Each year, local volunteers are nominated to receive national recognition for their outstanding service to the National MS Society. Detailed nomination forms are submitted for each candidate to volunteer review panels from around the country, and they have the challenging job of selecting the final honorees.
Hall of Fame Volunteers
2012 Volunteer of the Year
Dean Munger, recently retired from General Motors where he was the Executive Director of Labor Relations, has served on the Board of Trustees for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Michigan Chapter since 2003 and as the Chapter Chair since 2008.
Dean's connection to MS is through his wife Mary who has had MS for over 20 years. Dean and Mary have been married for 41 years and together they have four daughters and five grandchildren.
As the Chair of the Michigan Chapter Board, he has been instrumental in creating a new culture of accountability, requiring every member to “step out of his or her comfort zone” to assist the Chapter in new, more meaningful ways.
Dean also serves in many leadership volunteer roles for the Society – locally, regionally and nationally. He is currently the Chair of the Midwest Regional Volunteer Leadership Council and serves on the National Board of Directors Nominating Committee. He is a member of the National Volunteer Leadership Council, serves on the Opportunity Fund Committee, a member of the National Program Expense Policy Review Committee and the Certification Standards Task Force. And, he is the newest member of the NOW Cabinet.
What sets Dean apart is the amazing depth of his involvement with the Society. His commitment is an inspiration. His positive attitude, ability to motivate others, generosity, and passion for our mission are qualities recognized in Dean Munger, the 2012 Volunteer of the Year.
2012 Lifetime Achievement Honorees
Lifetime Achievement Honorees are volunteers with 35 or more years of service with the National MS Society
Dr. Gary Birnbaum
Dr. Gary Birnbaum, neurologist at the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology and director of the MS Treatment and Research Center, is an active clinician and researcher who is dedicated to addressing the challenges of people with MS. Birnbaum has served on the Upper Midwest Chapter’s Board of Trustees since 1978 and serves on the Clinical Advisory Committee, chairing it multiple times over the years. He’s also a tireless Research Advocate, and donates his time and talent nationally, serving on the National MS Society Medical Advisory Board and Clinical Care Committee.
Birnbaum’s commitment extends far beyond his extraordinary work as a clinician and researcher. He has spent years educating the future generation of MS clinicians and researchers as both a fulltime and adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota. When he speaks to students, he almost always brings a person with MS to offer a first-hand account of life with the disease. He also regularly speaks at Society client and professional education programs.
Birnbaum is a driving force in the movement to create an MS-free world and throughout his 35 years of service, he has enhanced the lives of people with MS, not only in the Upper Midwest, but around the world.
Dr. John Fleming
Dr. John Fleming contributes his time and expertise to the National MS Society and has proven innovative with his research. He is a Chapter Clinical Advisory Committee member, was a member of the chapter Board of Trustees, and has served nationally on the Society’s National Clinic Committee and Medical Advisory Board.
He was inducted into the Society’s Volunteer Hall of Fame for Health Professionals in 2002 and for Research in 2010.
His interest focused on MS since the ‘70s as a MS research fellow, Dr. Fleming has received multiple research awards. Currently, he is exploring how microscopic worm eggs change the immune response in people with MS based on the hygiene hypothesis. His study has been featured in the New York Times and ABC News.
Dr. Fleming treats more than 500 patients with MS annually at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics MS Clinic. It is through his work with patients these past 40 years that he has become dedicated to a world free of MS.
Mary Reed Spencer
Forty-two years ago, Mary Reed Spencer found her family when she joined the National MS Society. Since volunteering in 1970, her unflagging energy and commitment have inspired many others to join the movement.
Mary Reed’s mother was diagnosed with MS when she was only 12 years old, the reason she continues to volunteer to this day.
She joined the Board of the Eastern Kansas Chapter and organized the first READaTHON in 1978, an effort in which she received the Bronze Hope Chest Award. She was also instrumental with realigning our chapters in 1990. Her passion for activism steered her toward leadership roles in Kansas and attendance at several Public Policy Conferences. She remains highly involved in all our events, Bike MS, Walk MS, along with numerous third party events.
Mary Reed considers the Society to be her family just as we consider her our family, a family she knows is searching for a cure, something she wants for the communities she calls home.