In Her Words

Dr. Barber was a prolific writer who recognized the power of the pen to inspire others to share her vision of a better world for individuals with disabilities.  Below are some of her writings that endure beyond her lifetime to continue her legacy.

Dr. Gertrude A. Barber's 10 Key Elements of Leadership

  1. A good leader creates a life vision.
  2. A good leader is visible. Leads by Walking Around.
  3. A good leader develops personal contacts and relationships at all levels…, regional, local and internal.
  4. A good leader encourages innovation and creativity ….. No idea is a bad idea.
  5. A good leader uses the experiences of the past to build the present and expand the future.
  6. A good leader instills a sense of family within the organization…. Team spirit, a sense of belonging, a sense of caring.
  7. A good leader never asks anyone to do anything they wouldn't do themselves.
  8. A good leader is diligent and always follows through to the end.
  9. A good leader is an effective listener and a good communicator.
  10. A good leader promotes excellent customer service – satisfaction – follow up.

Selected Writings

A commendation of the strength of mothers and retrospective on attitudes toward persons with disabilities
Dr. Barber inspired by successful year
Recapping 35-year "Legacy of Love"
What Does 20 Years Mean in the Life of the Retarded?


Dr. Barber was the Mother Teresa of Erie. She saw the suffering of the exceptional children and adults of this area and used her manifest skills and above all, her love, to respond. With indomitable faith in God, Dr. Gertrude was a pioneer in service to those beloved by Christ. She left a thriving institution to carry on the work of service, education, and love that will always reflect the ideals of this humble, resourceful and noble woman. She has enriched our world.

The Rev. Msgr. Robert D. Goodill
Erie, PA

Dr. Barber gave you a different perspective on people with disabilities. She called them 'abilities' and so it just really had a positive spin on everything.  It really gave you hope, and that's what most parents really needed.

Diana Zenewicz, parent of Missy
Erie, PA

She had a huge impact on the community; she got people to accept people who were different … Gertrude created something really special and unique and if you go across the United States, you'll have a hard time finding an organization like the Barber Center.

Joe Schember, Erie Mayor and parent of Jodi
Erie, PA

As a loving and caring individual, a highly respected and admired professional, and a concerned civic leader, Gertrude delicately touched the souls of many and left behind a precious imprint of herself on families, friends, and her community.

Tom Ridge, former PA governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
Erie, PA

We were her family; our children were her children, and we could pretty much talk to her about anything. I think part of what Dr. Barber was doing came from her instincts as a woman to make sure that children – all children – had the same benefits in the community. She's left a legacy of memories and has left a true and lasting effect.

Rhonda Schember, parent of Jodi
Erie, PA

Dr. Barber was always there to compassionately guide families through the darkest hours. She guided us through trying times and brought us to a much higher level by allowing us to find some reason for our experience, and then to put it to good use in assisting others. Dr. Barber ... delivered every individual she encountered to a place that can only be described as their personal best.

Cathy Crawford, parent of Norah
Erie, PA

Gertrude was a beautiful lady, but her outward beauty was a reflection of her inward refinement and peace knowing that she was doing God's work. Everyone who came in contact with her knew how special they were, for she had that ability to make each of us feel so special.

Mary Therese Riley, friend and teacher
Erie, PA