The Boggs Center (NJ UCEDD) Celebrates its 30th Anniversary and Elizabeth Boggs 100th Birthday Year

October 29, 2013

George Jesien, Deborah Spitalnik, and Ansley Bacon
George Jesien, Deborah Spitalnik, and Ansley Bacon

The Boggs Center, New Jersey's UCEDD, celebrated its 30th anniversary and namesake Elizabeth Boggs' 100th birthday year on Friday, September 27th, with an invitational colloquium focusing on "The Power of Listening in Building a Valued Future."  The theme of listening to those for whom we work was woven throughout the event by featured speakers including state and university officials, AUCD colleagues, former students and trainees, self-advocates, and family members.

George Jesien, PhD, Executive Director of AUCD, set the tone for the day by highlighting the role of The Boggs Center as a UCEDD, and Ansley Bacon, PhD, CEO of the Westchester Institute for Human Development, followed by describing the UCEDD's function as a bridge from the university to the community.  Will and Eric Swenson, brothers of the late Charlie Swenson, born with severe disabilities, spoke of their devotion to listening and hearing a brother who was unable to speak.  Interspersed amidst the day's presentations were readings by family caregivers of their selected poems from The Boggs Center's recently published booklet, Writing Our Journey: Poems and Essays by Family Caregivers.

The morning culminated with words from Deborah M. Spitalnik, PhD, founding Executive Director of The Boggs Center, who drew upon the theme of listening to examine the history and evolution of the disabilities field.  Quoting Maya Angelou, Spitalnik framed the hard decisions parents and family members have historically made for their loved one with a disability in deference to professional judgments of the time, while outlining our moral imperative to listen to people with disabilities and their families in order that we may continually "do better as we know better."

Additionally, Spitalnik noted that we must prepare the next generation of those in the field to act with information and to support them in acting with love. Former student trainees, including Carol Britton Laws, PhD, Disability Studies Program Coordinator at the Institute on Human Development and Disability at UGA, were in attendance to share their learning experiences with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and the impact of those experiences on their career trajectories. Attendees also viewed an episode of Healthbeat with Sara Lee Kessler, a documentary supported by funding from the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, focusing on the health care needs of adults with disabilities and featuring The Boggs Center's unique training programs for medical students and resident physicians.

The afternoon also featured a presentation by Cathy Ficker Terrill, CEO of The Council on Quality and Leadership, on listening and learning to inform the Person-Centered Plan. Siblings Andrew McGeady and Jaime McGeady concluded by describing the meaning of support in their lives.