John D. Kemp, president and CEO of The Viscardi Center, which provides a lifespan of services for the disabled, will resign those positions effective Oct. 31 to become president and CEO of The Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Ala.
Kemp, who was born disabled, joined The Viscardi Center, located in Albertson, in 2011 as the fourth top executive in the nonprofit organization’s 69-year history. He steps down after a decade of leading the center, which educates, trains and prepares people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
The Viscardi Center has been a pioneer in disability leadership not only in Albertson but the entire world. During its infancy, the original site was one of the first U.S. businesses to be staffed by people with disabilities when it was operating out of a garage in West Hempstead, helping disabled veterans become assembly and factory workers for several large industries including Grumman, GE, IBM and the Department of Defense.
Today, the school located in the center enrolls more than 180 severely disabled students K-12 with nearly an 86 percent graduation and college acceptance rate. For adults and adolescents, transitioning planning services are available for testing and job placement. The programs place over 100 people yearly in integrated employment while also providing advocacy and support beyond participants leaving the center.
Chairs of the boards for the center, Henry Viscardi School and Abilities Inc.– Russ Cusick, Beth Daly and Candida Cucharo — said they will hire an outside firm to work with them on a nationwide search for a replacement. If the process is not completed by Nov. 1, then Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sheryl Buchel will replace Kemp on an interim basis.
“John Kemp’s leadership and advocacy in the disabilities community is unparalleled and we are eternally grateful for his 10 years with our organizations,” Cusik said in a statement. “John established an experienced and talented senior leadership team and created a sound fiscal structure to place us in the best possible position to move forward through this transition.”
Kemp, who uses four prostheses, has established himself as a premier leader in the disability movement. He is a recipient of the Henry B. Betts award, widely regarded as the highest honor for someone in disability leadership and service, and the Dole Leadership Prize from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. Previous recipients of the Dole Leadership Prize include Nelson Mandela, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
His efforts also involve co-founding the American Association of People with Disabilities and developing federal legislative and lobbying practices in Washington.
Kemp said the opportunity in Alabama will enable him to be closer to family.
“My love and respect for the mission of all Viscardi operations, our engaged and dedicated board members, and our extraordinary staff has grown each and everyday and working together we have brought Viscardi to new heights locally, nationally and internationally,” Kemp said. “To move to the city, which is my wife’s hometown and where our two grown children and five grandchildren live, is a serendipitous opportunity at this stage in our lives — one too great to pass up.”
Established in 1991, the Lakeshore Foundation will see Kemp step in as its second president and CEO, succeeding Jeff Underwood who served in both roles for 30 years. The Alabama nonprofit has been a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site and works with USA Wheelchair Rugby. Its mission is to encourage and provide opportunities for people with disability to live a healthy lifestyle through activity, research, advocacy and health promotion.
During his time at Viscardi, Kemp worked to incorporate statewide, national and international outreach while broadening its mission and building the endowment alongside enhancing fund development.