It is with deep sadness that we honour another friend, leader, colleague in our field – fallen much too early with so much to offer still.
Herbert Lovett, Ph.D. of Boston, a revered leader, scholar, teacher, and advocate for people with disabilities and their families; and a friend to many died in an automobile accident Saturday morning. He was 48. His death has brought an outpouring of grief and condolences from around the world.
Born in Boston, Dr. Lovett attended Bowdoin College where he studied the classics, Yale University where he studied music theory, Harvard University where he studied education, and the University of Rhode Island where he received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. He worked to promote inclusive supports in and equal access to education, work, housing, and human rights for children and adults with disabilities. He was the co-founder and past president of the Autism National Committee, was a faculty member at the University of New Hampshire, and traveled throughout the United States and the world as a consultant who helped to bring about fundamental changes in the way that people with behavioral difficulties are viewed and treated. In the U.S., he worked with national and state leaders to develop new public policy, legislation, regulation, and practice that outlawed the use of aversive procedures in favor of respectful, decent, and positive supports. He served on the Joint Commission on International Aspects of Mental Retardation of the World Health Organization since 1991; was an Advisor to People First of Ontario; and worked with other self-advocates and family groups around the world. One of Herb’s greatest contributions was to listen, give encouragement and recognition to others. He was a lovely blend of intellect and heart, and had the unique gift of being a friend and colleague to so many people.
Dr. Lovett waged an intensive battle against the Behavioral Research Institute (BRI), now the Judge Rottenberg Center, to stop the use of punishment and aversive procedures with people who had autism and people with difficult behaviors. His two books entitled: Cognitive Counseling and Persons with Special Needs (1985), and Learning to Listen: Positive Approaches and People with Difficult Behavior (1996) are best sellers and instrumental in the creation of an international movement that advocates for use of positive behavioral supports. His courage and unwillingness to yield to relentless political pressure on these important topics will continue to inspire his colleagues in the field of disability rights.
Herb was also a musician, a writer, and community activist. He lived in South Boston where he opened his and Michael’s home-a place filled with music, great books, and his three dogs to friends, family, and people who needed a place to stay. He is survived by artist Michael Dowling, his partner of 20 years; his godsons John Arico, Joe Feinman, Matthew Goreham; his nieces Ruth Lovett, and Sarah, Rachel, and Rebecca Goreham; his nephew Bruce Lovett; his sister Ruth Arico of Saugus; his brother Bruce Lovett of Sabattus, Me.; his parents Ruth and Herb Lovett of Leeds, Me.; the extended Dowling family; and thousands of friends and colleagues who already feel a terrible sense of loss. Herbert Lovett was a kind and wonderful person who will be remembered for his humanity, generosity, humility, and wicked humor.
Herb’s book, Learning to Listen, is available from Brookes Publishing.