Longtime VKC director of communication retires; Taylor named as successor

Jan Rosemergy

Jan Rosemergy, Ph.D., deputy director and director of Communications and Dissemination at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC), has announced her retirement from a position she has held since 1979. For more than 39 years, Rosemergy has diligently directed the dissemination of knowledge about intellectual and developmental disabilities from the Vanderbilt University (VU) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) campuses to diverse local, state, and national audiences. Her retirement is effective January 2019.

“Jan has had an exceptional record of creativity, leadership, and collaboration in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field,” said Jeff Neul, M.D., Ph.D., Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair and director of the VKC. “I am deeply indebted to the guidance and wisdom she provided me as I took over leading the VKC. I am sure the transition would have not been nearly as smooth were it not for Jan. It has been a pleasure to work with her, to experience her commitment and talent, and to witness her leadership of a highly regarded communications team. We wish her the best but surely will seek her informal counsel and friendship.”

As a nonscientist who values research, Rosemergy used her Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan to lay the foundation for communication strategies that are accessible to diverse audiences and adaptable for a variety of purposes. Over the years, she worked alongside six VKC directors, two acting directors, and with countless numbers of high profile VU and VUMC faculty investigating typical and atypical development. Rosemergy also spearheaded a number of transitions in her department to keep up with technology’s continually evolving trends and platforms.

“I’m grateful to have worked all these years for the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, where its leaders and members have always been deeply committed not only to generating new knowledge about intellectual and developmental disabilities but also moving that knowledge into practice,” said Rosemergy. “I’m grateful for the wonderful mentorship and support I’ve had and for the team of colleagues who collectively have created an outstanding training and communications program. I’m also truly grateful to have witnessed the transition within our field to a strengths-based, positive approach to research, training, and supports for people with disabilities. My hope is that we continue onward in creating thriving communities to which we can all belong and contribute.”

Among her many accomplishments, Rosemergy worked with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities to lead the creation of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, an information and referral service used by individuals with disabilities, family members, and professionals that now has been replicated by several states.

Rosemergy’s rich legacy was praised in a letter to her penned by the directors of all four of Tennessee’s Developmental Disabilities Network partners. The Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network includes Disability Rights Tennessee (Lisa Primm, executive director), the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities (Wanda Willis, executive director), the University of Tennessee Boling Center (Bruce Keisling, executive director), and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (Elise McMillan, co-director).

“We have all benefitted from your commitment to making important research projects and findings understandable to lay audiences. Over the years, your careful and detailed editing has made all the difference in numerous briefs, booklets, press releases, websites, journal articles, and reports. It is rare that a state is fortunate enough to have an individual who contributes as much as you have without seeking personal credit, while promoting their organization and partnerships such as the DD Network to the greatest extent.”

In 2010, Rosemergy was named deputy director of the VKC, and began to provide executive administrative support to the VKC director in the development and implementation of program areas and activities. Her contributions were recognized in front of a national audience in 2014 when she received the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Education Award.

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has been known nationally for its strong commitment to communications including print, online, and other publications,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and senior lecturer in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “Jan Rosemergy has led the team for almost 40 years – always with a strong commitment to communicating clear, understandable, evidence-based information. She will be missed.”

In November 2018, faculty, faculty emeritus, current and former staff, and community partners came together to celebrate Rosemergy’s impactful career. A program of speakers allowed for a moving tribute (including the poem below), and the presentation of a gift to Rosemergy ensured her passion for kayaking continues.

Taylor named new director of Communications and Dissemination

Courtney Taylor

Courtney Taylor, M.Div.

Courtney Taylor, M.Div., has been named VKC director of Communications and Dissemination. For the past 13 years, Taylor has worked as associate director under the mentorship of Rosemergy.

Taylor brings hands-on experience from the VKC’s research, training, program development, policy, and dissemination activities to her new leadership position. Among her accomplishments are an expansion of the Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disability project and the founding of the VKC’s Disability, Religion, and Spirituality program.

“We are incredibly happy that Courtney Taylor, who has worked with Jan Rosemergy for all these years, has been named her successor,” said McMillan. “Our Center has been fortunate to attract faculty and staff who are committed to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families, but even within this exceptional context, Courtney’s commitment and passion stands out. We know our Center will benefit from her leadership contributions.”

Turner named new associate director of Communications and Dissemination

Elizabeth Turner

Elizabeth Turner, M.A.

Elizabeth Turner, M.A., has been named associate director of Communications and Dissemination. She has worked as associate program manager of Communications since 2012.

Turner’s primary focus has been on internal and external event management. Her coordination of VKC Science Day, The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation workshops, and the Pacific Coast Research Conference over the years highlight her talents for organization and attention to detail. Turner also manages the VKC’s social media presence.

“Elizabeth Turner is well-qualified to take on the new responsibilities of the associate director role,” said Rosemergy. “She is highly productive, consistently does high-quality work, and is a gracious and effective communicator who is deeply committed to the Center’s mission and activities. With Courtney and Elizabeth, I leave the VKC with a dynamic team in place.”


Poem by Ann Kaiser, Ph.D., Susan Gray Chair in Education and Human Development; professor of Special Education and Psychology; VKC member; and friend of Jan Rosemergy.

Over 30 years
We came to you
With questions
Pages of rambling sentences, ideas for meetings
Announcements, problems
And you said simply
We can do this

You listened
And mostly
Believed in us
In our projects big and small
You have written letters
Recommending, requesting, recognizing,
Edited jumbled press releases, grant proposals,
Remembered what we could not
Retrieved perfect photos from your archive
Bringing history alive in our talks
Welcomed guests
Introduced people who changed us
Built bridges to art and music
Bridges across disciplines
Into the community,
Across countries
and centers,
Among people who could not imagine each other’s work
Connecting us all to the one thing we share
that life can be better
when we understand

All of this
Without fuss
With humility and grace
With such quiet diligence
That we did not always notice

For all of this
For ease and gentleness,
For insight and remembering
For your belief
In all of us

We thank you.

Courtney Taylor is associate director of VKC Communications.

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This is a monthly email of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Notables published by the Communications staff of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Between issues of Notables, you can stay up to date on the latest Vanderbilt Kennedy Center news, information, and resources via the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Facebook page.