Washington, DC—Doreen Croser retired as Executive Director of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) in June 2010, following a distinguished 22-year tenure in the position. Past presidents of AAIDD have issued statements in Doreen's honor.
“I have fond recollections of being a part of the search committee that recommended to the Board that Doreen be hired as Executive Director. At the time, none of us knew her very well other than by reputation or casual contact at meetings. What struck me immediately was the rapport we felt when she started addressing our questions. Here was someone who knew the field from multiple perspectives, knew how to deal with a multidisciplinary committee, and didn't worry about portraying political correctness. She was simultaneously confident and collegial, and clearly the person for whom we'd been searching. I think we tried to flatter ourselves a bit for being such a prescient committee when, in fact, it was Doreen who clearly let us know that she was the right person for the job. It was such an easy decision. And she spent the next 20+ years consistently validating the trust placed in her by the Board and our entire membership. It's an honor that she considers me a colleague.”
—Bob Griffith, EdD, AAMR President, 1988–1989
Those of us who are old enough to remember what things were like a quarter of a century ago can have our appreciation of Doreen enhanced by a sort of It's a Wonderful Life thought experiment. What would have happened if AAIDD had not been around? How would public policies be different if the involvement of professionals had not had the association as a voice? How would public understanding of intellectual disabilities be different without the association's leadership? How would services be different if there had not been this interdisciplinary forum for teachers, doctors, therapists, and administrators, and, yes, even lawyers to learn from one another?
None of this was inevitable. Today we live in Bedford Falls and not in Potterville. We have gotten where we are, in no small part, because of Doreen's inspired leadership and wise counsel. We cannot thank her enough, although I, for one, will keep trying.
—James Ellis, JD, AAMR President, 1989–1990
“In 1988, when I was invited to run for the position of AAMR vice president, one of my early responsibilities as a member of the executive team was to work with my colleagues, Bob Griffith, Jim Ellis, and others, to select the new executive director. As I near my own retirement, I find myself reflecting on significant decisions and important transitions in the evolution of our profession. During this period of great change in the area of developmental disabilities, I can honestly say that selecting you as the executive director was one of the wisest and smartest decisions in which I was privileged to participate. You have been an extraordinary leader in the field of disability policy and services. You have approached your work with a deep and passionate commitment, shaped by your own personal experience and core values, and have contributed enormously to improving the lives of people with disabilities.”
—Robert Bruininks, PhD, AAMR President, 1990–1991
“Doreen is a very rare and special person. Over the past 25 years our family has been especially impacted by her compassion and tireless dedication to the field. I know of no other Executive Director who did so much—for so many—for so long. She held the organization together during some rough seas and learned to be a darn good sailor! Thank you, Doreen, for all you did for our family and the thousands of families like us. ‘Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.’”
—Jack Stark, PhD, AAMR President, 1991–1992
“It seems like only yesterday that Doreen and I were so vitally engaged in what appeared to be our eternal efforts to save the then AAMR from self implosion. Would I be the last president of that staid group? Hardly! Doreen's even hand in guiding the affairs of organization, managing its finances, adjusting to the continual changing membership conditions and indeed events in the field saved the day.
Our New Orleans conference was one of the most successful of its kind. Her advocacy for an environmental health initiative resulted in one of the most important projects in the profession. Indeed, her pioneering interest and efforts here have produced great benefits not only for the association but for our society as well.
Doreen, I am so proud to have been a partner during my years of leadership and on behalf of all those who have benefited from your efforts, thank you. We love you.”
—Michael Dillon, EdD, AAMR President, 1992–1993
“Twenty-three years of dedicated, solid leadership of AAMD, AAMR, and AAIDD: That's the unique three-dimensional legacy of Doreen Croser. Since its founding in 1876, over the 134-year history of the organization, no executive has, in my opinion, led the association through such challenging, transitional times—literally from institutionalization as option one to family and community. And no one could have likely led us with the dignity, resolve, and kindness Doreen has shown all along the way. She epitomizes ‘adaptive behavior’ as a leader, and will be remembered, by me at least, as the critical transitional leader in the modern history of the organization. With every best wish for Doreen in her next transitional career, wherever and whatever that may be, I am sure that she will be surpassing as well.”
—David Braddock, PhD, AAMR President, 1993–1994
“First and foremost, Doreen is a friend…a friend to our organization and its members, a friend to individuals with intellectual disabilities, and particularly a friend to women in AAIDD whom she has mentored and guided to leadership roles within the organization and in their professions. She is my friend. I will always remember that the very first National Board meeting that I attended as a newly elected member was the occasion of removing the previous director and the subsequent hiring of Doreen as our Executive Director!!! What a fine choice we made! She has been a winner from Day 1. Throughout the years of Doreen's tenure, many presidents and other officers have come and gone, each making contributions toward the vision of a strong and viable organization. But Doreen has been the steady hand at the helm leading, directing, focusing, and driving us to be all that we can be. The organization will miss her greatly…I will miss her many kindnesses to me through the years. Good luck, Doreen, as you seek out new adventures. Please keep us posted about the next chapters of your life.”
