- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Retired Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter didn't want a 9-to-5 job when he started thinking of civilian life after his 32-year career in the Navy.
"I hadn't really searched much because I was on active duty, but I knew I didn't want some desk job where I wasn't giving back to the community," said Mr. Guter, 54.
The best option came after Mr. Guter, former judge advocate general, attended his last board meeting and was steered to the Navy Marine Coast Guard Foundation, the McLean parent organization of Vinson Hall Corp., a retirement care community.
"I talked with [Rear Adm.] Jim Taylor, who I replaced, and asked him, 'Why did you do this for eight years,' and his response convinced me to work here," Mr. Guter said. "He said, 'Every night I would go home thinking I've done something good for the community.'"
Now the chief executive and executive director of the foundation, he runs the day-to-day operations of the Vinson Hall and Arleigh Burke Pavilion residences that house 300 veterans and retired civilians.
Despite some challenges, it has been a smooth transition, Mr. Guter said.
"A lot of the responsibilities are new to me, like crunching numbers to make sure we meet bottom line and promoting foundation development and learning about the health care systems," Mr. Guter said. "But I just rely on others to help me in those areas and try to make suggestions."
He said another pressing concern is increasing donor participation.
"Vinson Hall almost entirely relies on individual donors, so I want to provide those funds to keep launching new facilities" like the Sylvestery, a residence that will open this month and house 36 persons with memory impairments.
Jerry Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, said Mr. Guter's Navy career made him the best candidate to replace Mr. Taylor and provide the same leadership.
Mr. Johnson called Mr. Taylor and the chairman of Vinson Hall's board to endorse Mr. Guter.
"I referred Don to Jim when [Jim] told me he was leaving, because I knew Don had the leadership skills, discipline and experience to interact well with the board and help the organization improve its outreach," Mr. Johnson said. "It was a timely move for both Don and the foundation."
While Mr. Guter said he still misses his Navy work and colleagues, his daily responsibilities have kept him too busy to regret the decision.
"I really loved what I did in the Navy, and I was very passionate about serving my country," he said. "It definitely had its perks," like allowing him to say four lines on the CBS television show "JAG."
"I did wonder if I would feel satisfied, but just in the short time I've been here I know that this is the job for me."
Mr. Guter lives in the District with his wife, Pat.


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