About the Board and Advisory Board

James W. Conroy, Co-President

Graduating cum laude from Yale University in 1970 with a BA in Physiological Psychology, Dr. Conroy began his career doing research on the impacts of the Developmental Disabilities Act of 1970.  He received his MA in Sociology/Program Evaluation and Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from Temple University in 1992.  While at Temple University, he was the Principal Investigator and designer of the Pennhurst Longitudinal Study, the largest study ever done up to that time on the topic of moving people with developmental disabilities from institutions to small community homes.  Since then, Dr. Conroy has directed more than a dozen similar longitudinal studies in other states.  He has been responsible for more than 250 formal research reports to government agencies and foundations, as well as more than 30 articles in scholarly journals and 10 book chapters.

His works have been publicized on CBS 60 Minutes, ABC Nightline, public television, public radio, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

Karen Hayes, Co-President

Karen has been a self-advocate for close to 40 years. She began working with the Arc of Chester County in the 1970s, shortly after high school. She became a Pennhurst Class Member during the Federal lawsuit in the 1970s. After spending several years with service provider agencies, she decided she wanted to become more independent. "Instead of everybody supporting me, I wanted to support myself," Karen recalls. With The Arc's assistance, Karen secured employment and began attending Arc recreation events. The highlight of Karen's drive for independence was finally realized when she was able to move into her own apartment after years of group living. Karen was one of the first members of Speaking for Ourselves in the 1980s. She is currently president of the Chester County Self-Determination Action Team Self-Advocate Subcommittee, where she works to help people with disabilities understand current legislation, how it may impact them, and what they can do to change it. Karen's greatest concern is ongoing government budget cuts and the effects on people with disabilities. She was also an integral part of advocacy efforts to eliminate the "R" word, of which she is extremely proud. Karen vows to never stop advocating for individuals with disabilities. "Legislators need to know we are out there," she says.

Elliott W. Simon, Ph.D., Senior Vice President

 Dr.  Simon is a licensed psychologist with over 40 years of experience as a   clinician, researcher and administrator in the field of intellectual and   developmental disabilities.  A graduate of Emory University with a Ph.D. in   Psychology, Dr. Simon completed his postdoctoral work at The Pennsylvania   State University in the College of Human Development.  Clinically, Dr. Simon   specializes in individuals with intellectual disability and co-occurring behavioral   health disorders and/or genetic syndromes.  He is the past Executive Director of   Research and Quality Improvement at Elwyn and served as the curator of its   archives and museum.  Research interests include developmental disabilities   and  psychiatric disorders, particularly behavioral and cognitive profiles of genetic syndromes and the history of intellectual disability.  Dr. Simon has published on a wide variety of topics related to intellectual disability and has been a speaker at both regional and national conferences that include the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, American Psychological Association, National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services, TASH, The Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference and the National Association for the Dually Diagnosed.

Judith Gran, Esq. Secretary

Judith Gran, Esq. is a partner in Reisman Carolla Gran LLP, a firm in Haddonfield, NJ with a national practice in disability law.  She represented the Arc of Pennsylvania and the plaintiff class in Halderman v. Pennhurst during the implementation phase of that litigation.  She has represented institutional residents in cases that resulted in community inclusion and the creation of comprehensive community services systems in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Illinois, Montana, Tennessee, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Ed Goldman, Treasurer

Ed has been a life-long advocate for persons with a developmental disability and their families.  While starting his career at the The ARC of Philadelphia, his first visit to Pennhurst was the moment that forged his commitment to end the need for institutions and has spent his professional life creating community alternatives.  He also introduced Bill Baldini to the conditions at Pennhurst, and this led to Bill's award-winning documentary Suffer The Little Children.

While Pennsylvania's Commissioner of Mental Retardation in 1971, Ed promoted the principles of community integration and inclusion as the basis for all state services and redrafted state laws, regulations and funding guidelines to be consistent with those principles.  He designed and created the first statewide community living program and family support services in the nation.  He also spearheaded the implementation of the first Right to Education Federal class action lawsuit so all children with a disability would receive a free appropriate education and, together with Governor Milton Shapp, signed the Consent Agreement.  This provided the model for the eventual passage of national legislation, P.L. 94-142, now called IDEA.  Ed has also been the executive director of local ARCs in Pennsylvania, California, and Connecticut; special full-time consultant to the Directors of the California Dept. of Health and Dept. of Rehabilitation.  In 1979, he was one of the original signers of The Community Imperative: A Refutation Of All Arguments In Support Of Institutionalizing Anybody Because Of Mental Retardation promoted by the Center on Human Policy, Syracuse University.

While living and working in New Zealand, headed a major planning effort for the New Zealand government together with volunteers, parents, professionals and elected officials that led to a renewed emphasis on community based disability services and the closure of the local residential institution for persons with an intellectual disability.

Mark Friedman, Ph.D., Board Member

 Mark Friedman, Ph.D. is currently the CEO of Blue Fire Consulting,  providing technical assistance to disability organizations on consumer   empowerment, disability rights, and technology.  He is the former     Executive  Director of the Middle Tennessee Advocacy Center advocating   for people with disabilities living in the community who used to reside in   state institutions.  Dr. Friedman served as a volunteer founder and   subsequent state coordinator of Speaking For Ourselves, an award winning, self-advocacy organization in Pennsylvania.  He served as the Vice-Chairperson of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.  He worked for the Federal Court implementing the Pennhurst court order. He received his Ph.D. degree in the area of Organizational Leadership from the Union Institute and University.

