Fred Sammons Volunteer Recognition Award


The Board of Trustees of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) recognizes volunteers who have demonstrated generous, selfless service to AOTF and the advancement of occupational science through achievements, accomplishments, or service. Established in 2017, the award is given in honor of Fred Sammons, PhD (Hon), OT, FAOTA, and his career-long commitment to volunteerism that helped support and advance the mission of AOTF.  The award includes an honorarium to cover travel, hotel, and registration costs for the AOTA Annual Conference where the award is presented. 





Fred Sammons Volunteer Recognition Award Recipients

2019   Ruth Ann Watkins, MBA, OTR, FAOTA



Ruth Ann Watkins became a member of the AOTF Board of Trustees in 1998. She served as treasurer of the Board from 2001-2003. In 2003 she was elected president and served until 2009. During her tenure, AOTF more fully recognized the need to expand and strengthen the research that substantiates OT practice. To that end she worked with AOTA to establish the joint research advisory panel and prioritized actions that led to AOTF’s current strong focus on advancing occupational science.  Following her presidency, she served on the AOTF Awards & Recognition Committee since 2012, was chair of the development council since 2010 and continues to serve on that committee. She was Co-Chair of the Council since 2016. She has contributed considerably to enhancing the philanthropic success of the Foundation. 

AOTF Chair Mary Lawlor (left) presented the Fred Sammons Award to Ruth Ann Watkins (right) at the March 2019 Board of Trustees meeting.



2018    Donald F. Lang (posthumously)

Donald LangDonald Lang served on the American Occupational Therapy Foundation Board of Directors as a public member for 13 years (1994–2007). He served two terms as Secretary (2000–2007), was a Chair of the Nominating Committee, and a member of the Investment Advisory Committee. He was the founding Chair of the Corporate Leadership Development Committee where he broadened the scope and impact of the Foundation’s alliances within the corporate and business community. In recognition of his dedicated and exemplary service to the Foundation and its mission, then AOTF President Ruth Ann Watkins nominated Mr. Lang to become an Honorary Life Member of the AOTF Board of Trustees and he was conferred this distinction in 2008.

Mr. Lang continued to volunteer his time by serving on the Investment Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Audit Committee. Mr. Lang funded a scholarship in memory of his first wife, Susan Lang, in 2008. From 2009 to 2017, Mr. Lang was a generous annual sponsor and supporter of the AOTF Breakfast with a Scholar, held during the AOTA Annual Conference. He was a consistent and generous donor to the Foundation for over 25 years.

AOTF Chair Mary Lawlor presented the Fred Sammons Volunteer Recognition Award to Mr. Lang's widow, Cherylle Lang, and his daughter-in-law, Beverly Lang, at the March 2018 AOTF Board of Trustees meeting.


2017    Fred Sammons, PhD (Hon), OT, FAOTA

Fred SammonsAfter serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Mr. Sammons earned his occupational therapy degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. His first job was at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and in 1957, and he became its director of occupational therapy. In 1960, Mr. Sammons joined the staff of the amputee clinic at Northwestern University where he began designing and building devices in his basement to help people with disabilities. At first, he considered his inventions a hobby and the mail order business he started as something he did “on the side.” Demand for his inventions and devices grew, and due to a lot of hard work, an analytical mind, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion to help others, his start-up grew into a multimillion-dollar business called Sammons, Inc. The company later merged and continued to evolve as Sammons Preston, and is now a part of Patterson Medical, Inc. 

Mr. Sammons is a recipient of the Award of Merit, AOTA’s highest honor. He is an honorary lifetime member of the AOTF Board of Trustees and an active member of AMBUCS, as well as other non-profit organizations.  He holds an honorary doctorate in occupational therapy from Western Michigan University. His long-standing relationship with Western Michigan University has resulted in numerous examples of charitable support including: the Sammons Center for Innovation and Research in Occupation Based Technology; the Frederic W. Sammons Endowed Chair in Occupational Therapy; the Barbara A. Rider Endowed Distinguished Professorship in Occupational Therapy; the Fred Sammons AMBUCS Research Award; and the annual Barbara A. Rider Colloquium. The Fred Sammons Occupational Therapy & Assistive Technology Archives was established at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mr. Sammons’ support of the Foundation has been generous, long standing, and diverse, including the Fred Sammons and Barbara Rider Endowed Scholarship of the Michigan Occupational Therapy Association, and the Fred Sammons Endowed Scholarship of the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association. With the establishment of the endowment for this new volunteer recognition award, Mr. Sammons becomes the first, and to date only, living million-dollar donor to the Foundation.