Joseph S. Dusenbury - Coastal Carolina University
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Joseph S. Dusenbury

‌Honorary Degree Recipient

Joseph Sarvis Dusenbury (1924-2008) was born in Conway, S.C., and graduated from Conway High School in 1942.

During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Keith (DE-241) from 1943 to 1946, where he rose to the rank of 1st Class Radarman. Following the war, Dusenbury enrolled at the University of South Carolina where he earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1950 and a master's degree in educational administration in 1953. He held permanent certificates as elementary teacher and principal, secondary teacher and principal, and superintendent.

Dusenbury served as principal of Poyner Junior High School in Florence, S.C., from 1954 to 1960, where he organized the first area "ability groups," which recognized special needs of students with disabilities. He was principal of Royal Elementary School, also in Florence, from 1952 to 1954; principal of Pinewood High School in Pinewood, S.C., from 1950 to 1952; and a teacher at Brookland Grammar School in West Columbia, S.C., from 1949 to 1950.

In 1960 he began his career at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department. He was named commissioner in 1976 and was responsible for the state's disability determination program which handles disability claims filed under the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, Supplemental Security Income Program, and South Carolina Homestead Exemption Act. He served as deputy commissioner for the Vocational Rehabilitation Department from 1973 to 1976, assistant commissioner from 1971 to 1973, and administrative assistant to the commissioner from 1968 to 1971. He served as administrative liaison officer in the state office of the Vocational Rehabilitation Department from 1967 to 1968; area supervisor responsible for counties surrounding Charleston, S.C., from 1966 to 1967; and as a counselor in the counties surrounding Florence, S.C., from 1960 to 1966.

He served in leadership capacities on numerous committees and professional associations, including president of the South Carolina Vocational Education Association and the National Rehabilitation Association. He was chair of the Client Services Committee and represented the Southeast on the executive committee of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. He was a member of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; chair of the South Carolina Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; vice chair of the South Carolina Military Assistance Council and the South Carolina Occupational Information Coordinating Committee. He was a member of the Interagency Council on Public Transportation, State Private Industry Council, the Commission on Aging's Coordinating Council, the Statewide Health Coordinating Council, and the Human Services Coordinating Council. He also was a founding member of the South Carolina Board for Barrier-Free Design and the South Carolina Joint Legislative Committee for the Disabled. 

Among the awards Dusenbury received are the South Carolina State Victory Award presented by the National Rehabilitation Hospitals for providing the most services to persons with disabilities in South Carolina in 1993; President George Bush's Distinguished Service Award for work in the disability field in 1991; the Social Security Administration 's Outstanding Service Award in 1990; The Americans with Disabilities Act Award from The Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities in 1990; and the Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the productive independence, equality, and quality of life of people with disabilities in 1987. In 1983, he received a Special Commendation for Courageous and Historic Contributions to the Quality of Lives of Persons with Disabilities for accomplishments as chair of the National Council on the Handicapped, which drafted the first National Policy on Disability for President Reagan. The award was signed and presented by members of the Council and 150 other national leaders including governors, members of Congress, and U.S. Senators. In 1984, the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Board named its state office building the Joe S. Dusenbury Building.

For his distinguished service in the establishment of programs improving the lives of persons with disabilities, and in recognition for outstanding contributions to the community, state and nation, Dusenbury was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service from Coastal Carolina University during the May 1994 commencement ceremony.