Wanda Mayberry: Leaving a Legacy

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Wanda Mayberry

Wanda Mayberry was always interested in music, arts, and crafts, and she even thought about being a medical missionary. But she wasn't sure how all these interests would come together for her as a career, until the day she attended a high school assembly where a representative came to talk to students about the occupational therapy program at Colorado State University.

"It was like light bulbs and whistles went off," says Wanda. "It was everything I liked, and it met all my aptitudes because it involved hands-on work, it was medically oriented, and it had the mission of helping people."

Although only a sophomore at the time, Wanda began laying the groundwork for pursuing her dream career. She immediately began researching scholarship options, knowing she would need financial assistance to get through four years of college. Once accepted, she successfully worked her way through the occupational therapy program and graduated with a B.S. in 1956.

"OT was very hand-oriented when I began in the field," says Wanda. "We took classes such as weaving, ceramics, and woodworking, because these were the type of skills you used with patients to help strengthen muscles in their legs and arms. It was a wonderful curriculum, and I loved every minute of it."

Shortly after graduation, Wanda was offered a position at the Matheny School for Cerebral Palsied Children in Peapack, N.J. "It was such a great experience because you had to be with the children 24 hours a day, and that allowed you to try a lot of different therapeutic methods, so you could determine what worked and what didn't," says Wanda.

After two years at Matheny, Wanda decided to go back to school and get her master's degree in occupational therapy at the University of Southern California. She was then rehired by Matheny as the coordinator of therapeutic services and was responsible for hiring and training all occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and school teachers.

Wanda says she remembers thinking to herself, "This is such a good job. I love these people, I love the setting, but if I stay here another couple of years, I might be here the rest of my life."

Wanda realized she was not ready to settle down in what she considered her midcareer years, so she decided to broaden her horizons and applied to the Peace Corps. She and one other female were, perhaps, the first OTs to find a place in the Peace Corps, and they were both assigned to the University of the Philippines, in Quezon City. They taught courses, set up programs, and supervised therapists so that they could take over the training of students when the two-year terms for Wanda and her colleague expired.

After two years in the Peace Corps, Wanda felt compelled to travel before returning home. She went to India, Israel, and even picked and packed melons in a German kibbutz for a summer. Upon returning to the United States, she bought a bus pass that took her all over the country and, eventually, led her back to her home in the Denver area. It wasn't long before Wanda took a position as director of the occupational therapy department at Denver General Hospital.

In 1973, a new opportunity came knocking at her door when Wanda was asked to help start a master's program for the occupational therapy department at CSU. After having the opportunity to work in several areas of the OT profession, and travel extensively abroad and at home, Wanda was now ready to settle down. She gladly accepted the position, and remained at CSU for 30 years teaching and developing curriculum. She also completed her doctorate in developmental psychology at the University of Denver.

Wanda is extremely grateful and proud to have been part of building the occupational therapy program at Colorado State, which is now one of the top 10 in the nation. "CSU is leading the way in technological advances such as virtual programs, which are used with veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and with brain-injury patients," says Wanda. "They can wear a helmet with tactical programs that allow them to practice until they can do what they need to do." Prosthetics is another area of occupational therapy that has changed dramatically since Wanda first entered the field. "Prosthetics have always been a big area of development; now it's just different because of the technology of the prosthesis itself," says Wanda.

Spring-legs so that runners can still run marathons; a unit transplanted into a patient's brain that allows a prosthetic hand to operate in a more controlled and delicate way; glasses, for those who are legally blind, that can pick up sensory signals and inform patients of their surroundings. These are just a few of the many advances that have been made in the field of occupational therapy.

Although retired, Wanda actively volunteers at her neighborhood elementary school and with several other local charities, and she serves on CSU's Super Seven Committee that continually looks for ways to raise money for the occupational therapy program. "It's not that hard to set aside some money for the things you believe in, especially with a planned gift." Says Wanda. "You put the plans in place when you do your will, and then you don't have to worry about it. You just know CSU will get the money someday, and they will put it to good use."

Wanda's planned gift is in the form of real estate and proceeds from the sale will benefit the occupational therapy program. She has also established the Wanda Mayberry Scholarship, awarded to a student in the occupational therapy program, and provides financial assistance for students to attend state and national conferences.