From Our Print Archives

OT 'Legend' Mary Reilly Dies at 95

Vol. 28 • Issue 9 • Page 8

In Memoriam

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in March 1996, I was lying on the floor of my rec room, engrossed in a fascinating videotape.

On the TV was Mary Reilly, arguably the greatest occupational therapy theorist of the 20th century, talking casually to Betty Cox, COTA, (off camera) about her life and work. Mary was in her 60s at the time, relaxed and emitting that mischievous Irish charm for which she was famous. I felt like she was right in the room with me.

Of course she wasn't. In 1996 Reilly was 79 and living in seclusion near Los Angeles. All I knew of her was that she had pioneered what later became the systems-theory approach in occupational therapy while a professor at the University of Southern California, and the famous quote from her 1961 Slagle Lecture: "Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health." I, too, knew it by heart.

AOTA recently announced Mary Reilly's death on Feb. 28 at age 95, calling her a "true legend."

Reilly worked in many places during her career, but found her true calling as an OT educator at the University of Southern California and other places. Her students have gone on to enlarge upon and spread her model of practice since the 1960s.

She had a famously razor-sharp tongue that left you in no doubt about what she thought. "I am a revolutionary," she had told Cox in their interview. "A changer of the status quo."

Reilly last "spoke" to her colleagues in May 2007, at age 90, when she recorded a message given through long-time friend Carolyn Baum, then in her second tenure as AOTA president, at Baum's outgoing presidential address at the national conference in St. Louis.

"Make sure you tell them we have to have a change in our culture." Reilly's words rang in the auditorium despite her failing voice. Baum relayed the rest of their conversation on that topic.

"She said we must place our focus on. helping those with chronic health conditions live their lives with. a quality of life that enables health and engagement," Baum said. "I promised her that we were placing our efforts on the occupational needs of the people we serve."

For a full professional biography of Mary Reilly, go to

OT Loses Former AOTA President Ann Grady, Leader and Innovator

Ann Grady, president of AOTA from 1990 to 1992, passed away March 18 from complications of a stroke. I remember Ann as a kind woman who came to her post at the beginning of a tumultuous decade in occupational therapy when corporate rehab was entering the scene, and occupation was a word not many OTs had time for.

But Grady championed family-centered care and had a vision of the importance of participation that today has become one of the identifying tenets of occupational therapy. She spent most of her career as director of the OT department at Children's Hospital in Denver and was also an educator at Colorado State University and the University of Colorado.

Ann also served as Speaker of the Representative Assembly from 1977 through 1979, in the first decade of the assembly's existence, and was an officer in AOTA before her election as president.

I remember her 1994 Slagle Lecture on inclusion and personal community building because it spoke of relationships between people in varying environments and the supports they needed to grow. I'd been focused on occupation as activity; her talk led me to realize participation with others was a large part of quality of life.

For Ann Grady's full professional obituary, go to


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