Dr. Edward Newman, 84, of Elkins Park, a professor at Temple University's School of Social Work who early in his career was a commissioner for the disabled in the Nixon administration, died Saturday, Aug. 18, of pancreatic cancer at his home.
Dr. Newman retired in 2013 after a long career at Temple. He directed the university's Developmental Disabilities Center from 1974 to 1991 and was a national expert on social policy, planning, and management.
In 1968, he was recruited to serve in the Budget Bureau of the Office of the President under Lyndon B. Johnson. He monitored the program budgets of the Office of Economic Opportunity.
In 1969, Richard Nixon appointed Dr. Newman commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare, a position that Dr. Newman very much wanted. He was assigned to focus on federal and state vocational programs for those with disabilities.
Dr. Newman went to Washington with deep experience. Earlier in the 1960s, he worked as a consultant for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, developing a plan to improve the vocational possibilities for those with developmental disabilities, and another plan to help those with mental disabilities live independently.
Dr. Newman believed that the lives of the disabled would improve by means of a legislative push. When the time came to draft what was first referred to as the Vocational and Rehabilitation Act of 1973, he pressed for wide-scale change.
"We started developing a strategy group to try and think of how to make that social change happen," said Frederick C. Collignon, a colleague of Dr. Newman's at that time.
Collignon, later a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, sat in on the strategy sessions. He shared his recollections in May 2000 with Mary Lou Breslin, an interviewer for the Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library at Berkeley.
The bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives, but Nixon vetoed it because he felt it went too far. Nixon ordered Dr. Newman to testify against the bill before both chambers of government, which were poised for a revote.
"Now here's Newman, who has spent three years or more maneuvering to try and get this exact bill passed," said Collignon. "And he's ordered by the administration to testify against the bill."
Dr. Newman refused to testify against the bill, which was reworked somewhat and then passed over Nixon's veto. It was signed into law on Sept. 26 as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because he refused to testify, Dr. Newman was fired.
"He was a remarkable person for his love of humanity and always wanting to do what was right," said Elliot Rosen, a close friend. "He believed in justice and equality for all people. He was a champion for people with disabilities, and he had the courage to stand up to the president of the United States."
Born in New York, Dr. Newman grew up in Paterson, N.J., where he graduated from Eastside High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Drew University, a master's degree in social administration from Western Reserve University, and a doctorate from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
After his service in Washington, he became executive director of Temple's Developmental Disabilities Center, now the Institute on Disabilities. The center specializes in research to enhance services for the disabled.
"The fact that people with disabilities have been mainstreamed into society is partly because of Ed Newman," Rosen said.
For 12 years ending in the 1980s, Dr. Newman was active with the accrediting council for the National Association of Social Workers. He also served as the governmental affairs chair for the Epilepsy Foundation of America.
Dr. Newman initiated and chaired a joint program with Temple and Haifa Universities that sponsored projects of research, training, and the exchange of experts in human development. His work in Israel was an outgrowth of his role as an adviser to that nation's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
For the last six years, Dr. Newman taught a mini-course for social work students at Sapir College in the Negev, Israel. His aim was to provide students with the tools to identify and solve problems in their communities.
Dr. Newman was active in many local Jewish charities and organizations promoting international faith-based understanding. He was an honorary trustee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and an honorary board member of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Claire Newman; children Mark, Julie, and Paul; and seven grandchildren.
Services were Tuesday, Aug. 21.