—Karen L. Middendorf, AAMR President, 1994–1995
You have brought us all through times of change from institutions to community, patients and clients to people, services to supports and disenfranchisement to self determination. Doreen, we are all so appreciative of both your leadership and commitment to persons with intellectual disabilities then and now. We look forward to your continuing to advocate for what is just and support the ongoing mission of AAIDD as it continues to evolve in your postleadership era. Thanks so much for all of your time, energy and commitment to persons with disabilities and, from a personal perspective, for walking through with me my leadership role in this association more than a decade and a half ago as we all advocated, supported, and demanded changes and social justice. It is a true pleasure to have been able to work side by side with you and to view you as a mentor, colleague, and personal friend.
—William Kiernan, PhD, AAMR President, 1995–1996
“Throughout her tenure as AAIDD Executive Director, Doreen Croser has provided vital, mission-focused leadership to this organization. She has provided clarity during challenging times and changing environments. When faced with frustrating circumstances, Doreen kept a spirit of camaraderie and optimism. Doreen Croser has been at this association's helm through its most difficult evolution and has not wavered. She has been the association's presence across the country during countless state, regional, and national gatherings. As Doreen prepares for her retirement, the association owes her a tremendous debt of gratitude that cannot be fully acknowledged by tributes or gifts. From our hearts, Doreen, please accept the loving best wishes from your friends. Please know how much we will miss you. May God watch over you now and always in your life's journey.”
—Pamela Baker, PhD, AAMR President, 1996–1997
“Doreen: Have a wonderful retirement. Leave AAIDD with the knowledge that you have given each of us who has had the privilege of working with you a sense of higher purpose, commitment, and confidence in the belief that a person can make a big difference in the lives of others. You have demonstrated that…and much more.”
—Robert Schalock, PhD, AAMR President, 1997–1998
“I have known Doreen Croser professionally as a respected colleague for more than fifteen years. I have watched her lead by example and encourage others to assume leadership roles. Doreen has dedicated her life's work to creating a better future for all people with disabilities. Through her character, leadership, and keen sense of recognizing the strengths of others, Doreen has selflessly given of herself to build a better future by supporting individuals who have long been ignored and underserved. Doreen is an effective and selfless leader with a great vision. It is a vision for the future of individuals with disabilities that is inclusive rather than exclusive and that builds on the strengths and common good of all individuals. She is a woman whose commitment is a selfless devotion to positively effecting and improving the lives of others. As a leader, there is perhaps no greater attribute to the woman than the fact that she acts without desire for personal recognition, but rather seeks to build the capacity of others. Through her vision, Doreen has dedicated herself to making a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children and adults with disabilities across the country—the majority of whom do not even know her name.”
—Cathy Ficker Terrill, MS, AAMR President, 2000–2001
“How does one capture in just a paragraph what it was like to work with Doreen Croser? Well, one can only try. First, it was always fun. Second, Doreen always put the needs of the association and more importantly the needs of the intellectual and developmental disabilities field ahead of any other interests. Third, she always kept her eye on the horizon—on the future and where the association could make an impact. Fourth, she wasn't afraid to make tough decisions, to change course, or essentially to do whatever was necessary. Fifth, she recruited and retained a talented and effective staff that has represented the association extremely well. Sixth, she was always a straight-shooter who would tell it ‘like it was.’ As a straight-shooter myself, I found her extremely easy to communicate with. Indeed, if I ever wondered where she stood on a given issue, I just asked her. Seventh, she was extremely consistent in her values and those values guided her actions. Eighth, she was tireless—or so it always seemed. Ninth, in the midst of all this, she was a friend, mentor, and colleague. Consistent, strong, visionary leadership is a rare gift. AAIDD has had this for more than two decades, in large measure due to Doreen. What more could anyone ask?”
Steven Warren, PhD, AAMR President, 2001–2002
“It is my great pleasure to honor Doreen for her tremendous contributions to AAIDD over many years. As John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a leader.” Doreen has been a true leader and has supported the abilities of other people to be leaders in this great work. My sincere gratitude to Doreen for her outstanding work and leadership.”
