Your Rich VR Heritage BRIEF #7 Special Edition In Honor of our Late Director Bob Philbeck December 21, 1940 - December 10, 2016
Normally, I would greet your morning with Happy Friday; however this Friday, is not entirely happy in that it is one in which would be most appropriate to pay our respects to Bob Philbeck, 6th director of the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation who left this world less than one week ago today. However, we will not only honor him, but the series of those who have accepted the challenge of providing leadership and direction to this historically rich and effective assembly of dedicated workers who make their mission to improve the lives of North Carolinians with disabilities.
I will give a brief synapses of each director, some of which I never had the honor to meet, along with several I have (spanning Claude A. Myer to Tara K. Myers).
The story of NC DVRS Directors begins here:
HOMER L. STANTON (1921-1936) B: 28 Jul 1887 D: 2 Nov 1972 No photo yet identified National Rehabilitation Association President 22 months 1928-1930.
*Mr. Stanton was the first administrator of the division, providing “strong leadership to a developing new program of services for handicapped people;” This was a period where the Federal-State funding partnership was developed. March 8, 1921, the NC General Assembly passed legislation to provide $5,000 per year to pay for the actual living expenses of individuals with disabilities who were in training, not to exceed ten dollars per week per person.” July 1, 2021, almost a year after NC accepted the provisions of the Federal Act, Homer Stanton was hired as the NC Voc Rehab Program’s first director. He was a native of Indiana and a veteran of the aviation corp of WWI. He was recruited by T.E. Browne, director of Vocational Education with NC Dept of Education (Now known as DPI), out of which NC DVRS was birthed. Below is a photo of his grave stone and he is buried in Culpeper, VA
CHARLES H. WARREN (1936-1941)[leave of absence for military service] (1944-1964) National Rehabilitation Association President 11 months 1955-1956.
Mr. Warren, who came from the Charlotte field office, served during a period of great expansion especially as the result of landmark federal legislation introduced in 1954 when increased appropriations and funding for university-based training programs for rehabilitation counselors were introduced. Cooperative agreements with several NC agencies such as NC Employment Security Commission, “Crippled” Children’s Section, State and County Departments of Public Welfare, NC Commission for the Blind; Bureau of Labor for the Deaf, State Dept. of Labor, Workmen’s Compensation, etc. Snapshot year : 1948-49 2,259 successful outcomes—805 amputees, 328 Tuberculosis; 261 surgery and treatment; 86 had a primary diagnosis in the area of mental health.
HORACE E. SPRINGER (1941-1944) During the time that Mr. Springer served as director, the program expanded greatly as a result of Public Law 113 passed by Congress in 1943. A physical restoration program was first introduced as well as the expansion of services to individuals with emotional and intellectual (mental health) disabilities.
ROBERT A. LASSITER (1964-1968) During Mr. Lassiter’s directorship, during 1966-67 a total of 1,400 students were provided vocational rehab services at the newly established (12) special education-rehabilitation units. During this year another twelve sheltered workshops were established with local non-profit organizations and during this era the Division began working with more significantly disabled and those with I/DD and MH – related disabilities. Graduate programs in rehabilitation counseling were established at UNC-CH and ECU during 1966-67. Mr. Lassiter resigned to take a position with UNC-CH in the School of Education.
CLAUDE A. MYER (March 1968 – 1994) Claude A. Myer was born on November 10, 1930 and died on November 8, 1999 at the age of 68. Claude last resided in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. He was the youngest director to serve the Division at 37 years old and at that time was also the youngest director nationally, according to the source below. Claude Myer was a bit of an icon and really put NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in the national light, primarily due to his firm commitment to the program’s growth and improvement over such a long course of time. He was director when I began with the Division in 1991 and I remember him as a tall slender quiet natured gentleman with light silver hair. He was still very busy traveling on the national scene back then, while his Deputy Director Bob Philbeck was “the man” who kept operations going during those years. I have only a small snapshot of such an icon and pivotal leader in our history. Prior to coming to NC to serve, Mr. Myers worked as a rehabilitation counselor for a director Claude Andrews in the State of Florida. He was the first NC DVRS director who had earned a degree in Vocational Rehabilitation from University of Florida, Gainesville, 1958. During his era, the program expanded what it is today with numerous counselor liaison positions with medical restoration facilities, prisons, juvenile programs, school systems, social services, etc. Program development became an important component of our operations during his tenure as well as the development of rehabilitation facilities such as the SE Regional Rehabilitation Facility and what is now WorkSource West and East. Equally important during his tenure was the emphasis placed on improving services through medical and psychological consultation, staff training, and staff participation in evaluation and planning activities. Mr. Myer was an individual who managed diabetes successfully for many years.
BOB HARRISON PHILBECK (1994-2004) December 21, 1940 - December 10, 2016 Mr. Philbeck regrettably passed away within this very week. I believe his obituary summarizes his achievements best:
Bob Harrison Philbeck, 75, passed away peacefully on Saturday, December 10, 2016, at Sunrise of North Hills, Raleigh. He was born on December 21, 1940 to the late Irvin Philbeck and Nola Brown Philbeck in Statesville, NC. Bob moved his family to Raleigh to accept a position with the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services where he began his almost 40 years of service to persons with disabilities in the State, Nation and World communities. While in his youth he felt one of his greatest accomplishments was earning the Eagle Scout Award.
