Beatrice Rodgers, MSW
Beatrice (Bea) Rodgers made significant contributions to Maryland residents with disabilities throughout a career spanning more than half a century. Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, Ms. Rodgers moved to Maryland in 1965 as a young woman. She earned a master’s degree in 1968 at The National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America. Her community advocacy for people with disabilities started with the Mental Health Association of Prince George’s County in 1968 where she served as a volunteer, Board President and later Executive Director. In 1983 she was appointed Director of the Prince George’s County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities and in 1995 was appointed by the Governor as Director of the Maryland Office for Individuals with Disabilities.
Ms. Rodgers has provided public policy consultation and leadership and played a pivotal role in securing profound advances on disability-related issues at the county, state and federal levels of government. She has directed and worked with many public and private sector human service programs including the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Community Crisis Services, College Park Business and Professional Women’s organization, the ARC of Maryland, and the Mental Health Association of Maryland. During her tenure at various agencies, she mentored numerous young women, many of whom moved into administrative and executive leadership positions in various fields.
She has demonstrated leadership in organizational development, systems change, community organization and coalition building, and public policy. She has been actively involved in efforts to promote equitable services and programs for all citizens including her leadership role in the 1972 development of the first hotline in the United States for deaf individuals.
As Director of the Governor’s Office for Individuals with Disabilities, Ms. Rodgers was responsible for state compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and developed numerous outstanding and enduring programs supporting people throughout Maryland. While co-chair of the state’s task force to implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead vs. Georgia, she led Maryland’s expansion of community-based disability services which resulted in the closure of two state residential institutions. In 1989, with the creation of the Guaranteed Loan Program administered by the Maryland Assistive Technology in her agency, hundreds of Marylanders received lower guaranteed loans to secure needed assistive technology. Each year, while new loans are secured, other loans are repaid, with an average of 3% or less defaulting.
Her office led the establishment of the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), starting in 2000, from which more than 400 Maryland youth with disabilities have benefitted. This unique one-week leadership program for high school students encourages independent living and offers leadership skills and career-goal setting, with many returning to share their new-found careers. This valuable program has spread across the country to more than 30 states. Among her many other advocacy roles over the course of her distinguished career, she was appointed to the Prince George’s County Commission for Women in 2021.
Ms. Rodgers has been tireless in her quest to leave her community a better place than she found. She is a consummate professional and consumer advocate who brought disparate communities together in common cause to build the services people need and ensure the rights to which they are entitled.
Throughout my career, I have been blessed with many opportunities that allowed me to work with and on behalf of children, adolescents, adults and seniors in collaboration with numerous disability advocates. It has been my philosophy that with opportunities comes a responsibility to give back – it has been my intent to live up to this to the best of my ability whether I was working in government, volunteering and/or working in the non-profit sector. – Bea Rodgers
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2022.