A letter from a former client
Dr. Richard E. Brown
February 1, 2008
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
I am writing to say “Thank you!”
I was born and raised in Taylor County Iowa, graduating from Bedford High School with the class of 1956. In August, 1952, I was stricken with polio, fully affected from the waist down. Because hospitals in Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Omaha and Lincoln, NE were already full and overflowing, I was taken to St. Joseph, MO, After a bit more than six months in hospitals, with the last three months at the Blank Children’s Hospital there is Des Moines in the Sister Kinney polio treatment program, I returned home to life as a teenager on crutches.
A career as an Air Force pilot had always been my life’s goal, but I soon figured out there wasn’t any future potential for me in the Air Force. My family had modest means. Dad was a laborer. Mom was a housewife. No one in either family had ever gone to college, and that wasn’t even an option financially. A politically active friend of my family who was much more aware of government aid programs contacted the Iowa Division of Vocational Rehabilitation about the possibility of aid. The rest is history.
As a first step, during my senior year in high school, Vocational Rehab sent me to Iowa State for a full week of psychological, intellectual and emotional testing—I actually took a test putting pegs in holes. At the end of that week, counselors in that program outlined my best career options given “the hand I’d been dealt.” In short, they recommended I consider a career in one of the social services areas. They suggested such things as the medical field, including becoming a doctor (my grades were good), veterinary, counselor, minister, technologist, etc. This testing provided the kind of insight I needed to make good career choices and motivated me to use what I had to the maximum.
Late in high school I had become a Christ-follower; this was quite a change because our family was not a church-going family in any sense of the word—not even on religious holidays. My minister and friends were urging me to become a minister, but I had no interest in that career and dogmatically resisted those suggestions.
On the basis of the testing at Iowa State, after deciding I wanted to become a doctor, Vocational Rehab agreed to pay for four years of a college pre-med program—all costs including a living stipend—provided I continued to meet the requirements of the college program and Vocational Rehab. I decided to attend a Junior College in Norfolk, NE (my girlfriend was going to a private Christian College in that town). Vocational Rehab agreed, though they would have preferred I attend an Iowa college. The freshman college year went well—I made straight A’s. But I was miserable because I knew the Lord wanted me to be a minister and I was running from Him. Midway through the spring semester of my freshman year, I made the decision to become a minister and not a doctor.
My decision was met with great consternation by my family and the people at Vocational Rehab. After several consultations by mail, on the phone and in personal interview, Vocational Rehab agreed to continue financial support as I prepared for the ministry at a significant, though reduced, level.
Ultimately I completed by Bachelor of Arts Degree, a Master of Arts Degree, a Master of Divinity Degree and earned (not honorary) Doctor of Ministry Degree. The wife of my youth and I will celebrate our 50th Anniversary in May. We have raised three children, all college graduates, and last August 31, I retired after 50 years in ministry (28 as a local pastor, 12 as a Christian college professor and 10 as a Christian college administrator). I am a blessed and happy man.
I am not a self-made man. As a believer, I call this a “God thing.” I am aware that much of this would not have been possible if the Iowa Division of Vocational Rehabilitation had not been willing 52 years ago to make a personal and financial investment in the life of a teenager in southwest Iowa that had been felled by polio. Many years ago I learned that in the people-helping business, things don’t always turn out the way you hoped and those to whom you’ve given your time, your life and your money are often ungrateful at best or bite-you-back at worst.
This letter comes to you from one who is grateful for what your predecessors did for him and who has waited too long to say “Thank you!” I am more grateful than you will ever know, unless you have been the recipient of similar life-changing assistance. I am one life in whom your department made a huge difference.
Richard E. Brown
Richard Brown, of Taylor County Iowa was stricken with polio in 1952 before graduating from high school.
Dr. Richard E. Brown has had a successful 50-year career as a minister, college professor and college administrator.
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services is proud of its long history of helping Iowans attain their professional goals.