By now, many of you may be aware that I’ll be retiring soon from the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute. My wife and I will be moving back to the Kansas City, Missouri, area, where most of our grandchildren live and attend school. We’re looking forward to spending a lot more time with our kids and grandkids, attending our grandkids’ Little League games and birthday parties, and developing our hobbies.
When I accepted the position of MCDD director nine years ago, I arrogantly—or perhaps naively—thought I was going to make a difference in a system that needed fixing. Instead, what I found was a community of committed, passionate and accepting people who taught me more than I ever thought was possible to know about working together in support of a cause. I found myself working with an incredible group of people—individuals with disabilities and their family members, psychologists, social workers, physicians and others—who care so much about improving quality of life and community inclusion for people with disabilities. I learned more than I taught, received more than I gave, and will leave with more friendships and bonds than when I arrived. While I’m sad to be leaving MCDD, I’m also excited for the organization to undertake a new chapter in its long evolution toward excellence.
Maureen van Stone, who has been MCDD’s associate director for nine years, is taking over as its interim director, bringing her ideas, philosophies and substantial talents to the position. MCDD is blessed to have many dynamic partners, like the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, Disability Rights Maryland, our state agency partners and our fabulous self-advocacy collaborators at People On the Go Maryland. I will miss working with all of them. I owe special thanks to Tami Goldsmith for putting up with my constant nagging for data, to Mat Rice for always setting me straight when needed, and to Ken Capone for his special blend of friendship and honesty—men like he are sparsely populated on this planet. I’ve been fortunate to work with some extremely gifted and brilliant colleagues at Johns Hopkins—their many talents and insights almost always prodded me to think more deeply about my work. Also, I’d like to give a special nod to Steve Eidelman, of The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, who convinced me to come to Maryland in the first place, and who continues his devotion to developing leaders in the field.
Finally, I want to say a special “thank-you” to Megan and Christine—my devoted compatriots in daily trouble, to Tylea for her tireless smile and effort in the face of confusion, to Haley for her boundless energy and growing competence, to Mirian for taking a chance on us and showing us all what real work schedules look like, to Jackie for her professionalism and super-human knowledge about everything, to Dr. Belcher for her undying spirit of social justice, to Dr. Shapiro for his friendship and unbelievable knowledge of history, to Elizabeth for her dedication to the community and to finding ways to better treat trauma, to Becca for her unique mix of near-spiritual focus and friendship, to Jenny for her lovely and kind spirit of giving, to Mike for his kind words of wisdom when I needed them, to all of the Project HEAL folks who fight for kids’ rights and family sanity, and to our unique and wonderful group of Community Advisory Council members who light our way. In this last matter, Beth, chair of the Community Advisory Council, has been one of our most fortunate additions; she just makes stuff happen. Thanks, Lana, for all you have done; thanks, Jim, for your advice; and thanks, Dr. Goldstein, for your willingness to take a chance on MCDD and me. You have been a great advocate and leader.
I’m lucky to be retiring in order to be active in other activities and endeavors besides work, and so I can spend a lot more time with my best friend in life: my wife, Patty. I feel blessed, at this point in my life, that my children still like me and want to spend time with me. I will try to milk that for all it’s worth. In the meantime, I wish all my friends and colleagues at MCDD the best in life and work, and I thank all of you for your commitment to me and to the system of equitable care that MCDD champions.
- Christopher Smith, Ph.D.