Kate Jirik, PhD

Kate JirikKate Jirik received her PhD in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in 2019 from the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation focused on bringing in unheard voices into the history of American institutions for people considered “feeble-minded” at the turn of the twentieth century. She currently is a guest lecturer at several Universities, focusing on how to think about disability differently. She has presented her work at several conferences. She is a member of the History of Science Society and has given presentations on her work, on disability in academia, and on disability as difficult history. She is a member of a Community Action Committee in Ramsey County, Minnesota, working to bring issues related to disability to the County commissioners and working for improved outcomes for people with disabilities receiving county services.

Nathan R. Stenberg, PhD Candidate, Advocate, Artist

Nathan R. Stenberg is a first-generation college student with a disability from a Nathan Stenberglow-income family in rural Minnesota. He earned his BA in Music from Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY, and his MDiv from Princeton Seminary in Princeton, NJ. He is entering his fourth year in the Theatre & Performance Historiography PhD program at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation research examines Pennhurst as a microcosm for social and legal change. When he can escape the library, Nathan performs as an actor and musician, and enjoys working as a certified personal trainer.

Nancy Thaler

Nancy ThalerNancy Thaler’s life-long career has been dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities and supporting their families. Nancy was extensively involved in the closure of Pennhurst State School and Hospital from 1974 – 1987, first as a live-in houseparent and then as a provider agency administrator developing community services for both children and adults leaving Pennhurst. 

Nancy has served in state and national leadership positions always with the goal of developing supports so that people with developmental disabilities can enjoy the benefits of living in and contributing to their community. As the Deputy Secretary for the Pa. Office of Developmental Programs from 1993 - 2003 and 2015 -2018 she over saw the closure of numerous public and private institutions and the expansion of community services for people on the waiting list. As the Director of Quality Improvement for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2003 – 2006 Nancy led the development of the requirements for and federal oversight of state Medicaid Home and Community Services Waiver programs. As the Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) from 2007 - 2015 she encouraged states to appreciate the need to work with families to support their sons and daughters being part of their community. 

Ms. Thaler has a Bachelor of Arts and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoria Causa from College Misericordia and a Master of Human Organization Science/Public Administration from Villanova University. Mrs. Thaler is the recipient numerous awards including the NASUAD Katie Beckett Award for her work in support of persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Debbie RobinsonDebbie Robinson

Debbie Robinson is the Executive Director of Speaking for Ourselves (SFO), a nationally recognized advocacy organization that teaches the public about the needs, wishes, and potential of people with disabilities. Before joining SFO, Debbie was active in the disability movement in New York. She attended the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. In 1995, she was appointed to the National Council of Disabilities by President Clinton and has served on the American Association of People with Disabilities and Self Advocates Become Empowered (SABE). Debbie works tirelessly to advocate for others and to help others advocate for themselves. 

Ellen Tierney, Board Member

Ellen TierneyEllen is the parent of an adult son with Down syndrome, and yet her conviction for people with disabilities to live at home and in the community developed as a child growing up with a next door neighbor and his two siblings with significant disabilities - one physical and one intellectual. In her sophomore year of college a classmate recruited her to volunteer at a nearby institution, Seaside State Hospital (closed in 1996), where she staunchly reaffirmed that conviction.

For nearly a decade she served as a leader and for a term as co-president of an active parents' advocacy group, interfacing with the local school district, providing sanctioned literature, hosting professional speaker meetings, and lobbying elected officials in Harrisburg and DC. 

Ellen is Vice President of Pennsylvania TASH ("PennTASH") and a member of the national TASH Public Policy Committee.

Laura J. Kennedy

Laura KennedyLaura is a parent of young woman with a developmental disability and has been a strong advocate on the local, state and national level. She recently retired as Director of the Early Childhood Direction Center, a New York State Education Department funded technical assistance center supporting professionals and parents of young children with disabilities. Since 1993, she has been a member of the Board of Directors of AHRC New York City, serving as its President. Additionally, Laura has been an active board member of The Arc New York (formerly NYSARC, Inc) and served as its President from 2014 to 2018. While President, Laura formed the Arc New York Archives Workgroup that is preserving the organization’s significant collection of disability records. Since 2018, she has been a member of the National Arc Board of Directors.

She has been an active member of the Willowbrook Task Force that includes the College of Staten Island, its Willowbrook Archivist and the disability community in preserving and recognizing the Willowbrook Consent Judgement and the social justice struggle connected to it. Laura holds a Masters Degree in Education.

Diana "Dee" KatovitchDee Katovich

Diana (“Dee”) Katovitch has been actively involved in the developmental disability community for more than 30 years as an educator, administrator, and researcher/writer. She is the author of two books- The Power to Spring Up (2009) on inclusive higher education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and Beautiful Children (2016) a history of the first school for students with intellectual disabilities in the United States. She is a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University studying disability in higher education.  She is a museum enthusiast and joined the PMPA to support the emerging Pennhurst Museum to further the goal of developing a national museum of disability history.


Jean Searle, Former PMPA Co-President

A long-time self-advocate and a force within the disability rights movement, Jean has experienced the trauma of institutionalization first-hand.  Encouraged by advocates and friends, Jean moved out to assisted living arrangements in 1984, with the help of an agency in Philadelphia.  Jean has been employed with both the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, where she has been for more than 25 years.  Believing it is imperative that the lessons embodied in the Pennhurst campus remain as an example for the future, Jean has become a driving force within the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance.

Dr. Dennis Downey, Past Board Member

I earned by PhD in United States History from Marquette University in 1981, where I studied with the late William D. Miller.  Since that time I have taught at Millersville University, where I am now a Professor of History and Director of the University Honors College.  My research and teaching specialties cover the history of American violence, and American social and cultural history, especially 1870-1920. I have a developing scholarly interest in the history of disabilities and social thought.  Over thirty years I have had a role in a variety of professional and community organizations, and I have received several awards and citations. I served as President of the Pennsylvania Historical Association from 2005-2007.