Bob attended Wake Forest University and High Point University, earned an MS degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and an MS degree in Pastoral Counseling from the Christian University of Florida. He taught high school at the Scott's Community School in Iredell County before beginning his career with Vocational Rehabilitation. His initial role with VR was working with individuals who needed specialized job training and job placement services leading to their employment and gaining their highest level of independent living. He helped develop and support numerous vocational and sheltered workshops across NC to assist in accomplishing this training and job placement. He rose through the ranks of the state agency and served as Deputy State Director for 15 years before being appointed as State Director in 1994 by then Governor Jim Hunt.
Bob was active on the state level in all areas of rehabilitation, being appointed by Governor Robert Scott to direct a Criminal Justice Manpower Study under a grant from the US Department of Labor. He was appointed by the US Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration to help write the rehabilitation portion of the State Health Plan for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands when the US was establishing its commonwealth relationship with the Islands, and the plan was put into operation in 1985. In 1990 Bob was appointed as staff analyst to the US Member to the International Labor Organization to draft a Geneva Convention on the World-wide Rights of Disabled People. This Convention was ultimately ratified by the US Senate. At his retirement in June 2002, Bob was awarded "The Order of the Long Leaf Pine" for his service to the State.
During his tenure, Mr. Philbeck helped navigate the Division through economic straits, which caused the Division to make some very difficult policy adjustments (applying the needs test to post-secondary training in 2001); withdrawing support from St. Andrews Burris Center; positions forfeited and retracted from third party programs such as medical centers, rehab centers, prisons, etc. He helped us navigate through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Workforce Investment Act changes with the Rehabilitation Act Reauthorization of 1998 (2001 Regs). The Assistive Technology Act of 1998 and the Division’s implementation through the North Carolina Assistive Technology Project (now Program) during his oversight. Supported Employment services also gained strength during his tenure.
GEORGE D. MCCOY (2004-2007) George McCoy, who served in numerous capacities as operations manager, was instrumental earlier in his career for ushering technological advancements to the Division, including the introduction of Rehabilitation Engineering services. Director McCoy’s commitment to the program was the support of performance-based contracting, program improvement, quality outcomes, and the Work Incentives Program and helped encourage the Division to provide stronger business services prior to the Dual Customer Approach. He was also extremely supportive of the SNAP (Strategic Needs Assessment and Planning) program.
LINDA S. HARRINGTON (2007-2013) Linda Harrington lead the Division during difficult economic times and had a strong commitment to the Division’s performance and partnership with stakeholders and community rehabilitation programs. She helped direct some restructuring of sections within the central office, lead the Division during the period when several innovative practices were explored with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a period of intense partnership. The Dual Customer Approach of serving both consumers and employers with equal commitment was a respectable accomplishment during her era. Milestone reimbursement system that is utilized today as a performance-enhancing measure was implemented under her leadership. Linda had high performance expectations and the Division responded accordingly during this era. Finally, under her leadership the Division began the implementation of the BEAM case management system, which replaced BEAM.
ELIZABETH W. BISHOP (2013-2015) Elizabeth Bishop served in many roles with her 36 or more years of service with the Division. She served in capacities of rehabilitation counselor, vocational evaluator, counselor-in-charge, regional educational specialist, program specialist for mental health, Chief of Policy, Section Chief of Program Policy Planning and Evaluation, Deputy Director, then Director. Elizabeth made her greatest contribution toward the Division’s accomplishments as Chief of Policy and Section Chief at which she spent more of her career developing many policies in adjustment to tighter economic times and client needs. Elizabeth helped provide stability during the implementation of BEAM and helped build an excellent rapport with the Rehabilitation Services Administration, while preparing the Division during the beginning of our WIOA implementation.
TARA K. MYERS (July 2016 to Present) Tara Myers accepted the challenging role of Division Director July 1, 2016 after serving in various capacities over a 22 year career beginning as a rehabilitation counselor, Unit Manager, Facility Director, Assistant Regional Director, finally Regional Director until taking her current leadership role. We look forward to her continued enthusiastic commitment to the organizational strength and continued improvement of the Division through innovation while we respond to changing needs of the NC Workforce assisted largely through changes driven by the most major legislative changes (WIOA of 2014) to the national rehabilitation program since the WIA in 1998. In order to succeed together we must support our leadership in whichever way we can by doing our best within the role we each are currently working within. We expect that we will be updating this entry with many accomplishments and innovative improvements as she has engaged innovation and process improvement with strong commitment during her tenure.
*resource: “Vocational Rehabilitation in North Carolina,” a bound documentary with no named author I could locate circa 1970.
Let’s write the most exciting and impressive chapters yet to be written—happy to help document our accomplishments together!
Warm Regards Wishing you and yours a Safe and Restful Holiday Season!
VR Heritage articles are provided courtesy of Phil Protz with source material archived by the interns of Project Search.