headshot of Thomas Golden

Honoring the Life of
Thomas P. Golden

July 5, 1963 - November 1, 2020

We have collected stories for a memory book—both online and printed—to celebrate Thomas and his impactful professional career.

Known for advancing employment, equity and societal inclusion for people with disabilities, Golden changed state and federal practices.

It is with deep sadness that the Yang-Tan Institute team shares that its long-standing Executive Director, Thomas Golden, died on November 1st at his home in Waverly, New York, from complications related to pancreatic cancer.

Golden, 57, began his career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in upstate New York, and started at Cornell in 1991. During his leadership as YTI Executive Director, he worked with a wide variety of state agencies such as the Adult Career and Continuing Education Services – Vocational Rehabilitation, the State Education Department, the Office of Mental Health, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Labor. Throughout his career, Thomas trained and mentored thousands of practitioners in New York state and beyond regarding best practices in supporting individuals with disabilities in achieving employment and economic self-sufficiency, but most importantly – equity and inclusion in society.

Thomas’ influence on disability policy and practice has been extraordinary and his energy was boundless, as he has led state and national policy initiatives on employment, social security and youth transition. He was instrumental in designing and implementing frontier research protocols, especially ones aimed at supporting youth with disabilities as they transition from high school to adulthood, that were later adopted into national policy. He has made a deep mark in the world of disability policy by his generously sharing his knowledge through scholarly articles, online courses and tools reaching thousands, as well as with journalists for National Public Radio, Bloomberg and other outlets who sought his expertise in helping explain complex disability issues to mass audiences. He also brought this knowledge to Cornell students, teaching in the ILR School’s Disability Studies Course Sequence.

Thomas served on the National Advisory Group for the National Council on Disability on enforcement of federal disability civil rights laws, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Supplemental Security Income Youth Recipient and Employment Transition Community of Practice. He had served on the national Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel, spearheading efforts to reform payment structures and was a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. At Cornell University, Thomas was a senator for the University Faculty Council, as well as serving as faculty advisor to the Mock Trial Association, and as a Title IX Hearing Panel member.

Thomas is particularly beloved by the Yang-Tan Institute team, not only for his role in shaping disability policy at the state and federal levels, but also for his characteristic personal warmth and evident humanity, irreverent sense of humor, and multi-faceted personhood. He was a notable good cook, phenomenal interior decorator (especially at the holidays), wedding planner, avid gardener, musician and choir director, and a man of deep spiritual faith. For our Institute, he has been a much-loved colleague whose contributions are leaving an indelible mark, and his memory and his presence among will be enduringly cherished.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Janel Haas Golden, and their three children, Sophie, Kaleb and Josiah.

In lieu of flowers, if you so choose, please consider donating to Cornell’s Thomas P. Golden WIP-C Scholarship Fund or the Thomas P. Golden NABWIS Distinguished Service Award to further Thomas’s passion of educating the next generation of leaders.

Thomas P. Golden WIP-C Scholarship Fund

A scholarship for YTI’s work incentive practitioner credentialing training that trains counselors to assist individuals with disabilities with transitioning from public benefit dependence to work and financial independence.

Donations: As a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation; donations are tax deductible. Checks payable to YTI (check memo: WIP-C Scholarship)

Mailing address:
Mailing address:
Thomas P. Golden WIP-C Scholarship Fund
Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability
Michelle Alvord
412 Dolgen Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

Thomas P. Golden NABWIS Distinguished Service Award

An award to be given to an innovative, benefits planning entity at the semi-annual national conference of the National Association for Benefits and Work Incentive Specialists. Thomas being a founder and first president of this national organization.

Donations: As a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation; donations are tax deductible. Checks payable to NABWIS

Mailing address:
Ray Cebula, President NABWIS
21 Reno Place
Sante Fe, NM 87508

In closing, Thomas Golden’s contributions to employment and disability policy nationally and globally during his life-time are immeasurable. The Yang-Tan Institute team will dearly miss his irrepressible leadership and energy, but mostly his daily presence which provided a boundless spirit of genuine personal warmth, irreverent humor and mischief in our daily midst.

With loving appreciation,
Susanne Bruyère and the Yang-Tan Institute Family

Read ILR's tribute to Thomas | Read Cornell Chronicle's Tribute to Thomas