In addition to more than thirty scholarly articles and essays, I have published some sixty-five book reviews.  I am the author or editor of six books:

Dr. William Bronston, Past Board Member

Bill BronstonDr. Bronston, who graduated UCLA with a B.A. in History, received his M.D. degree at USC medical School, interned at Childrens Hospital of LA and did his psychiatry residency at Menningers School of Psychiatry. He led the exposure and class action law suit against the State of New York’s infamous Willowbrook State School in 1971.  In 1975, he returned to California and served as a children and adult disability services policy physician for two State of California Departments.  He blended his prodigious energy with building youth leadership and arts programs through establishing the United Nations International Year of Disabled Persons for California in 1981, to promote new careers in the arts among integrated teen youth, with and without disabilities, throughout his public career.  In 1979, he was one of the original signers of The Community Imperative: A Refutation Of All Arguments In Support Of Institutionalizing Anybody Because Of Mental Retardation promoted by the Center on Human Policy, Syracuse University.  As an original member of the Physicians for a National Health Program, Bronston is deeply involved in organizing health professionals to establish Medicare for All as a right and making a Single Payer universal, guaranteed health care as his central agenda to end the barbarous market system of medical industry profiteering in California and the United States. 

Mel Knowlton, Past Board Member

Mel Knowlton, PAR’s expert Policy Consultant, is one of the Commonwealth’s most respected and consulted experts in intellectual disability and autism.  Mel’s lifetime of commitment to people with disabilities began professionally as a vocational trainer working with individuals with intellectual disability in Minnesota.  He quickly became a vocational workshop supervisor, then becoming the first Residential Director at Eastern Nebraska Community Office of Retardation (ENCOR) in Omaha, Nebraska.  ENCOR was respected as the nation’s first community to develop a comprehensive community-based service system.  His work and reputation in Nebraska led to him being recruited to PA where he led groundbreaking efforts to develop community residences, early intervention services, employment services and help write the first Medicaid waivers for Pennsylvania.  Through his extraordinary career he was a protégé and peer of many of the greatest leaders in the ID/A reform movement as he worked with luminaries such as Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger.  His leadership in the PA Office of Developmental Programs helped the Commonwealth close state institutions moving to a community based system, establish family support programs, prevent abuse and neglect and enrich the lives of thousands of Commonwealth citizens with ID/A.  His rich knowledge of the ID/A field and his fervent belief in community, integration, self-advocacy and family empowerment continues to help PAR members develop extraordinary services and supports. 

Vanessa Wang

Vanessa Wang has rendered her volunteer service to the United State Senate and White House Council on Environmental Quality, as an intern and a fellow respectively, between 2010 and 2011. She serves in the leadership roleVanessa Wang of Executive Director at the Childless Mother Foundation since 2021, where she focuses on helping vulnerable women amid separation, divorce and/or child custody disputes in Greater New Haven in Connecticut by building a strong, accessible and frequently used alternative domestic dispute resolution system. As a first-generation immigrant in the United States, she is an active member of other professionals, civic and community-oriented organizations that promote equity in the community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Management major in Information Management and Information System from Shanghai International Studies University, a master’s degree in Economics from University of Connecticut, as well as a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Yale University. She presently holds the position of Legal Assistant in a law firm in New York. Vanessa is a mother of one daughter.

Matt Heaney

Matt is a lead special education teacher in Reading School District and Matt Heaneyworks closely with low-incidence classrooms housed within his school building. He holds a degree and certification from Alvernia College (2004) in social studies, secondary education, as well as special education. Matt has a goal of moving into school administration as a special education supervisor and obtaining a doctorate in educational leadership. He has a familial connection to Autism that helps drive his advocacy for inclusion and support for those with disabilities.

Christopher MacDonald

My name is Christopher MacDonald and I went to Wallenpaupack High School. I used to work in the Human ResourcesChris MacDonald Center, a not-for-profit organization supporting persons with disabilities, to help pack home improvement materials. Now the pandemic is mostly over, I decided to do something I love; being a paranormal investigator at Pennhurst. I have been helping finding and preserving records at Pennhurst State School and Hospital because I heard that over the years records have been vandalized. I mentioned to staff that I will do whatever I can to get those records back to help tell the stories of those people who lived at Pennhurst, so now I am on the hunt finding the records. I also assist in the Pennhurst tours. I have autism which is the reason why I like helping tell the Pennhurst story because I felt bad for people with disabilities and what they went through at Pennhurst. All people should be treated the same and no human being should ever be treated like those who endured Pennhurst.

Tina Calabro

Tina Calabro Tina Calabro is a founding member and acting project director of the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium. Her work as a disability issues writer has been recognized for expanding public understanding and highlighting the work of people and organizations that create opportunity and positive change. She is the parent of young adult who has a disability.


Autumn Werner

Autumn is in her junior year at West Chester University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology, as a first-generation disabled college student. After graduation, Autumn hopes to pursue a masters degree in special education. She maintains an onsite presence at Pennhurst, working as the Historic Coordinator for Pennhurst LLC. Pennhurst LLC is the current owner of many Pennhurst’s buildings, after the Autumn Wernerstate sold parts of the Pennhurst campus to private investors. In this role, Autumn and her team have helped to build an extensive museum that now inhabits the entire first floor of the Mayflower building, a former boys dormitory.

