Dear Team HERL and Friends!
Congratulations! On Friday, 7 January 1994, in the aftermath of one of Pittsburgh's most brutal snow storms, two rental moving trucks arrived at Building 4 of the Highland Drive VA Medical in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Those trucks were driven by Steve Albright and David VanSickle. Rory and Rosemarie Cooper joined the convoy carrying equipment in their van. The equipment was unloaded by this small team into a vacant locker room and storage area that was to be transformed into HERL. Since the space had not yet been renovated to be useful, it was unpacked in phases as rooms became available. HERL had a small office in Building 2, where the ACOS For Research offices were, to work from until space could be made available. In addition, some of the labs were set-up in the Cooper's home.
Dr. Boninger had an office in the Kaufman Building, and was partially support by a NIDRR (now NIDILRR) ARRT Grant (as are some of you today). From this humble beginning Paralyzed Veterans of America has provided unwavering support and commitment to HERL and it's shared vision.
In addition, Dr. Cooper was able to bring a VA Merit Review Grant with him related to the development of a digital version of the SMARTWheel, and was awarded a new VA Merit Review Grant related to measuring "road-loads" on manual wheelchairs in the real world and on the multi-drum tester. VA Merit Review Grants remain at the core of the support for HERL's research & Development - and HERL has had 25 years of continuous VA Merit Review funding. The partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, along with other key supporters such as PVA, FISA Foundation, DVNF, CRSR, UPMC, and others were and are key to HERL's success.
Highland Drive VAMC remained the home of HERL until 2011; when we had the good fortune to move to our current location in Bakery Square. From these humble beginnings HERL has grown to be one of the World's premier Rehabilitation Engineering Research, Development, and Training organizations. Nearly a thousand people have received some portion of their training in HERL, and millions of people have benefitted from our work.
Despite the many changes that have taken place, and the tremendous growth that HERL has experienced; at HERL's core the values of Integrity, Service, Dignity, Inclusion, Excellence, Creativity, Impact, and Team remain as relevant today as they did in 1994.
"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage." Walt Disney
Here is to remaining "curious" and "courageous" . Thank you for contributing to 25 years of success for HERL and especially the Veterans, Service-Members, People with Disabilities, and Older Adults that we serve.