Stan Cassidy was a New Brunswick businessman, engineer and healthcare visionary who lived from 1912-1993. The Stan Cassidy Foundation and the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation honour his memory and work to realize his vision.
Stanley Bernard Cassidy was born and raised on a family homestead about 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Saint John, New Brunswick. As an adult Stan settled in Fredericton and was a successful businessman in the electrical contracting field. He was also an avid and accomplished pilot and was committed to giving back to his community.
In the 1950s—an era not now known for its celebration of difference or even tolerance of eccentricity—Stan was a fierce advocate for inclusion of those with special needs.
By 1950, polio was North America’s most feared disease. The unpredictable, and at that time unpreventable, annual epidemic of this neurological and spinal cord disease left many dead and paralyzed across the continent, many of them children.
Both the 1941 and 1952 polio epidemics hit New Brunswick particularly hard. With increasing numbers of polio survivors, it became clear that New Brunswick, like many other jurisdictions at the time, had no place to treat such complex healthcare problems. The 1941 epidemic compelled the provincial government to establish a polio clinic at Fredericton’s former Victoria Hospital and during the 1952 election the condition of this old clinic became a powerful campaign issue.
The social reaction to polio epidemics is credited with establishing significant social reforms; among them modern rehabilitation therapy, a changed attitude to people with special needs and grassroots medical fundraising. Stan Cassidy was at the forefront of all of these reforms.
On a trip to Mexico in the early 1950s, Stan Cassidy got the idea to establish a rehabilitation facility for those with specialized physical needs. The Forest Hill Rehabilitation Centre opened in Fredericton in 1957 with Stan as its champion. For 36 years he was integrally involved in the centre—with moves to procure advanced and specialized equipment and to encourage advanced research in partnership with the University of New Brunswick’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.
Stan’s overriding goal was to help people with special physical needs improve their quality of life and be contributing members of society. He knew that to achieve these goals he needed to change the attitudes of others. To that end Stan established and owned a number of gas stations where employees with special needs could work—as an integral part of their rehabilitation and as a very public display of ability.
Stan persuaded Imperial Oil Ltd. to work alongside him as investors in this series of gas stations which eventually spread across New Brunswick and Quebec. Stan publicized his six Rehab Showcases frequently and broadly throughout the Canadian business community, as a businessman’s testament to the financial value and viability of those with special needs.
In order to achieve the establishment of the Forest Hill Rehabilitation Centre and the Rehab Showcases, Stan was at the forefront of modern grassroots medical fundraising. Stan raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for rehabilitation medicine through his innovative approaches to partnership, his conviction that people needed a hand up and not a handout, and his infectious passion and personal financial commitment to what he believed in.
In 1984 the Government of Canada awarded Stan Cassidy the Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award. This award is presented in recognition of significant contributions to the advancement of a social cause and the well-being of fellow Canadians. In 1987 Stan was appointed to the Order of Canada.
When Stan Cassidy died in 1993, the Forest Hill Rehabilitation Centre was overcrowded and Stan had been preparing to launch a building fundraising campaign. Stan’s supporters rallied and in 2006 the current $28 million, 60,000 square foot facility opened. In 1994 the Forest Hill Rehabilitation Centre was renamed the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in his memory.
It is often said that a society can be measured by the way it treats its least fortunate. Throughout his lifetime Stan Cassidy challenged the status quo and spurred healthcare services to be the most humane they could be. He mobilized money and community support to help people recover from illness, overcome obstacles, and adapt to changed circumstances.
His vision continues to inspire us today.