Autumns’ time at Pennhurst began in 2016, when she took a job as a makeup artist and performer for the LLC’s haunted attraction. Her longtime interest in the history of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital  motivated her to take part in, and eventually lead, the LLC’s historic initiatives. The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance (PMPA) awarded Autumn the PMPA-Pirmann Fellowship in 2020. As inaugural Fellow, Autumn took part in the acquisition and documentation of artifacts found on the Pennhurst site, and the preservation of the museum which currently serves as the only museum of disabled history in the United States. Pennhurst’s history holds a place in Autumns’ heart as she is a caregiver for two girls with autism and a physically disabled person herself. When not hunting for artifacts or organizing activities, Autumn enjoys the arts, traveling, and spending time with her sisters. Autumn aims to expand and improve the museum onsite and maintain an accessible space for individuals with disabilities to tell their history.

Ashten Vassar-Cain

Ashten is a Graduate Assistant in the Human Rights M.A. program at the University of Connecticut, where he also completed his undergraduate degree, double-majoring in Psychological Sciences and Human Rights with a minor in American Studies. He has worked in health promotion and harm reduction as a peer educator and peer supporter, centering sexual health and wellness Ashtenon campus. His current research focus is on Disability History and Disability Justice movements. Ashten has worked on several archival projects focusing on oral history and archival research. He was an undergraduate member of the research team at the Mansfield Training School Memorial and Museum and a writer for the Disability & Access Collective.

Ashten is the Assistant Director for Archival Preservation and Museum Inventory at the Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance. He is also part of a grassroots organization of institutional abuse survivors that aims to empower, educate, and organize for meaningful change. He is committed to furthering institutional accountability through restorative justice initiatives and persistent activism. As a survivor of institutional abuse, he reaffirms his dedication and obligation to the legacy of the Disability Rights movement to ensure we never go back.

David Mack-Hardiman, Past Board Member

David Mack-HardimanDavid Mack- Hardiman is an Associate Vice- President at People Inc. and formerly headed the operations of the Museum of disABILITY History. This museum was dedicated exclusively to advancing the understanding, acceptance and independence of people who have disabilities. During his forty-two year career in Human Services, he has been the recipient of an Award of Merit from the Museum Association of New York for his inclusion of people who have disabilities in the exhibit, In Celebration of Down Syndrome. In addition, his leadership in the restoration of abandoned institutional cemeteries received an award from the National Federation of Just Communities and, a proclamation from the Niagara County Legislature. He has served on the Board of Directors of Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo and Erie County. He the author of several publications related to the history of people who have disabilities and, has been a contributing author for the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Western New York Heritage magazine.

Jess Gallagher

Jess (they/any) is in the Human Rights M.A. program at Columbia University where they currently serve as the editor-in-training for RightsViews and the Co-Vice President of the Human Rights Graduate Group (HRGG). Jess is also the College Prep Coordinator and College Road Counselor at CommunityJess Gallagher Impact, an intern for the National Museum Committee of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance (PMPA), a writer, and archival researcher. Her concentration in the field of human rights is disability, historical, and restorative justice. Her research focuses on the history of disability throughout the 19th and 20th centuries by examining institutionalization within the U.S. and how disablism persists in the 21st century using the lens of History, Disability and Mental Health Law, Oral History, and Storytelling. Jess aims to work as a disability oral historian whose activism centers on grassroots organizing, uplifting the lived experiences of people with disabilities from across all identity markers, preserving historical sites of conscience, and creating inclusive policies in higher education that embrace linguistic justice, anti-racist pedagogy, and UDL models of learning.

Jess also works as a researcher, web designer, and activist for the grant-funded, “Mansfield Training School Memorial and Museum” project that aims to examine and re-tell the interconnected history between the Mansfield Training School (a state-run institution for the “mentally handicapped”), the University of Connecticut, and CT state government.

Donna Samluk

Donna SamlukDonna Samluk worked as a “Mental Retardation Aide 1” *during the years 1975 to 1985 at Pennhurst State School & Hospital. Donna was responsible for the total care of men with very significant disabilities in Mayflower Hall #1, for 5 years, and then moved to Quaker Hall 2 for work with men who had challenging behavior patterns, for the next 5 years. Donna then worked in community services after leaving Pennhurst. Forty years after her Pennhurst work, Donna helped Ruth Himes create a small history display in one room in the Administration building, as part of the Pennhurst Asylum Halloween attraction. When new owners of Pennhurst took over in 2016, Donna was chosen to expand the effort to show the real history of the place. A genuine museum began to grow in the Mayflower building. Donna had actually worked in that very building. Donna’s old colleague Bernie Essick came out of retirement to help with tours. As of October 2022, the Pennhurst Museum occupies the entire first floor of Mayflower, and collection objects are stored on the second floor. The 11am Saturday history tours are now (2022) averaging 100 attendees.

Jerry W Smith

Jerry SmithJerry Smith is an award-winning filmmaker and media director specializing in documentary and educational programs supporting people with developmental and other disabilities. As a creative marketing professional, he is a leader in nurturing strategic partnerships, developing marketing and brand strategies, and curating content that brings stories about community living for people with disabilities to life. At the Institute on Community Integration Jerry has directed dozens of films for broadcast, DVD, and web delivery. Recent projects include The Real Story, a short film exploring media bias in mainstream news coverage of disability issues; Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization, a historical documentary examining an idea that revolutionized human services in the 1970s; and On the Autism Spectrum, a series of awareness films for the Somali, Hmong, Latino, African American, and American Indian communities in Minnesota. Jerry also manages a number of web-based multimedia projects, including Self-Advocacy Online, a web portal for self-advocates funded by the MacArthur Foundation that provides accessible, media-rich content and social networking features, and Leadership in the History of the Developmental Disabilities Movement, a wiki-based, multi-media site delivering presentations on key leaders and collecting and sharing historical content from site visitors. Jerry earned a Bachelor's in Philosophy from Central Michigan University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

