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A tribute to Robert B. Rutherford Jr.

It seems fitting that this tribute to Rob Rutherford appear in this special issue of Education and Treatment of Children. This issue, and the 30 journal issues, monographs, and edited texts that preceded it, is based on the annual proceedings of the Teacher Educators for Children with Behavioral Disorders (TECBD) conference, which Rob organized and hosted for 31 years. In preparing to write this piece, I re-read the special issue of the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders Newsletter (Vol. 20, No. 6) to which a number of his friends and colleagues. Of the more than a dozen colleagues, current and former students, and friends of Rob who wrote, virtually all mentioned the seminal role that the TECBD conference has played in their careers, as well as the contributions this venue has made to advancing the professional fields of special education, juvenile justice, school-based mental health, school and clinical psychology. What also struck me is that each person wrote about how special Rob was on many levels--as a teacher and mentor, a researcher and scholar, an organizational leader, family member, and a friend. The sadness of his loss remains painful, yet there is solace in knowing that Rob's impact on all of us, and on the field, will go on and on.

Those of us in higher education are (somewhat unfortunately) in the habit of measuring a person's impact in terms of numbers: publications and presentations, matriculating doctoral students, committees chaired, grants received, extramural funds garnered, international professional trips, awards and recognitions received, offices held in professional organizations, and so on. By any such numerical standard, Rob clearly had risen to the top: over 150 journal articles, book chapters, edited texts and monographs; at least that many conference presentations; scores of successful doctoral students, dozens of state and federal grants totaling millions of dollars; a dozen or more invited trips abroad; recipient of national awards, including the CCBD 2006 Leadership Award and two Fulbright-Hayes Scholarships; 18 years of service to CCBD, including 6 as editor of Behavioral Disorders and as CCBD secretary, president, and governor. Each contributor to the special issue made note of these accomplishments, but each person also lauded Rob's great humanity. For all his stature, he remained a warm and caring person, who gave freely of his time, energy, and expertise--even his financial resources--to his students, colleagues, and friends. He had a unique gift for seeing the potential in others for making contributions to the science he believed in and the children and youth who benefit from it, and for helping them to realize that potential.

I hope that these broad brush strokes convey how much Rob was valued as a person and as a professional. Regarding TECBD, and the conferences on which the articles appearing in this special issue of Education and Treatment of Children are based, there's a more specific story to tell. In 1970, a group of higher education professionals who identified themselves with the fledgling area of special education for students with emotional disturbance, got together to talk about this new field and what we might do with it. As I recall, that first meeting was in Gainesville, Florida, and hosted by Lyndal Bullock, who was, like most of us, a brand new assistant professor at the University of Florida. We spent a day or two getting acquainted with one another, asking ourselves what we thought we could accomplish, and complaining to the unlucky federal official in the Department of Education who was designated to coordinate personal preparation grants to support our field. Oh yes, and we created a name for our group: Teacher Educators for Children with Behavioral Disorders, and we decided it would be cool to meet annually to share our research, kick around ideas, and, of course, abuse our federal coordinator. I've sort of lost track of the sequence of events for the next several years, but I do recall that we had an annual meeting in Las Vegas in 1973, and in Albuquerque in 1976, but that was about it. That is, until Rob Rutherford stepped in. I first met Rob in 1970, when he was finishing up his doctoral program at George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, and I was beginning my second year as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. He and another student were receiving stipends from the Kentucky Department of Mental Health to underwrite part of their doctoral studies, and were checking out possible higher education positions in the area of ED (EBD) in Kentucky. Unfortunately, such positions were pretty scarce in those days. So Rob wound up at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he worked from 1970 until 1976.

In 1976, Rob left USC and moved to Tempe, AZ, joining the faculty at Arizona State University as an Associate Professor of Special Education. Rob was a "member" of TECBD (I don't recall any membership criteria, except that one was expected to be in higher education and working in the area of EBD). Anyway, Rob had observed that no one in TECBD was actively pursuing the idea of an annual conference, so he and a colleague at ASU, Al Preito, decided to host one. The first ASU/TECBD conference was held in the ASU Student Union in November, 1977. The conference proceedings were published in 1978 (Rutherford & Preito, 1978), which also happened to be the very first monograph published by the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders. Last November marked the 31st anniversary of the annual conference. In all, Rob edited or co-edited 30 sets of conference proceedings (a bibliography is appended; 1986 was the only year one was not published, as best I can tell). Anyone who has edited an anthology or a journal can appreciate the amount of effort and sheer determination involved in seeing this process through from start to finish. Rob was a consummate editor, as well as a prolific writer.

