Seeing a lack of justice in society, particularly for people who are different, Susan B. Parker knew she had to do something to set things right. She researched and considered a variety of options, and ultimately decided to focus on psychology and social work. Ms. Parker knew almost immediately that she had found what she was meant to do. She accepted her first position in the field, psychiatric social worker at Orange County Mental Health, in 1974, and the rest is history.
Ms. Parker quickly garnered a reputation for excellence, which propelled her to roles like executive director of the Grafton County Planning Council and the New Hampshire Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health in Augusta, Maine, and disability commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration. She then became the secretary general of Rehabilitation International, the senior advisor and interim director of the disability program at the International Labor Office in Switzerland, and the director of policy and development at the Office of Disability Employment Policy within the U.S. Department of Labor. Now, Ms. Parker lends her services to her own eponymous company, where she has worked since 2011. Her professional designations include a Bachelor of Arts in English and French from the University of Vermont, a Master of Science in social work and psychology from Boston College, and certification in mental health management from Harvard University.
Among Ms. Parker’s illustrious and notable career, three highlights stand out. The first was being one of the three women who persuaded the dictator of Sierra Leone to demobilize 500 child soldiers in the December of 1995. During this time, she was the secretary general of Rehabilitation International and was working with the special rapporteur on the effects of armed conflict on children. Ms. Parker considers the next highlight to be working with the U.S. Social Security Administration because she felt like the work she was doing was really meaningful. In the years she was there, she wrote a new regulation to settle a Supreme Court suit against the government regarding benefits for children with disabilities and created an expedited HIV regulation to give those affected priority standing for disability benefits, among other achievements. The last highlight was publishing the Disability Unemployment Statistic, which was used routinely in the U.S. Government in 2007.
Moving forward, Ms. Parker intends to continue putting her knowledge, skills, and abilities into situations where they can make a positive difference. She also wants to create opportunities for others to develop. To achieve this, she will teach when possible and will take board assignments with a variety of charitable organizations. She is currently the chairman of the Policy and Research Committee of the SeaCoast Republican Women and the elected treasurer of the honorary council of the Rehabilitation International Foundation.
When Ms. Parker has spare time, she enjoys skiing, gardening, boating, reading, creative writing, interior decorating, and film and the performing arts.