Mary Van Haneghan

  • Name
  • Mary Van Haneghan
  • Title
  • Executive Director
  • Organization
  • The Arc of the Capital Area
  • Years as Executive Director
  • I’ve been with The Arc of the Capital Area for four months and prior to that I was the Chief Executive Officer for The Arc of Anchorage.

  • What does your organization do?
  • The Arc of the Capital Area (The Arc) empowers Central Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families through compassionate case management and innovative programs. Examples of I/DD include autism, spina bifida, seizure disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. The Arc was founded in 1949 by parents whose children with I/DD were excluded from public schools and other resources readily available to children without disabilities. The Arc provides unique services to help families adapt to life with a child with a disability and to assist maturing adults with disabilities gain the skills they need to become independent. We are committed to working toward a future where all children and adults with disabilities have opportunities to live meaningful and healthy lives.
  • How did you become interested in this work?
  • I started my career in the Human Services field almost two decades ago as a part-time direct service professional while working in the banking industry. Within my first few months I began learning about how society views individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and that this population was often denied the same basic legal, civil and human rights that I took for granted. I made a commitment to myself to facilitate change.
  • What drives your passion?
  • Seeing the positive impact that organizations like The Arc have on individuals, families and the community as a whole drives my passion.
  • Did you have a mentor or role model?
  • I have been fortunate to have had many great mentors and role models throughout my career. For 15 years I worked for an organization called People Inc. which is Western New York's leading non-profit human services agency. During my tenure I was given the opportunity to work closely with Rhonda Frederick who was the Chief Operating Officer at the time. Rhonda began her career at People Inc. in a direct care position. She moved up the ranks and is currently the President and CEO. Her positive influence plays a large role on where I am today.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?
  • The biggest challenge we face is the profound lack of funding. Being new to Texas I was troubled to find that Texas ranks last out of all 50 states including the District of Columbia in providing and funding services to children and adults with a developmental disability. Our state has over 100,000 people in need and waiting for services and the average wait time is 15 years.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?
  • The best advice that I have received is hard to narrow down, so I picked three.
    - Make your board happy.
    - Life is short don’t waste it.
    - You can make great things happen if you put your mind to it.

  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
  • First and foremost hang in there, find a support network or mentor:
    - Ensure you keep an eye on today, but make sure you strategize for tomorrow.
    - In my experience collaborations have been a key for success.
    - Consider developing a leadership philosophy, I personally have found it very helpful in providing insight to others regarding my values, beliefs and expectations and for myself, as a way to consistently remind me of the leader I am striving to be.

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