Patricia Chadwick

Patricia ChadwickPatricia Chadwick is the developer, designer, and co-founder (with her late husband, disability archivist Stephen Dias) of the Disability Social History Project. She has a web development, communications, and broadcast media background. Chadwick has produced radio programs on disability issues, and co-produced the video, “Disabled Women: Visions and Voices from the Fourth World Conference on Women.” She writes on media and disability issues and advocates for digital accessibility. Chadwick has written grants for disability history projects and for educating journalists about reporting on disability. (Website: Visions & Voices)

Anthony Tusler

Since discovering the disability community in 1972, Anthony Tusler explains, and enjoys the world through, and from a disability perspective. In his professional and personal activities his goal is to improve the lives of people with disabilities and encourage disability self-determination and culture. Tusler is a writer, photographer, consultant, trainer, and advocate on disability issues. He was the founding Director of the Disability Resource Center at Sonoma State University for 22 years. He was the Coordinator of the Technology Policy Division at the World Institute on Disability for three years where he authored “How to Create Disability Access to Technology: Best Practices in Electronic and Information Technology Companies.” He has helped to launch a number of non-profits, including the Institute on Alcohol, Drugs, and Disability, Community Resources for Independence, Disability Associates, and the National Center on Disability and Journalism. His photographs are currently featured at the Ed Roberts Campus, Berkeley, and numerous independent living centers across the United States. 

Heather Klein (Pollack)

Heather Pollack, is a graduate from West Chester University with a bachelor and master’s degree inHeather Pollock Social Work. She is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, Community Options, Inc. in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Community Options, Inc. provides residential, employment and community participation supports to adults with intellectual disabilities. During her undergraduate and graduate studies, she gained experience working with intellectually disabled adults in Chester County, PA, victims of crime also in Chester County, PA and school-aged students in Lancaster County, PA. Post-graduate school, Heather started her career with Community Options, Inc. in October of 2013.


Peg Gould

Peg GouldMargaret J. (Peg) Gould was instrumental in convening both the 20th Century Recognition Project and the National Historic Recognition Project: 2000–2020, both of which sought to highlight contributions and key trends in the field of I/DD.  A great deal of historically critical materials were being lost; both projects highlighted the need to preserve the history of the field by recognizing significant trends and contributions, creating a record for research and to enlighten future generations.

Ms. Gould directs the Training Collaborative for Innovative Leadership a project of multiple community providers in New York City led by ADAPT Community Network.  The Collaborative trains emerging leaders with an emphasis on quality outcomes. The Training Collaborative is accredited by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP).  

Ms. Gould also is President and CEO of the VISIONS Center for Creative Management, a consulting firm specializing in effective management and the development of quality supports for agencies in the field of disabilities. Ms. Gould holds adjunct positions at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany and is a blogger. Her Subjects on Sundays blog addresses current issues in the field. 

Ms. Gould was a key player in the development of centralized archives for historical documents in the field from New England, now held at The Arc New York and People, Inc. (Buffalo, New York). She served as a consultant to the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for the development of historic displays at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. 

Ms. Gould earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego and a master’s degree in counseling from Virginia State University.

Benjamin Nadolsky

Benjamin NadolskyHaving completed a two-year commitment with Teach For America in Nashville, TN, Benjamin is working for the World Institute on Disability as a consultant and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law in the Fall of 2021. He received his B.A. in Global Affairs and History from Yale University in 2018. During his time at Yale, Benjamin was involved in a variety of activities, with a primary focus on disability rights and advocacy, serving on the New Haven Commission on Disabilities and as the Chairman of the Yale College Council task force on disability resources. Additionally, he founded Yale’s first undergraduate organization dedicated to supporting and expanding the rights of disabled students on campus – Disability Empowerment for Yale (DEFY). His efforts helped overcome preconceived notions about people with disabilities and lead to a more inclusive campus environment. Throughout his college career, Benjamin worked for a variety of government officials and organizations with a particular focus on education and economic development including: the U.S. Department of Education, Former Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (TN), and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (TN). Aside from disability advocacy and teaching, Benjamin’s other interests include robotics, workforce transition, public service, educational policy, global affairs, and environmental sustainability.

Chelsea Chamberlain

Chelsea ChamberlainChelsea D. Chamberlain is an assistant professor of History at Wilkes University. She received a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA in history from the University of Montana. Her research focuses on the education and institutionalization of children deemed feebleminded in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States.

Nathaniel Guest, Founding Board Member

Nathaniel Guest Nathaniel first discovered Pennhurst in 1993, writing in the Pottstown Mercury that the historic campus must be preserved. Fifteen years later, after gross neglect by the state and a dubious transfer to private ownership that now pushes the site toward oblivion, he again took up the charge, founding Preserve Pennhurst with the intention of establishing an international museum of conscience on this unique, beautiful and meaningful space. Nathaniel is a 1994 graduate of Pottsgrove High School (Montgomery County, PA), a 1998 magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). Currently, he is a JD candidate at the Temple University School of Law (Philadelphia, PA) and a masters candidate in historic preservation planning at Cornell.

