In Memoriam: Allen C. Crocker, 1925-2011

November 1, 2011

We are very sorry to share the news that our beloved and honored colleague, friend and mentor, Dr. Allen C. Crocker passed away on October 23 from complications of a recent illness. For over 60 years, Dr. Crocker played a seminal role at the local, state and national levels on behalf of children and youth with disabilities.

After completing his undergraduate degree at MIT, Dr. Crocker graduated from Harvard Medical School and first worked at Children's Hospital as a medical student in the lab of Dr. Harry Shwachman studying cystic fibrosis. After completing internship, residency and fellowship at Children's, he stayed on to spend 15 years with Dr. Sidney Farber in the Jimmy Fund building studying rare diseases such as Niemann-Pick, Tay-Sachs and other storage disorders. Dr. Crocker developed a clinical practice following children with these conditions and was active in the Rett syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease associations.

Recognizing the need for interdisciplinary care for children with special health care needs and developmental concerns, in the mid-1960s, Dr. Crocker advocated at the national level to develop appropriate clinical services and training through the federal program that was known as the University Affiliated Programs (UAP). With funding from that federal program he founded the Developmental Evaluation Clinic (DEC) at Children's in 1967 (which merged with other developmental programs at Children's Hospital, Boston to become clinical and training programs of the current Developmental Medicine Center as well as the Leadership Education and Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities training grant). He was also instrumental in evolving the DEC to the Institute for Community Inclusion, a joint program of the University of Massachusetts Boston and Children's Hospital. Dr. Crocker remained a national leader serving as the President of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and on the board and committees of several other national associations.

His academic work was extensive. He published over 150 articles, book chapters and edited or co-edited 8 books. Dr. Crocker was truly a founding father of the field of developmental behavioral pediatrics. His textbook "Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics" published in 1983 with Melvin D. Levine and William Carey and now in its 4th edition helped define the field and continues to be essential reading for trainees.

His awards and recognitions of his contributions to families and children with disabilities are many including the C. Anderson Aldrich Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Presidents' Award, National Down Syndrome Society; and the Martha H. Ziegler Founder's Award of the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Additionally, three awards are now given annually in his name (New England Regional Genetics Group, Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, and a Community Advocacy Award sponsored by the Division of Developmental Medicine at Children's Hospital) yet he was humble about all of these accomplishments and routinely deflected attention away from himself. He was most proud of the accomplishments of children and families and enjoyed his service numerous boards, committees and task forces at all levels.

Dr. Crocker recognized and taught the centrality of the family and celebrated each child. He loved poetry and saw beauty in exceptionality. He was a mentor, teacher, colleague, and friend to countless fellows, faculty, and staff. His former students carry on his legacy of clinical excellence, genuine care and gentle support to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. He was a true champion of families with children with special health care needs and developmental disabilities and he will be dearly missed.