Motivated throughout her career by her care for others, Margaret Chase Hager began the first part of her career in 1963 as an assistant registrar and assistant curator for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts following the completion of her Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College. After spending some time traveling through Asia and completing graduate studies in Asian art in Tokyo, she returned to the United States and entered the field of international banking in 1965 as the assistant to the director of the International Monetary Fund. She then joined the international division of the First National City Bank, now Citibank, in 1970, where she ran the Saudi Arabian desk in New York until she took a break from working to marry her late husband, John Henry Hager, and raise her children, John Virgil and Henry Chase.
Ms. Hager’s turn to disability advocacy came following her husband becoming paralyzed due to polio several years after their marriage. Reaching out to Dr. Henry Betts, the founder of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, in 1973, she was able to get her husband a place at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the oldest institution for rehabilitation medicine in the United States. After ensuring that her husband’s needs were met, she began working to help write disability laws in her home state of Virginia and, in 1984, served on the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Services for the city of Richmond. She made such an impact that she was invited by then President Ronald Regan to do disability work at a national level with the National Council on Disability, where she excelled as a member from 1988 to 1992.
During this time, Ms. Hager was also active locally. A member of the project placement advisory committee in the Department of Education and Rehabilitation Services from 1987 to 1989, she served the city of Richmond, Virginia, on the board of directors for the Office of Human Services Advocacy from 1987 to 1991 and on their executive committee from 1988 to 1990. She additionally held the position of chair of the city of Richmond from 1988 to 1990 as well. In 1993, she joined the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board before bringing her focus back to the state level on the Virginia Long-Term Care Council in 1994 and as the director of the Department for Rights of Virginians With Disabilities from 1994 to 1997. Now retired, Ms. Hager is the owner of Living Solutions.
Alongside her primary career responsibilities, Ms. Hager has always been closely involved in her community. Over the years, she has contributed on the boards of various hospitals within the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, including the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, the Richmond Eye & Ear Hospital and Massey Cancer Center. She has also donated her time to The Virginia Home and The Sophie House, two organizations that provide housing support to vulnerable community members. Other civic endeavors of hers include involvement with Very Special Arts, the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the parent’s council of Hampden-Sydney College, St. Christopher’s School, the Richmond Ballet, the Junior League of Richmond and the annual fund of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.
Having accomplished much over the course of her career, Ms. Hager considers the highlight of her career to be her work as one of the 12 people chosen to write the Americans With Disabilities Act. In addition to helping to draft the law itself, she formulated new building codes for application with the act during her tenure with the Department of Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. For her excellence, she was presented with an Honorary Disability Services Award by the Adult Development Center in 1989. Looking toward the future, Ms. Hager’s goal is to finish writing her memoirs as a legacy for her grandchildren.