Woodrow “Woody” Wilson

As told by our Executive Director Geoff Lieberman

Woodrow Wilson was the powerful, steady, and eloquent voice for CIAD as the President of its Board for over 20 years. Everyone knew him as Woody. He presided over the many defining moments of the organization during that time: CIAD’s move to focus on adult home issues; our work leading up to and in the wake of the New York Times’ Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation of adult homes; the first Adult Home Resident Speak Out, still going strong after 15 years; air-conditioning residents’ rooms; giving resident councils significant power over the EQUAL Grants Program, and responding to the plight of 1,000 evacuated residents in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. 

I have fond memories of traveling with him across the state, to Binghamton, Long Island, and Staten Island, and getting lost along the way more often than not. But he kept the organization and me on track when it came to the important things: sticking to CIAD’s empowerment mission, and his clear-eyed vision of what can be achieved when residents work together. His strong and committed advocacy on behalf of the institutionalized aged and disabled was not confined to New York alone. He had a national impact as well, as a Board member of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR), now The National Consumer Voice, and the National Senior Citizens’ Law Center, now Justice in Aging.  NCCNHR awarded Woody the Janet Tulloch Advocacy Memorial Award, which recognized him as a champion for the rights of long-term care residents.

There are many things for which we can remember Woody. For me, the strongest memory of him will be his presence. He was tall in stature, and not only in the physical sense. He carried himself with a grace and dignity that belied the post-polio syndrome he lived with for many years. In his easy and unassuming, but leonine way, he commanded respect. It was the same way when he spoke. He didn’t need volume to get people to listen to him, even when he was addressing a large crowd. He epitomized the dignity and respect due to all adult home and nursing home residents. We were lucky to have him as our leader for so long, and we will miss him.