of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Belvoir is an 18-computer classroom, where recovering troops and spouses can get both in-person and remote instruction during their transition out of the military and into new careers.

“You look at that state-of-the-art classroom in there, video teleconferencing capability throughout, the security in the building – it was a very comprehensive technology build-out,” Reyes said.

Matthews and Donegan were also lauded for coming in under budget while still providing the experience USO and military brass envisioned.

And then, of course, there were the long hours spent on the job. Neither left the center for very long during the final weeks of construction, with Donegan – a Baltimore resident – spending several nights in a Virginia hotel so she could dedicate more time to the project.

“The last three to four weeks prior to the center opening, the two of them spent countless hours and weekends on site managing the final details,” Reyes said. “[Both] really exemplified the commitment to mission first here, doing it with very little regard to their own personal time.”

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Photo caption: USO Director of Logistics and Facilities Jonathan Matthews  

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