But back to the TECBD conference itself. Needless to say, this annual gathering has become an institution not only for those in the business of preparing educators to serve students with EBD, but also for professionals involved in a variety of related fields: juvenile justice, clinical and school psychology, education administration, mental health, child welfare, and advocacy for children and youth with or at-risk for EBD. Rob recognized that, in spite of the ivory tower separation that exists among child-serving disciplines (in funding streams, policy and decision-making, administration, personnel training, research literatures), the children are the same, and the best way to open doors to sharing responsibility and resources for them is to facilitate communication and the exchange of ideas. The TECBD conference accomplished that, and more. Even casual perusal of the contents of a single set of conference proceedings will convince anyone that the venue is multi-faceted. Rob kept this spirit alive by encouraging diverse conference strands, including juvenile justice, functional assessment of behavior, positive behavior support, and applied behavior analysis research. Those who attended these conferences came away feeling renewed and invigorated, with a greater breadth of knowledge (or at least an appreciation of a greater breadth of knowledge) than they possessed going in. And those who read and study TECBD conference proceedings share in this expansion of knowledge, both breadth and depth.

Throughout his career, Rob followed a dual passion--students with EBD in the public school system, and youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. The TECBD conference is a place where one can see people from both systems engaging in the kind of open professional dialogue that unfortunately, is quite rare. I hope that sometime in the future, groups of professionals will gather and someone will say, "remember TECBD?" If the conference, and Rob, can serve as a catalyst for more shared dialogue and initiative on behalf of those children and youth who are affected by these systems, it will be a lasting legacy.

Another facet of Rob Rutherford's gift was his mentorship. Perhaps the impact of this is most obvious through the accomplishments of his many students, but it also is apparent in his support of other students and new professionals in child-serving and higher education fields. The TECBD conference provided a venue for them to learn, to share their research findings and ideas, and to have their work subjected to scholarly review, and even published. It also presented his students with an opportunity to work side by side with Rob and learn first hand the skills of presenting, writing, and editing. Everyone who has worked with Rob shares the impression of him as someone who was open, receptive, helpful, and above all, available. The impact of his mentorship will continue to be felt for years to come, through the many and continuing contributions of his students, and others who benefited from his generous talents.

Rob had friends all around the globe. He traveled professionally in Canada, Portugal, China, Turkey, central America, and Scotland, as well as throughout the US. He was a mentor to a number of international students, and collaborated with professionals from many of the countries he visited, as well as from India, Russia, and South America. He and I were friends and colleagues for over 35 years. I cannot think of anyone who didn't like and respect him. Everyone who has received a letter, a memo, or an email from Rob will know his standard closing. So, to you, Rob, from all of us who loved, learned from, and worked with you, we say

Cheers!

Previous TECBD Monographs

Rutherford, R. B., & Prieto, A. G. (Eds.). (1978). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 1). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Prieto, A. G. (1978). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 1). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Prieto, A. G. (1979). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 2). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Prieto, A. G. (Eds.). (1980). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 3). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., Prieto, A. G., & McGlothlin, J. E. (Eds.). (1981). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 4, pp. 49-69). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B. (Ed.). (1982). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 5). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B. (Ed.). (1983). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 6). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Nelson, C. M. (Eds.). (1984). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 7). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B. (Ed.). (1985). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 8). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., Nelson, C. M., & Forness, S. R. (Eds.). (1987). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth. San Diego, CA: College Hill--Little, Brown.

Rutherford, R. B., Nelson, C. M., & Forness, S. R. (Eds.). (1988). Bases of severe behavioral disorders in children and youth. San Diego, CA: College Hill-Little, Brown.

Rutherford, R. B., & Maag, J. W. (Eds.). (1988). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 11). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & DiGangi, S. A. (Eds.). (1989). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 12). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & DiGangi, S. A. (Eds.). (1990). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 13). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., DiGaangi, S. A., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1991). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 14). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1992). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 15). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1993). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 16). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1994). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 17). Reston, VA: Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1995). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 18). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1996). Severe behavior disorders of children and youth: CCBD monograph (Vol. 19). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1997). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #20, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 20(3).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1997). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #21, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 21(3).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (1999). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #22, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 22(3).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (2000). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #23, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 23(3).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (2001). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #24, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 24(3).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (2002). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #25, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 25(4).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (2003). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #26, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 26(4).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #27, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 27(4).

Rutherford, R. B., & Mathur, S. R. (Eds.). (2005). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #28, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 28(4).

Rutherford, R. B., Mathur, S. R., & Schoenfeld, N. A. (Eds.). (2006). Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth [Issue #29, Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders Monograph Series]. Education and Treatment of Children, 29(4).

C. Michael Nelson

University of Louisville
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Author:Nelson, C. Michael
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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