David Goode

David Goode is Professor Emeritus in Sociology of the City University of New York (CUNY). Goode received a B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from Queens College, CUNY, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied ethnomethodology under Harold Garfinkel. In the 1970s he worked at Pacific State Hospital doing research, and also did observations of persons who had been released from state institutions. His first book, A World Without Words (1994) concerns children born deaf and blind and how to understand them, received a prestigious international award in sociology, the Cooley Award. In the 1980s Goode coordinated The Quality of Life Project for the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and published an international reader on Quality of Life and disabilities. He also has an interest in human-animal interaction, as evidenced in an ethnomethodological work, Playing with My Dog Katie. His most recent work, The History and Sociology of Willowbrook State School (2013) employs historical sources to examine how and why Willowbrook came to be. Interviews of people who lived and worked at Willowbrook reveal what daily life was like there.

Brent Glass

Brent GlassBrent Glass Brent D. Glass is Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the world’s largest museum devoted to telling the story of America. A national leader in the preservation, interpretation and promotion of history, Glass is a public historian who pioneered influential oral history and material culture studies, an author, television presence and international speaker on cultural diplomacy and museum management. 

Jodie Alexandra Taylor

Jodie Alexandra TaylorJodie Alexandra Taylor began her film and television career over 15 years ago at Mersey Television in England. A highly respected production company, Mersey was producing three of the top rated Soap Operas in the country; Brookside, Byker Grove and Hollyoaks amongst other shows. At Mersey she was trained in each department on set, in addition to being trained in postproduction. That experience is what gives Taylor a clear advantage when communicating with department heads, tech crews and production staff. Because she understands the necessary details required of each department to run a show, produce a commercial and direct film she is able to provide the best leadership and direction possible in pre-production, in a control room, on the floor, on set, on location and in post.

 Taylor, wanting to challenge herself further in her career, freelanced in London and Manchester working on shows like Eastenders, GMTV, The Big Breakfast, Coronation Street, Cold Feet, Shameless and The Office. Working on shows with such variety in their format and genre sharpened her skills in production making her a great creative force as a director and highly efficient producer.

After 3 years of working both in Manchester and London, Jodie moved to New York City to advance her experience of film. In over 10years in the United States Taylor has worked on over 24 film productions, 12 television series, countless commercials, PSAs and pilots all over the world. Filming in places like Jordan, the Bahamas for Wind Jammers, Memphis for a series of PSA promoting teachers and New Zealand for the BBC has taught Taylor to maximize small amount of production resources available to her. 

Clifford Shaw, Law Enforcement Officer

In 1979, the Director of Pennhurst and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Welfare asked the Pennsylvania State Police to consider conducting an undercover investigation at Pennhurst to evaluate and assess the allegations of abuse of the residents by Pennhurst employees. The allegations included thefts, assaults, rapes, and harassment. As a result of my professional work experience, I was asked to do the undercover investigation at Pennhurst. Prior to joining the State Police, I had gone to nursing school at Philadelphia General Hospital, joined the Army and spent a year in Vietnam as a Registered Nurse, and had worked for four years on a State Police undercover drug detail. As a result of the investigation, seven employees were arrested for assault and discharged and another five employees discharged for administrative reasons. Memories of Pennhurst and in particular, of the residents I met there have remained with me all of these years.

Mary B. Schreiner Ph.D., Past Board Member

Mary SchreinerMary Schreiner, a former PMPA board member, has been connected to persons with disabilities since the late1970’s when she was part of the training of community agency staff who would serve the recently-dispersed Pennhurst residents.  Since that time, she has worked in various roles with adult services and special education to develop programs and relationships that honor the lives of individuals with human differences.  Since completing her doctorate in Special Education at Penn State University, Dr. Schreiner now works as an Associate Professor of Education at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Liz Coppola, Student and Past Board Member

Liz CoppolaLiz graduated magna cum laude from Villanova University (2009) with a BA in psychology and will receive her MA in criminology, law and society from Villanova University in 2010. She specializes in the interaction of society and mental illness, which is manifested both in her interest in Pennhurst State school and in her research on racial disparities in psychiatric diagnosis. Her fascination with history is expressed in her work at Eastern State Penitentiary Historical Society (Philadelphia, PA), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, where all proceeds benefits the preservation and stabilization of the National Historic Landmark.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Neuville, Past Board Member

Elizabeth "Betsy" Neuville has over 28 years of experience as a human service worker, administrator, agency director, service evaluator, educator, and personal advocate, as well as extensive experience in designing and developing supports for very vulnerable people, meaningful quality measurements, and extraordinary employee development programs.  She is the Executive Director of the Keystone Institute, which is the values-based training organization of Keystone Human Services.

She began her work with vulnerable people in 1986, as a support worker in a small community home for three men who had recently left an institution - and has continued her commitment to personal human service ever since.  In 1988 she was hired by Keystone to help 20 people leave institutions and establish themselves in their home communities in Lancaster County.  She spent her first year with those twenty people and their families, planning and envisioning new lives liberated from the institution, and walking with them as they entered their new lives and began to craft a more positive future.

Betsy served as Executive Director of Keystone Human Services of Lancaster for 13 years, designing and directing supports for adults and children with developmental disabilities and/or mental disorders.  She has assisted over 200 people to leave institutions and establish themselves as valued and contributing members of their communities.  Equally important, she has been involved with the closure of several large institutions, and she established the use of person-centered processes to assist people to gain a vision of full, rich, community lives. Betsy developed a reputation for successfully supporting people who many others had given up on, and has mentored a number of passionate change agents to carry on this work.  She consults, partners, and teaches extensively, both within Keystone and externally.

Betsy has worked extensively with the ideas of Normalization and Social Role Valorization, and provides training and consultation both nationally and internationally.  She is fully accredited by the North American Social Role Valorization as a senior trainer of SRV.  She has taught SRV and Passing in Canada, across the United States, Ireland, Holland, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Romania, and the Republic of Moldova.  She studied under the mentorship of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger, the developer and foremost proponent of Social Role Valorization, and has, in turn, mentored and supported a generation of people committed to personal human service to others.  She remains closely personally connected to people who are vulnerable, and holds particular interest in the historical treatment of people with disabilities.

