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2024 Joshua L. Chamberlain Award: Ray Nagel

March 21, 2024

Ray Nagel
2024 Joshua L. Chamberlain Award

The Joshua L. Chamberlain Award has a storied history; as the award criteria explains, it goes to “individuals whose activities have served to build upon the close relationship and understanding existing between the military and civilian components of the greater Brunswick-Topsham-Bath Community. Any military or civilian member of the Brunswick-Topsham-Bath community is eligible.” Though the Brunswick Naval Air Station continues to steadily reinvent itself as a thriving business center and open community for all residents and relocators, there are still several leaders in our region whose service to the community and the military continues to shape their careers and perspectives.  Ray Nagel is just that kind of leader.

Ray became enlightened to the power of service at 10 years old when his beloved Aunt Shirley came to live with his family.  Shirley had been born with Cerebral Palsy and was unable to walk because of it. From that time to when he left for college, Ray was Shirley’s primary caretaker. Ray has countless stories of the long daily conversations they would have in her part of the house, how she was staunchly independent, and even shares a tale about the first toilet transfer which ended up with Ray landing on the toilet, with Shirley on his lap, as they both melted into fits of laughter.      

Ray remembers the appointments and regular tasks with which he helped Shirley - such as transferring her into the passenger seat of his 1972 Buick LaSabre, tossing the wheelchair in the back and heading off to the grocery store. In those times though, he saw how people treated Shirley compared to how they treated him and it wasn’t the same. In many interactions he noticed Shirley and others with disabilities being discounted.  This fueled Ray to make a positive equitable change in the world.  Aunt Shirley passed away a few years ago, but the lessons he learned from her are carried with Ray every day of his life. 

Ray enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1984, and retired in January of 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Services Corp.  In his 23 years he learned lessons on leadership and teamwork, but also never lost his passion for service and helping those in need.  One great lesson Ray shared came from his time in Iraq;  Colonel Novier taught him that ‘ethics are situational, but morals are constant.’

Ray is on the precipice of retirement, happening at the end of the year.  Most people know Ray for his work with Independence Association or through their forward-facing program Spindleworks which helps people with disabilities.  What many don’t see, or may not know, are the countless hours Ray spends educating legislators, advocating for better policies for adults with disabilities and connecting with families to ensure their loved ones are getting the care they need and deserve. 

I could try and tell you what Ray means to this region, but our chamber is not the best servant for that. The best servants are the leaders who nominated Ray for recognition this year.  We received literally dozens of nominations for Ray in several different categories.  The community realizes how special he is and here is just a small collection of praise he received in his nominations:

“Ray and the team at IA work tirelessly and are often unrecognized for the vital work they do for the folks in our community with developmental disabilities...The work is compassionate, complicated, and often emotional…. They are almost universally recognized as a leader in this manner of caregiving here in Maine.”

“…the work they all are doing to educate lawmakers about the type of work they do is incredibly impactful given a lot of uncertainty coming from the state.”

“I have worked at Independence Assoc for 27 years; in that time, we have done such great work and advocacy for youth and adults we serve, often not seen by the community.  Ray has been integral in preparing our agency to meet the needs of our clients while being informed of system changes and barriers, preparing for needed advocacy and changes in our programs.”

“He consistently has all clients and staff in the forefront of his actions.” 

“Ray has served with distinction as Executive Director of Independence Association for many years, working tirelessly to improve the lives of our community members who face so many challenges due to their developmental disabilities.”

“Ray has moved IA forward with great skill, all the while focusing on providing the highest quality services possible to the individuals and families served by IA. He cares deeply about the people IA supports. Ray deserves wide recognition for his work—both locally and his strong advocacy efforts for people with disabilities at the state level.”

“Ray Nagel is the reason Independence Association continues to be a large successful business supporting children and adults with disabilities to live, work and thrive in the Brunswick community. Ray has worked closely with his leadership team, staff, and board of directors to persevere through Covid and be creative through many funding challenges that exist as a non-profit dependent upon state and federal funding. He is most deserving of this honor.”

“Ray Nagel has guided the Independence Association for the past 14 years. He has kept IA as one of the leading care services for those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Maine through a period where other care services in the state have had to close shop.”

“Ray expects excellence throughout the IA program and makes sure all have the tools to do their best job. The housing for IDD clients is well maintained and the long length of clients staying in the program is testament to how welcoming and appealing and appropriate IA is. It is an active place with issues arising every day, but Ray manages to keep everything calm throughout the program.”

“Many years of uncompromising excellence and devotion to the staff, clients, and mission of Independence Association…”

“Ray has shown great leadership in ensuring my son--and many other local individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism--receive high quality services every day. It means so much to our family.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. 

Congratulations to Ray Nagel for being named the 2024 Joshua L. Chamberlain Award winner.

Ray Nagel won the Joshua L. Chamberlain Award that was presented at the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber’s 2024 Annual Awards Dinner held on March 8, 2024 at St. John’s Community Center in Brunswick. There is an accompanying video which premiered that evening and can be found on the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber’s YouTube channel.


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