By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Fred Misilo has amassed a long list of awards, but it’s not recognition that gets him out of bed each morning. The attorney and chronic volunteer simply can’t wait to help individuals with disabilities and their families gain services and stability to make their lives better.
As a college student wanting an outdoor summer job, Misilo landed work at a camp for kids with disabilities. The Northborough resident has devoted his life to this population ever since.
Misilo’s first job in college was direct service through the Worcester Arc, an organization that advocates for social change and provides greater opportunities in education, housing and health care for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families.
Misilo’s interest in disability rights grew during 1970s and early ‘80s when tremendous institutional reform was happening via class action suits that were implementing massive change in state facilities for people with disabilities.
He earned a master’s degree in social policy and went to law school and became an attorney devoted to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities gain eligibility for services and helping their parents create estate plans and special needs trusts.
“To them,” Misilo said, “that is the best investment and the best thing they can do to promote their son’s and daughter’s future life by planning ahead. Every case I work on is as important as everything that I do in my public policy and volunteer efforts.”
Misilo has remained an unstoppable volunteer on a broader scale as well. He served multiple board terms for the Arc of Massachusetts, rising to presidency until the end of his term limit. That’s when Misilo joined the board of the Arc of the United States, which he now directs in addition to serving as co-chair of the Public Policy and Positions Committee and a member of the Legal Advocacy Committee.
Misilo collected numerous awards for his work with Arc, including the Arc of Massachusetts’ leadership award in 2011 and the Rose Pessin Memorial Award in 2012. The Arc of Cape Cod named him Arc Angel of the Year in 2010.
Among his large scale contributions, Misilo worked on the PBS documentary, “Coming of Age,” which spotlighted challenges faced by people with autism and their families and highlighted social policy issues and service gaps. The film won the 2012 National Journalism Award from the National Institute of Health Care Management.
“That raised, I think, a level of awareness on the part of legislators, policymakers, to the issues that are confronting individuals with autism and their families,” he said.
Misilo also served as deputy commissioner of developmental services under then Governor William Weld in the 1990s. Still, he feels his work is not yet done.
“I’m licensed for Florida, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and I’m committed to growing my law practice so I can help as many folks as I can and continue to work on various public policy issues and to positively contribute,” he said.
Misolo is successful in his personal life as well. He said he is happy about his 37-year marriage to the same woman, Sandra, and his two “great” kids. His son, Geoff, is a lawyer in his practice group. His daughter, Jessica, has worked in the field of disabilities and justice.
“I’ve had a great life. I’m very proud of my family and we’re a great team,” he said.