Betsy and her husband Thomas live in New Holland, PA, and have two children.

Dana Olsen, Retired State Executive and Past Board Member

Dana Olsen worked with the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) from 1973 to Dana Olsen2009. During his tenure, he led initiatives in developing state-wide program s in family living and life sharing, as well as the Medicaid waivers. These waivers became the cornerstone of policy leading to the reduction in the number of people in state centers from 12,000 in 1973 to approximately 1,000 today.

Dana is a passionate advocate to countless people with intellectual disabilities. He is a member of the Lifesharing Coalition of Pennsylvania, a member of ARC of Pennsylvania, and is currently the project director of the Pennsylvania History Coalition Honoring People with Disability.  Dana is completing a three-part book series entitled, Arching Tale: A Generation’s Support of People with Disability in the United States.

Pat Leo, Executive of the Arc Alliance, Past Board Member

Pat Leo is the Pennsylvania Conference of Executives of The Arc of Pennsylvania representative to the Board of Directors. She is also the Chief Operating Officer of The Arc Alliance.

Yvonne Husic, Esq.

She is sole practitioner of the Husic Law Office, located in Harrisburg, where she focuses mainly in theYvonne Husic area of special education law. Ms. Husic has 30 years experience in special education. She worked for the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC), currently The Arc of PA, as Director of Governmental Affairs and Advocacy for 16 years during the closure of Pennhurst and with local ARC Chapters prior to that. Ms. Husic has 20 years of experience as an attorney practicing in the area of special education law, both at the administrative level and federal court litigation.

Edward Cohle

Ed worked on the Pennhurst Longitudinal Study as a Site Reiewer, while working for the large provider agency PATH - People Acting To Help - the agency that invited Jean Searle to leave her institution and come home to Philadelphia. Ed was involved in the same process with dozens of residents from Pennhurst.

Pat Wear

Pat WearPat Wear is presently a senior vice president with Wilson Resources, Inc. following a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors. He is a former state Commissioner for Mental Health, director of a federal court-appointed panel which oversaw the successful closure of a state institution and the transition of hundreds of individuals with disabilities to their home communities, a staff member of a protection and advocacy agency (FL), and an agency executive multiple times.

Mr. Wear was WRI’s director of Working with Business to Increase Employment Opportunities of Individuals with Disabilities, aimed at educating Florida companies on Intro to Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace and the ADAAA. A highly acclaimed trainer, he is certified as an instructor by Kepner-Tregoe and O.D. Resources.  In 2009, he became a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.  In 2010, he received the Berea College Service Award. The college annually recognizes three or fewer individuals for their outstanding service to society in achieving the ideals of Berea College's Great Commitments.

Mr. Wear is advising the PMPA in its efforts to invite and welcome mental health and disability community consumers and organizations.

William Brunner

Bill is the president of the Spring Ford Historical Society. The author of several local history publications, Bill brings a knowledge of the social and geographical context within which our re-development efforts must take place.

Colleen Wieck, Ph.D

Coleen WeickExecutive Director of the nation's most valued and progressive Developmental Disabilities Council, Dr. Wieck is an essential member of this group. She has compiled one of the most complete sources of history and progress in developmental disabilities in the world on the Council's websites and DVD. Her work Parallels in Time is not only a historic tour de force, it is an invaluable training tool for new workers in the field.

Ginny Thornburgh

Currently the Director of Religion and Disability at the National Organization on Disability in Washington, Ginny has balanced being a parent of a child with disabilities with being the wife of the Governor of Pennsylvania, Attorney General of the United States and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Eleanor Elkin (1916-2019)

Eleanor ElkinMrs. Elkin became an internationally recognized speaker and advocate for the right to education and self-determination on the part of disabled people. Involved in the Pennhurst story from the very beginning, Eleanor worked tirelessly as an ARC advocate, President of the ARC of PA, PILCOP worker on the Pennhurst litigation, and one of the founders of the international movement to address proper treatment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Nancy Zollers, Ph.D

Nancy worked at PILCOP in the Pennhurst years. She obtained her Doctorate at Syracuse, working with some of the finest of the heirs of Burton Blatt. Her work in transition, inclusive education, charter schools, and now with the ARC of Massachusetts, testifies to her devotion and activism. Nancy has a powerful sense of our history in this endeavor, and can contribute precious holdings to our envisioned Archives.

Bill Baldini, Retired Journalist

Bill BaldiniIt was Bill Baldini's legendary and groundbreaking 1968 documentary Suffer the Little Children that oriented Pennhurst toward its place in history as the epicenter of the human rights movement for people with disabilities. A watershed moment in the expository journalism and disability rights, Suffer the Little Children and its wake changed the course of our national history. Upon his retirement 2006, Bill was the longest working television reporter in the city of Philadelphia and in 2005, the Philadelphia City Council declared March 17th "Bill Baldini Day," recognizing his efforts.

Donna Bouclier, Mother and Advocate

Now the Director of the ARC of Philadelphia, Donna worked for a major service provider in Philadelphia for many years before giving birth to her daughter, Alina. Donna has also served as the Co-President of the National Coalition on Self Determination. She has a Masters degree in education. Donna works with disability rights agencies, and volunteers for international efforts to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Alina Szamatowicz

Daughter of Donna Bouclier, Alina is a student at the Overbrook School, and participates in trainings on communication and inclusion. She has Aicardi syndrome and looks forward to a meaningful life.