—Ruth Luckasson, JD, AAMR President, 2002–2003
“While I was an officer, I especially appreciated the fact that Doreen provided leadership from her head as well as her heart. In terms of leadership from her head, Doreen was able to (a) tighten AAIDD's fiscal belt in order to balance the budget, (b) move the publication program forward to target books with high market appeal, and (c) participate effectively setting and acting upon the national ID/DD agenda. In terms of leadership from her heart, Doreen consistently (a) displayed thoughtfulness to others, (b) supported the staff (as evidenced by an incredibly low staff turnover), and (c) kept her values at the forefront of decision making. Regarding values, I especially respect Doreen for not only ‘talking the talk’ but also ‘walking the walk.’ The way she has provided and continues to provide support to her beloved brother is a stunning example of the power of family ties.”
—Ann Turnbull, AAMR President, 2003–2004
Doreen Croser was always one step (or more) ahead of the rest of us. She had the greatest awareness of where the association and the field were at the moment and the clearest vision of where both needed to be in the future. This dual perspective was the key to her success as an executive, because she helped us in leadership realize what needed to be done to sustain the association as a viable enterprise and to initiate programs that would move the field in the direction it needed to go. This was especially evident during the strategic planning involved in surviving and overcoming the financial crisis of recent years, when key initiatives were made at the same time that budgets were tightened to maintain viability. During my time in leadership, she helped to identify health as one of the key missions of the association. She recognized that environmental health provided an important opportunity for the association to move the field forward and found the resources to make it happen. She also provided consistent support as we struggled to change the name of the association and of the field itself. Doreen had a keen sense of what could not be done, or what the field was not yet ready to do, and provided a gentle restraint on some of my more unrealistic ideas. During all of the time I have known her, and throughout my time in leadership, she was a pleasure to work with and deserves much of the credit for whatever we accomplished.
—David L. Coulter, MD, AAMR President, 2004–2005
“It will be hard to think of AAIDD without Doreen's powerful presence. She has been such a rock for the organization through some very volatile and challenging times. Through it all, however, she has remained positive, unflappable, and focused on the health and vitality of the organization that is so important to so many of us. She has been the keeper of the institutional memory, the protector of the integrity and important rituals, and the public face to those seeking information and enlightenment. Doreen, old friend, you will be missed—much love and I hope that your retirement brings you all the pleasure and relaxation you deserve!”
—Valerie Bradley, MA, AAMR President, 2005–2006
“When we hired Doreen we hired a dynamic woman, well educated in the field, who also brought the power of personal family experience in the name of her brother John. We benefited both from her professional education and her family experience as well. In the last 20 years, our Board has made many important decisions. Hundreds of us have served terms on the Board of Directors, in the Assembly of Regions, or the Conference of Divisions. Many have had the great honor of serving as association president. But Board members come and go. Presidents work their way up and then out of leadership positions. All the while Doreen has been in the office supporting us, directing the staff, being our public face in Washington, and, when we needed it, being our conscience. Our policies, procedures, publications, and personnel have all improved under her leadership. We have become more involved with self-advocates and reached out to new groups as members. We have become known for our good work.”
—Henry “Hank” Bersani, PhD, AAMR President, 2006–2007
“Doreen's extensive knowledge of our field combined with her outstanding organizational skills are, to a great degree, responsible for the success of AAIDD over the past two decades.”
David Rotholz, PhD, AAIDD President 2007–2008
“Most know that when Doreen took over as executive director of AAIDD the organization was in bad shape, physically, fiscally and programmatically. Doreen, as is her style, didn't much complain or make big public pronouncements, she just dug in and did what was necessary and the fruits of those efforts continue to be evident today. Doreen also brought to AAIDD the commitment, understanding, and sensitivity of a family member of a person with an intellectual disability, and the ability to cut through wishful thinking and broad pronouncements. That grounding, understanding, and quiet passion have served both AAIDD and the field well. In the more recent past, Doreen once again transitioned AAIDD to an organization that provides new valuable tools and professional leadership in the field. The SIS, the new classification publication, the name change and rebranding, all have taken place seemingly effortlessly though those of us who speak to her regularly know that they all happened due to hard work, impeccable planning, strong oversight and commitment. On a professional level, I know that AAIDD is left in fine shape, with a promising future built on a solid foundation. On a personal level, I will miss seeing Doreen regularly though she assures me the spare bedroom in her house will be welcoming and available.”
—Steven Eidelman, AAIDD President, 2008–2009
“AAIDD has been lucky to have Doreen Croser as its executive director these past two decades. She rejuvenated the organization ensuring that it remained the leader in the field by looking to future innovations (the Supports Intensity Scale and the Environmental Health Initiative, for example) that would provide professionals the tools to think differently about how they work. In addition, for me, Doreen also is a trusted advisor and friend. Her visionary leadership at AAIDD was the hallmark of her tenure at the association.”
—Joanna Pierson, PhD, AAIDD President, 2009–2010