Thomas Golden, executive director of the Yang-Tan Institute at the ILR School and a pioneer in promoting economic independence for people with disabilities, died Nov. 1 at his home in Waverly, New York. Golden was 57.
“Throughout his career, Thomas trained and mentored thousands of practitioners in New York state and beyond regarding best practices in supporting individuals with disabilities in achieving employment and economic self-sufficiency, but most importantly – equity and inclusion in society,” said Andrew Karhan, director of the Yang-Tan Institute’s Workforce Development program. “He authored countless articles, reports and papers that will continue to be a driving force in the field. Thomas was a true transformational leader.”
Golden’s influence on state and federal disability policy and practice was profound and his energy was unlimited, according to a statement to the ILR community from Susanne Bruyère, Yang-Tan director; Alex Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, ILR School dean; and Ariel Avgar, associate dean of ILR. “He approached his work with an ardent passion and tireless commitment and leaves the world a better place for his efforts,” they wrote.
Born July 5, 1963, in Lowville, New York, Golden graduated from Ogdensburg High School in 1981, and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Nazarene College in 1986.
He received a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Syracuse University in 1992, and a doctorate in human and organizational learning from The George Washington University in 2016. Early in his career, Golden worked as director of vocational rehabilitation counseling at New Medico Corp. in Cortland, New York, and as an employment coordinator at the J.M. Murray Center, Inc., also in Cortland.
Golden joined the Yang-Tan Institute 29 years ago and worked with numerous New York state agencies, including the Adult Career and Continuing Education Services – Vocational Rehabilitation; the Department of Education; the Office of Mental Health; the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities; and the Department of Labor.
He served on the National Council on Disability’s national advisory group on enforcement of federal disability civil rights laws, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Youth Supplemental Security Income Recipients and Employment Transition Community of Practice. He had served on the national Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel, spearheading efforts to reform payment structures. He was also a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.
At Cornell, Golden taught in the Cornell Disability Studies course sequence, served on the Faculty Senate and was faculty adviser to the Cornell Mock Trial Association. He had recently been appointed to the Title IX Cornell hearing panel.
Golden is survived by his wife, Janel Haas Golden, and three children. A celebration of his life is being planned for a later date.
Mary Catt is the ILR School’s communications director.