White House Announces New Posts to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
June 20, 2014
About these new appointees, President Obama said, "I am confident that these outstanding men and women will serve the American people well in their new roles and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."
New Member Bios
Susan Axelrod, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Susan Axelrod is Founding Chair of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, an organization she helped found in 1998, which supports biomedical epilepsy research grants and initiatives. She has shared her family's experiences in national interviews and published reflections to bring media exposure to epilepsy. Ms. Axelrod has served on the National Institutes of Health National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council. She also served as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense's Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. Ms. Axelrod was awarded the Extraordinary Contributions to the Field of Epilepsy Award by the American Epilepsy Society in 2010, and received the 2007 Llura and Gordon Gund Volunteer Leadership Award from Research!America. In 1996, she was selected as a United Way "Community Hero," for which she was presented the honor of carrying the Olympic torch in the relay to Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Axelrod received a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.B.A./M.H.A. from the University of Chicago Business School.
James T. Brett, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
James T. Brett is the President and CEO of The New England Council, a position he has held since 1996. Mr. Brett previously served as a Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1981 to 1996. He serves as Chairman of the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Intellectual Disability and is President of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health. Mr. Brett also sits on the Advisory Councils of the Robert F. Kennedy Children's Action Corps and the New England Center for Children. Mr. Brett is the recipient of the Lifetime Public Service Award from Action for Boston Community Development, the Massachusetts Special Olympics' Distinguished Leadership Award, and the Hospice of Boston's Humanitarian of the Year Award. In 1996, Bay Cove Human Services of Boston named "Brett House," a new community home for disabled adults, in his honor. The University of Massachusetts Boston established the James T. Brett Chair in Disability and Workforce Development in 2013. He served on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities from 2002 to 2006, again from 2011 to 2013, and was designated Chair in 2011. Mr. Brett received a B.A. from American University and an M.P.A. from Suffolk University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Dan Habib, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Dan Habib is a Filmmaker and Project Director of the Inclusive Communities Project at the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability, where he has worked since 2008. Previously, he was Photography Editor at the Concord Monitor from 1995 to 2008, where he was named national photography editor of the year in 2006 and 2008. He was a freelance photographer from 1992 to 1995, and Staff Photographer at the Concord Monitor from 1988 to 1992. Mr. Habib created the nationally broadcast film about his son, Including Samuel, and has made many other documentaries on disability and education related topics. He received the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities in 2013 and the Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association (New Hampshire) in 2012. Mr. Habib received a B.A. from the University of Michigan.
Stacey Milbern, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Stacey Milbern is Program Manager at the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, CA. Ms. Milbern is also a Project Coordinator at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Previously, she worked as Community Outreach Director for the National Youth Leadership Network. She was appointed by the Governor of North Carolina to the Statewide Independent Living Council from 2004 to 2010 and to the North Carolina Commission for the Blind from 2006 to 2008. Ms. Milbern received a B.A. from Methodist University.
Susana Ramirez, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Susana Ramirez is Special Education Advocate at Disability Rights Oregon, a position she has held since 2001. She was first appointed to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2011. Ms. Ramirez served on the Oregon State Advisory Council of Special Education from 1999 to 2002 and the Oregon Special Education Task Force from 2000 to 2001. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Oregon Law School and the Portland State University Graduate School of Education. In 2001, she received the State of Oregon Advocate of the Year Gubernatorial Award, and in 2000, she received the Advocate of the Year Award from the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities for her work establishing Padres en Acción, a parent group focused on advocating for the rights of Latino children with disabilities and their families.
Ricardo Thornton, Sr., Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Ricardo Thornton, Sr. has worked at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. since 1978. He is a Member of Project ACTION!, a coalition of adults with disabilities. He is also a Member of the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, an actor with the theatre group Players Unlimited, and an international ambassador with the Special Olympics. Mr. Thornton and his wife Donna were the subjects of Profoundly Normal, a made-for-TV movie. In 1997, he was selected by The Washingtonian as a Washingtonian of the Year.
Betty Williams, Appointee for Member, President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Betty Williams is Consumer Education and Training Coordinator at The Arc of Indiana, a position she has held since 2006. Previously, she worked at Achieva Resources as Workshop Consumer from 2005 to 2006 and as Habilitation Specialist from 2000 to 2004. Ms. Williams has served as Secretary of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered since 2012 and as a Lay Member of the Indiana Developmental Disabilities Commission since 1998. She served as President of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered from 2010 to 2012 and as President of Self Advocates of Indiana from 2005 to 2010.