National Industries for the Blind Recognizes National Employees of the Year

National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind, honored Pam Chesser, winner of the 2020 Peter J. Salmon Award, and Sarah Heesen, winner of the 2020 Milton J. Samuelson Award, at a virtual awards ceremony during the 2021 NIB/National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind (NAEPB) Virtual Public Policy Forum.

Pam Chesser, who works for Austin Lighthouse, has become the go-to person for coworkers who need support and assistance with technologies used to run the company’s large distribution center. She is often tapped to provide demonstrations to U.S. Department of Defense officials, community organizations, and other groups explaining how technologies allow Lighthouse employees to process orders accurately and efficiently for SKILCRAFT® products and other products provided through the AbilityOne® Program. Chesser is known throughout Austin Lighthouse as a professional, positive employee who is an example to others.

“There are not many people around who have such a large impact in the community as well as at work, but Pam is one of them,” says Lighthouse President and CEO Jim Meehan. “We are incredibly fortunate to have her on our team.”

Sarah Heesen works in business development at Beyond Vision, where she brings in new contracts with commercial companies looking to expand and better serve their existing customers. Heesen is known by her colleagues as a team player, self-starter, and leader, and she says her role models are Sandra Werner and Virginia Gay Young, two previous Samuelson Award recipients.

“Sarah continuously challenges herself to accomplish new tasks and learn new skills,” says Beyond Vision President and CEO Jim Kerlin. “She’s passionate about doing her best and helping others do the same.”

The Peter J. Salmon Award was created by NIB’s board of directors in 1968 to honor the accomplishments of employees who are blind working at NIB-associated agencies who excel in their positions. The award is named for the late Dr. Peter J. Salmon, who was instrumental in passage of the Wagner-O’Day Act, the landmark legislation that led to the formation of NIB.

The Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award honors individuals who are blind who demonstrate career advancement at an NIB-associated nonprofit agency or in the private sector. The award is named for the late Milton J. Samuelson, a former NIB board member and past executive director of The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, who was a strong advocate for upward mobility and placement programs benefiting people who are blind or visually impaired.

The awards were presented at the NIB/NAEPB Virtual Public Policy Forum on May 25. The annual conference brings together NIB and associated agency employees, partners, and supporters. During the event, attendees meet with their representatives in Congress to advance employment issues for people who are blind.


About National Industries for the Blind

Since 1938, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has focused on enhancing the opportunities for economic and personal independence of people who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining, and improving employment. NIB and its network of associated nonprofit agencies are the nation’s largest employer of people who are blind through the manufacture and provision of SKILCRAFT® and other products and services of the AbilityOne® Program. For more information about NIB, visit