Cherrie Servick

Beginning her career as a San Diego County Welfare Department social worker in 1951, Cherrie Sevick was assigned to the division responsible for placing children with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities in state hospitals. However, appalled at the conditions under which infants and young children were forced to live, Cherrie helped to found the San Diego division of the Association for Retarded Children (ARC)—a national voluntary organization with over 950 chapters committed to the welfare of all children and adults with mental retardation and their families. As the first director of the San Diego chapter of the organization, Cherrie soon became involved in activities extending far beyond the boundaries of Southern California. In 1972 she helped to shape the Lanterman Act for Developmental Disability, granting individuals with developmental disabilities access to services that enable them to live more independent and normal lives. She also helped to draft the California Master Plan for Special Education (later incorporated into Federal legislation) which details comprehensive approaches for providing special education services to individuals with exceptional needs in special education local plan areas (LPAs). As a member of the President’s Commission on Mental Retardation, Ms. Sevick was also influential in creating the Developmental Disabilities Act. In a speech delivered more than three decades ago Cherrie reflected back on her accomplishments and said, “We have raised more questions than we have answers for. But we have done what we set out to do—we have changed the world for the retarded. What the future holds will be determined by what all of us, collectively, do from day to day. One thing we know—it doesn’t stop here.” Truly, Cherrie Sevick is a remarkable leader in education.