Building a world where people with mental illness are treated with acceptance and compassion.

Robert E. Davidson

Robert Davidson spent most of his life advocating for the rights of people who have a mental illness. For the last 14 years of his career, he served as the executive director of the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board, a nonprofit agency widely thought of as “the citizen’s voice in mental health policy” within Eastern Connecticut.

Prior to that, he worked for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health, as well as Reliance House in Norwich. He met his future wife, Marjorie Blizard, while she was serving as board president of Bethsaida Community, a transitional housing program that was seeking a zoning permit to build a home for homeless and at-risk women.

When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, Robert was forced to retire and focus on his own health and well-being. Shortly before he passed away, Marjorie and Jennifer Gross – his successor at the mental health board – established a charitable fund in Robert’s honor that will provide financial support to the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board in perpetuity.

In establishing the fund, Marjorie said, “We knew that his work was the thing that mattered most in his life. So we set up a fund with the Community Foundation that will give direct support to the programs of the [board].”

Marjorie was already familiar with our foundation, having served on the steering committee of our Women & Girls Fund for the Norwich area.

“The Community Foundation made all of the arrangements and took care of all the legal and financial technicalities of setting up the fund,” she said. “I cannot emphasize enough how easy it was to do this.”

She was able to establish the fund and present Robert with news of its creation as a gift shortly before he died. “Flowers are beautiful, but they don’t last. Hearing about the fund was a tremendous comfort to him, and he knew then that his work would go on,” she said.

One of the first grants issued from the fund went to support the development of a video about the complexities of mental health issues.

Marjorie hopes other residents will be inspired to continue Robert’s work on behalf of people with mental illness – and create a world where everyone is treated with acceptance, respect and compassion.