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Elizabeth "Libbi" Campbell, adoption advocate, Lincoln-Sudbury counselor, 62

Posted by David Dahl, Regional Editor July 28, 2008 08:11 AM

Elizabeth "Libbi" (Rodger) Campbell had a calmness about her that allowed her to get to the heart of whatever troubled the teenagers who walked through her door at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, where she worked with special-needs students, her family said. With a matter-of-fact yet diplomatic manner, she went about easing their anxieties.

"She was very good at taking a teenager who was having a crisis and saying, 'Let's go for a little walk,' " her husband, Stephen, said. "They always came back calmed down. She knew it's a process - counseling isn't a goal - it's an ongoing thing."

Mrs. Campbell, who was also a champion of overhauling adoption laws to make it easier for adoptees to gain access to their birth certificates, died from complications of leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on July 4 at her home in Sudbury. She was 62.

Whether dealing with family or students, Mrs. Campbell "had a very realistic way of looking at things," said her daughter Monica of Sudbury. "She was very down to earth, and she wouldn't overcomplicate things."

For two decades, starting in the late 1980s and ending when her diagnosis last year made her too ill to work, she counseled some of the school's most troubled students. In the cards and e-mails that have been pouring in since her death, students recalled the impact she had on their lives, her husband said.

"She had a lot of grace under fire," her husband said. "She didn't get overly excited, or overwrought about things."

Longtime friend Howard Rossman, director of Dearborn Academy in Arlington, said, "Her capacity to listen - to communicate her caring for people - and she had a very mild, low-key demeanor, and she was very humble, as well as a very positive person."

When she was not helping teens deal with curveballs that life threw their way, she was often working on a political issue she held dear: changing adoption laws. Since the late 1970s, she was the regional coordinator for Concerned United Birthparents, a support group for birth parents. More recently, she successfully lobbied for the passage of state legislation that increases access to birth records by adoptees.

"It didn't get reduced to something that was just words on paper," her daughter Kiera of Arlington said. "She was thrilled to see that."

Her work over the years to promote awareness of the issues facing birth parents earned her several awards. In April, her doctor let her skip a round of chemotherapy to accept a Recognition Award from the Adoption Community of New England.

In notes she penned for the keynote address she gave that night, she told of the progress that had been made.

"When I first became involved with Concerned United Birthparents (CUB as we like to call it), and the adoption reform movement back in 1978, there was much to be done in humanizing adoption: from identifying and securing the rights of birth parents and adopted persons, to efforts toward family preservation, to opening up the closed system with its policies of secrecy and lack of information."

For nearly a decade, she pushed for the passage of the birth certificate bill that was signed into state law last fall, after years of giving speeches and organizing support for the cause.

"She was very natural in front of an audience - not overly formal, and not overly casual," her husband said.

Mrs. Campbell was born in New York, and was raised in Port Washington, N.Y. She earned her bachelor's degree in counseling from Northeastern University in 1986. She modeled for artists from time to time in earlier years, her husband said.

She worked for a time at Marlborough Hospital and Emerson Hospital before joining the Lincoln-Sudbury School District in 1988.

Mrs. Campbell was known to take in stray animals, and found homes for animals that had been orphaned.

To her friends, she was the "hub of a wheel - she was the center because of her charisma and her caring," Rossman said.

In addition to her husband and daughters Monica and Kiera, Mrs. Campbell leaves a son, John of Wellington, Fla.; a brother, Erwin of New York; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Aug. 16 at 11 a.m. at First Parish Church in Sudbury.

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