Bid Adieu to our Education & Conference Director, Nancy Fister

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  • March 15th, 2017
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Bid Adieu to our Education & Conference Director, Nancy Fister

Bassett pic 2015

From Left: John Bassett of Vaughan-Bassett furniture, Nancy Fister of AWFS, AWFS Fair staff member Marion, and AWFS Board President (2015) Wade Gregory.

March 29th of this year marks a special (albeit bittersweet) day in the history of AWFS®.  This is the day that Nancy Fister, our Education & Conference Director, will be spending at Disneyland with the rest of the AWFS staff.  For all of us, it is sort of an “unofficial” holiday as it marks the last day that Nancy will “officially” be an AWFS staff member.  So the entire team will be spending that day in celebration and gratitude as, after nearly 15 years, Nancy has decided to begin a very well-deserved “second act” and retire from the day to day travails of the association and trade show worlds.

Having known Nancy as a volunteer, before I became a staff member, it is very hard for me to summarize all that she has contributed to AWFS.  I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty.  When looking back at all the people that I have had the honor of working with over the years, it is very hard for me to pinpoint anyone that approached their vocation with the degree of pride, passion and commitment that Nancy has demonstrated, show after show, year after year.  In my humble opinion, she is the main reason that, AWFS Fair has consistently offered one of the best education programs presented at any trade show event.

Nancy’s commitment to supporting wood industry education actually began before she became a member of the AWFS staff in 2002.   As a program coordinator at the Cerritos College Wood Manufacturing Technology program, she implemented a grant for CNC technology and programming, planned events and led activities to promote the college’s woodworking program.  As the only member of the AWFS staff that has an educational background specifically in woodworking, she has shared with us, a unique appreciation and passion for our industry and served as a perfect example of the message that we are sending out to today’s talented, young students hoping that someday they will pursue a rewarding career in the woodworking industry, as Nancy and so many of us have chosen to do.

As a result of her commitment, as well as her education and industry background, she has served as THE driving force behind the Association’s mission toward advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) both on the state and national level.  In fact, she was a champion of bringing attention to the importance of CTE long before it became a topic of political interest, having tirelessly pushed in making support of CTE a recognized focus for our industry, including our Public Policy committee’s message on Capitol Hill.

On behalf of AWFS, Nancy also volunteered and served on numerous committees and boards in order to represent our industry in different facets of CTE and industry education, including the Cerritos College Wood Manufacturing Technology Advisory Committee, Glendale High School Advisory Committee, the California Department of Education Manufacturing & Product Development Advisory Council, WCA Education Committee and ACTE Business & Industry Council.  In recognition of her efforts in education, she received the 2012 Industry Person of the Year award from the Los Angeles area California Industrial Education and Technology Association (LACITEA).

In 2014, Nancy was instrumental in developing a strategy and spearheading the effort to reach out to legislators as well as to teachers and educational administrators throughout North America.  One component of this included the “Meet the New Face of Manufacturing” campaign, a comprehensive marketing effort to acquaint and interest young people in careers in wood products manufacturing. This highly successful campaign was designed to convey the reality of 21st century manufacturing, as modern, high-tech, and offering varied and challenging careers, ready to welcome the next generational workforce. The campaign launched with a poster showcasing five “New Faces” of manufacturing and in September 2015, a second poster image was unveiled with more “New Faces,” highlighting the variety of personalities and lifestyles available for those seeking careers in wood products manufacturing.  Nancy was extremely creative in developing this campaign which took a unique (and much-needed) approach in changing the image of our industry.  Hopefully, this positive message will continue to encourage students to become our industry’s future leaders and entrepreneurs.

Just recently, she visited several key representatives in Washington D.C., pushing forth AWFS’ message on the importance of supporting CTE including the reauthorization and increase of funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the long-standing funding source that is the backbone of the skilled trade courses in our schools.  I am including a link to a letter that she was instrumental in authoring and sending to members of Congress, not only on behalf of AWFS but 11 other trade associations that she brought together on our industry’s behalf.  Hopefully, by reading this letter you will see the critical importance of this issue in more detail and encourage your organizations to become actively involved in supporting an issue that is not only vital to ensuring the future of our industry but manufacturing as a whole.

In the end, as much as our entire staff will miss Nancy and are truly grateful for her dedication and contributions to AWFS, and those that I have mentioned simply scratch the surface, our daily work lives are still centered around people working together and interacting on a daily basis.  When you work with someone for an extended period of time, it becomes apparent that although you truly appreciate their accomplishments in the end, what you will really miss – is the person.   Many times, impromptu discussions that you have during a break in the daily routine allows you to really get to know what truly matters to an individual and what they  stand for.  That is why I will personally miss Nancy and the discussions she and I would have on all things that weren’t work-related, like our shared love of really good food, our views on politics and world events and sharing our goals and aspirations that stretch beyond our days here at AWFS.  In addition, she has also been a source of support during difficult times, which I will always be grateful for.   However, what I will miss most about Nancy is her kindness and compassion.  She truly cared about making a difference in people’s lives and positively impacting our industry for each of us as well as the next generation of woodworking professionals.   Hopefully, on March 29, 2017, the day that Nancy leaves the “Happiest Place on Earth,” she does so with the satisfaction and pride of knowing that she did just that.



Angelo Gangone
Executive Vice President, AWFS