Please join us on Tuesday, Mar. 8 at 6:00pm for “Avoiding the Next Willowbrook: Lessons Learned from Parent’s Activism” live via Zoom. Please pre-register for this event.

In April 2021 parents of former Willowbrook residents gathered on Zoom to talk about their activism that led to creation of community-based care for their children outside of Willowbrook’s institutional setting. They shared powerful stories of the Willowbrook conditions that led them to call for its closure, and the ongoing challenges of ensuring that their children would be able to live with dignity. In this often funny and sometimes heartbreaking conversation, they contacted parents who advocate for their children today to share their experiences and help model ways to respond to the current system. The Willowbrook parent -advocates interviewed by Diane Buglioli are:

  • Willie Mae Goodman
  • Ann Nehrbauer
  • Diana McCourt
  • Malachy McCourt
  • Ida Rios
  • Jerome Isaacs
  • Mary Sullivan

Following the group interview are commentaries from: Parent-advocates:

  • Meri Krassner
  • Kathleen Nowak
  • Judy O’Rourke


  • Eric Goldberg

Special guests:

  • Dr. Bill Bronston
  • Dr. Michael Wilkins

The event on Mar. 8 will feature the re-broadcast of this discussion, which was the 2021 Annual Willowbrook Memorial Lecture. Willowbrook Legacy Project Co-Chair Dr. Catherine Lavender (Department of History, CSI/CUNY) will host, and members of the Willowbrook Legacy Project Committee who are Willowbrook experts — Diane Buglioli (Office for People With Developmental Disabilities/OPWDD, community advocate, and co-founder of A Very Special Place, Inc.) and Dr. David Goode (Professor Emeritus in Sociology at CSI/CUNY) — will be answering audience questions via Zoom’s Q&A function throughout the program. Participation in this event will provide preparation for a number of forthcoming Year of Willowbrook events in the coming months, including:

  • 2022 Annual Willowbrook Memorial Lecture, “Beyond Willowbrook,” featuring Ronnie Cohn, scheduled for Wednesday, Apr. 6
  • Parents’ Summit in November 2022

  By Catherine Lavender and Nora Santiago