In Memoriam: Dr. Marvin Fifield

Center for Persons with Disabilities UT UCEDD

December 8, 2015

Originally published by the CPD

It is with sadness and respect that we say goodbye to our friend and colleague, Dr. Marvin Fifield, the pioneering director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities (originally called the Exceptional Child Center). When the building opened in 1973, he was at its helm. And of all the people who have passed through its doors, he is likely the one who made the greatest impact.

Dr. Fifield actively promoted disability rights and legislation within the community, the state, and the nation. Dr. Fifield took two sabbaticals to go to Washington, DC to work with Senator Orrin Hatch on legislation concerning disability issues and work with the Office of Special Education. On May 9, 2000, Senator Hatch read a tribute to Dr. Fifield into the Congressional Record, stating “…Without his skilled direction, numerous regional mental health centers, rehabilitation and vocational services, studies, and workshops would not now be available… The lives of countless thousands of disabled and disadvantaged citizens have been enriched as a result of Marvin Fifield’s work… our nation will benefit for generations to come.”

Dr. Marvin Fifield in a CPD classroom, circa 1981Dr. Fifield served as a consultant and/or witness on behalf of disability programs for Congress and the Utah State legislature, and as a disability expert consultant to the World Health Organization and the National Advisory Council on Disability. He served terms as president of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (American Association of University Affiliated Programs [AAUAP] at that time), and also as president of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. Of his leadership, former AAUAP Executive Director Bill Jones wrote, "Marv recommended a legislative strategy that linked UAP training and research to almost every new federal and state initiative that concerned people with disabilities.... As a result of his vision, wise guidance, and effective leadership... the UAP network is serving and supporting almost every aspect of services to people with disabilities across the nation."

Dr. Fifield's tireless efforts greatly impacted services in the state of Utah. He was instrumental in developing the Tech Act legislation and wrote the proposal for the Utah Assistive Technology Program, one of the first nine such state projects approved by the federal government. He helped establish the Utah Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities, which was uniquely effective increasing Utah's state appropriations for disability programs. After his retirement, he continued to work with the Utah Legislature on policy and assumed a leadership role in expanding Independent Living Programs in Utah. Read the full memoriam written by Kelly Smith from CPD.