Chris Peecho, Founding Board Member and Scholar of Pennhurst History

Chris PeechoChris grew up around Phoenixville and moved to Spring City in 1994. He has always been interested in history, especially local history. Combing the local historical society only fueled this interest. A few friends of Chris were former employees of Pennhurst and shared many stories about their experiences there. In 1996, what would later evolve into El Peecho Productions (www.elpeecho.com) was founded. What started out as a memorial site grew into an online warehouse of historical documentation of the Pennhurst saga. After the property was sold to a private developer by the State, Peecho was contacted by Nathaniel Guest sparking the beginning of the Preserve Pennhurst project.

Betty Potts, Pennhurst Class Member, SFO Founding Member, First to Move (1956-2018)

Betty was the first person to leave Pennhurst under Judge Raymond Broderick's Federal District Court order. Betty went to Pennhurst when she was 8 years old, in 1966. She went to Pennhurst because, although her family loved her deeply, they could not take care of her the way professionals said they should - and all the professionals said she would be better off at an institution. But Pennhurst was not at all good for, or to, Betty. She moved out of Pennhurst in 1978, at age 20, after spending part of her childhood and all of her adolescence there. She became an advocate and activist, and helped to start Speaking for Ourselves, one of the first organizations in the nation to be run for and by people with disabilities. Betty presented in more than 15 states on advocacy, self-determination, and moving out of institutions. She was one of the first people with disabilities in Delaware County to have a home of her own, by obtaining and responsibly using subsidized housing through the housing authority. She also pioneered the supported living program at the agency she was with for over 20 years. She appeared on national TV -- in the Travel Channel's one hour show on Pennhurst. She was a fan of the Ruby Tuesday restaurants, was loyal as both a friend and mentor, and loved kids. Betty passed away peacefully in June of 2018. Our Board members organized a celebration of her life in January 2019.

Matthew Diehl 

Matthew grew up in Royersford, just on the other side of the Schuyikill River, from the Pennhurst Campus. Always fascinated with local history, Pennhurst had sparked his interest back in 1991 as a teenager. Matt began compiling information on the State School and had spoken with many past employees, which only further sparked his interest. Matt has kept an eye on this property in hopes that someone would save it. In 2008, after hearing that the State would be selling to a private firm, Matt thought all hope of saving the property would be lost. In late 2009, Matt had heard rumors that the current owner planned on opening the Administration Building as a haunted attraction. While researcing this rumor amidst the Internet, he had found the PM&PA Website. Matt contacted Nathaniel Guest for information on the validity of the haunted attraction, And from there joined the PM&PA in their efforts to save the Pennhurst Campus. Currently a construction site superintendant, Matt offers his services in any way needed to benefit the efforts of The PM&PA.

Charles Hardy, Professor, West Chester UniversityCharles Hardy

Supervising Historian for ExplorePAhistory.com since 2003, Professor Hardy has served as president of the Oral History Association (2008-2009), on the Advisory Board of Oral History in the Digital Age (2009-2012), as a member of the Advisory Board of the Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation (2004-2010); and as a project advisor for "History of Oppression," a multi-institutional archival and documentary project on the history of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Institute (2014-present).

Dr. Hardy also serves as the Internship Coordinator for the Department, and is currently conducting an oral history project documenting the life and career of Congressman Curt Weldon (WCU 1969), who represented Pennsylvania's 7th District from 1987-2007.  

John Tague

John Tague has been committed to improving the lives of persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania for more than forty years.John Tague

Mr. Tague was founding Project Director of the Western Pennsylvania Disability History John Tagueand Action Consortium and currently serves on the Consortium Executive Committee. John is a Treasurer of the City/County Task Force on Disabilities. In addition, John serves on the Board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County as Chair of the Planning and Stakeholders Relations Committee as well as a long time Board Member of Action Housing.

Additionally, Mr. Tague is a member of several other Boards and Advisory Committees, including the Pennsylvania Transportation Alliance, a statewide transportation advocacy organization. John is a member of his parish’s Pastoral Council and serves on its’ Inclusion Committee.

John was a member of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations and State Vocational Rehabilitation Board, past chair of the Governor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities.

Tom Gilhool (1939-2020)

Thomas Gilhool, JD, was a staff attorney from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP). He had been the lead attorney in precedent-setting lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities. Gilhool was an attorney with PILCOP for 27 years. He retired in 2006 after being active inTom Gilhool the public interest community for 41 years. While serving as consumer advocate and director of law reform at Community Legal Services during the late 1960s, Gilhool won the first legal services case to reach the United States Supreme Court, Smith v. Reynolds, in which the Court struck down the durational residency requirement for public assistance benefits. Gilhool’s accomplishments also include representation of plaintiffs in PARC v. Commonwealth, which established the constitutional right of children with disabilities to a free, appropriate public education and ultimately led to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He served as the lead counsel in Halderman v. Pennhurst which established the Right to Habilitation, the Right to be Free from Harm, and the Right to Non-discriminatory Habilitation. In 2003 he received a senior Fulbright Fellowship in Japan and brought together Japanese and American advocates for disability rights to consider how each country could build on the success of the other. He then participated in the United Nations drafting of a convention on rights of persons with disabilities. He was a graduate of Lehigh University, Yale University and Yale Law School.

Our Logo: The Pennhurst Dogwood

Pennhurst DogwoodFound in several locations on the powerfully emotive Pennhurst campus, the Dogwood is the perennial symbol of resurrection, remembrance, and redemption.

As such, it represents our effort to save this internationally-significant place of memory from destruction. Through its environmentally-responsible and socially-sensitive re-use, Pennhurst can again become not only a profitable contributor to the region, but the birthplace of a needed renewed conscience for the future