Deborah R. Labovitz, 63, longtime professor and chair of the department of occupational therapy at New York University, died June 14 at her home in Elkins Park.
Labovitz earned her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, and later joined the faculty as an instructor and assistant professor of occupational therapy at the School of Allied Medical Professions. She earned a doctorate in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979.
During her tenure at New York University, a post she held for more than 20 years, Labovitz was a driving force in upgrading the university's program in occupational therapy, and in expanding connections to the international community of occupational therapists.
She taught courses and seminars on occupational therapy in Sweden, Iceland and England. She was also instrumental in establishing a program for Israeli occupational therapists seeking graduate degrees.
In addition, Labovitz organized and hosted the Israeli occupational therapists at NYU for six weeks to satisfy the university's residency requirement.
While at NYU, she served as a member of the faculty Senate. She was active in the American Occupational Therapy Association, including serving as chair of the organization's Education Steering Committee. In recognition of her contributions to the profession, she was named a fellow of the association.
She was also the author of numerous chapters in occupation- al therapy textbooks and other scholarly articles.
In 2001, Labovitz developed and edited Ordinary Miracles: True Stories About Overcoming Obstacles & Surviving Catastrophes, a collection of essays about transformative work by occupational therapists with accident victims, patients recovering from diseases and coping with disabilities, and with the elderly. She also co-edited a follow-on volume, Ordinary Miracles in Nursing, which was published in 2005.
Labovitz was an active member of the Germantown Jewish Centre for more than 30 years, and had served as a synagogue officer and in various other capacities. She was also active in local and national political causes, including having served as a Democratic delegate for George McGovern at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami.
Labovitz is survived by her husband of 44 years, Judah Labovitz; daughter Gail Seligman; sons Bruce Labovitz and Daniel Labovitz; brother Howard Rubin; and seven grandchildren.