Theodore “Ted” Corbitt
1919 – 2007
An American Pioneer


Physical Therapy Testimonials

 
Ted Corbitt has been my colleague at ICD International Center for the Disabled for over 30 years.  He has been an inspiring example and a dedicated and untiring worker and educator throughout our long association.

For many years ICD sponsored a program for exchanged therapist from many nations: Israel, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Germany, and Sweden.  Ted conducted in-service programs and worked informally with these therapists, sharing his vast knowledge of Progressive Resistive Exercise, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, and Connective Tissue Massage.  He is now considered an expert in all these areas.

Ted’s integrity is absolute and his dedication to students is unstinting.  He is a teacher who is open to new ideas.  Even after all these years, Ted continues to learn from even his least experienced students, and he generously shares the fruits of his life’s labors with anyone who is interested.


Hazel Wong, P.T.
Senior Physical Therapist
ICD Physical Therapy Department - 1989

 
 The deep burn of motivation and a pure desire to learn are vital forces that together can power an extraordinary life.  Ted Corbitt embodies this tenet in the wake of his accomplishments and on his endless journeys toward new ones.

Corbitt’s immense store of information on nutrition, homeopathy, and training techniques is enhanced by his interest in an enormous scope of subjects ranging from art and music to writing, physics, education and computer technology.  His sense of humor, dry and light as moon dust and a habit of darning his own socks make him as unique a man as one may ever meet.  

 
Portrait by Sarah Yuster
I met Ted Corbitt in 1984 when I was sent to the ICD ( International Center for the Disabled) for rehabilitation following orthopedic surgery.  I knew nothing of his Olympic history or track records, only that he was Chief of Physical Therapy at this esteemed institution.  It soon became apparent that he had a remarkably unusual character.  Touch being his medium, Corbitt spoke very little, taking notably meticulous care with his patients, many of whom had severe handicaps.  Always concentrating intensely, he was completely and quietly consumed with exploring the most effective treatments for each one.  He often worked through asthmatic stress, spent extra hours and days off helping colleagues and clients, and continues to do the same although retired.  His life is a scholarly, spiritual pursuit of the knowledge of healing and human excellence.

Ted Corbitt left us early this morning.  Do your best today in tribute to an amazing, incomparable man who never did less than that…every day and always.


Sarah Yuster
Artist

 
Ted's mastery of exercise, healing and preventing injuries is the result of using what works, discarding what doesn't, constantly improving on what you know and keeping an open mind.  To be able to master any field you must understand your field completely, and then you can practice it intuitively.  Ted Corbitt reached self-actualization and practiced intuitively.  Anyone who came in contact with Ted will always speak of him in the present tense because he left a piece of himself with everyone he came in contact with.  I have been truly blessed to have mentored with Ted. Ted's greatest message: "Mastering yourself is true wisdom."  --“A closed mind ties the hands of the healer and the trainer."

"A master is an honorary title given by the people,
It cannot be bought or begged for on one knee,
Originating deep within the soul,
Shining bright for all to see,
If you were blessed to cross Ted's path,
Then you can't help but smile like me,
His secrets,
Stay humble,
Keep an open mind,
Just Be."


Jack Mantione
Doctor of Physical Therapy

 
His range of expertness in therapeutic exercise approaches is extraordinary and he masters not only the theoretical bases but becomes an outstanding demonstrat of the technique.  He has functioned as a faculty member for all the physical therapy programs in the New York City area and has taught clinical workshops on topics ranging from connective tissue massage to neurophysiological approaches to therapeutic exercise for stroke victims.

To watch Ted Corbitt when he is treating a patient and demonstrating a clinical approach is an aesthetic experience as he moves with such grace and ease. He is the most important illustration of a selfless servant of the disabled through direct hands on therapy that has also been transmitted to countless number of clinical therapist throughout the United States.


Arthur J. Nelson, Ph.D., PT
Professor of Physical Therapy
New York University - 1989

 
My first encounter with Ted’s clinical skills and his professionalism was during the “polio” years.  He was a presenter in a workshop on Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.  His easy manner and the willingness with which he shared his knowledge made the workshop a memorable one.  My newly gained skills and insight allowed me to help my patients in a more enlightened way.

Ted taught and demonstrated Connective Tissue Massage in our Physical
Therapy Program.  He is a Master teacher and his demonstrations in class
made each movement of the massage technique seem easy.  He has always served as a role model which students seek to emulate.

Ted’s teaching abilities were also evident when he taught PNF to our physical theapy students.  As a Professor in our Program of Physical Therapy, I search for clinicians who well be excellent clinical models for the neophyte professional students.  In my estimation, no one could suprass Ted Corbitt.  His life has been one of dedication to the profession and this dedication is conveyed to students as a commitment for excellence.


Althea M. Jones
Associate Professor
Columbia University - 1989

 
As a teacher, Ted was also a person to model.  He encouraged the student therapist to be independent and make decisions based on good reasoning.  Basically, he discouraged us from trying to just “copy” him, rather, to think out and plan our patients’ treeatment programs.  However, he was always there to give advice and suggestions when were in need.

He was such a good teacher!  Students from other P.T. programs told me that they had asked for the I.C.D. affiliation because they had heard that “you can really learn so much from Mr. Corbitt” and indeed you could.  He would spend hours with us, first teaching and letting us practice many
techniques on fellow students, and later letting us use those techniques in treatments.  He also spent many hours in open discussion with us about the many approaches to treating patients.  How he found so much time to give to students, I’ll never know.

He caused me to develop a pride in the wonderful realm of physical therapy and inspired me to develop and give as much as possible to patients.


Bernadette Hecox
Associate Professor
Columbia University - 1989

                           
Lisa, my daughter became acquainted with Ted Corbitt at his 80th birthday celebration at the New York Road Runners Club.  Lisa was associated with the Achilles Track Club.

She asked Ted if he would help with her knees, which had been injured many years before.  He came to our house on public transportation probably a two hour trip, and worked with her for 4 hours making observations and giving suggestions.  Then Lisa said “now I give you money right?”   Ted said, “no money.  My reward comes when you pass this knowledge on to somebody else.”  I knew we had an angel in our house.


Martha Morrongiello

 
Ted Corbitt first came into my life in the early 1990’s.  At the time he was in the later stages of his 44 year career at The Institute for the Crippled and Disabled (ICD).  Although I have always been a very athletic person (both as a participant and a fan), when I first met Ted I knew nothing about his history as a former Olympic Marathon runner and President of the New York Road Runners Club (of course, Ted never mentioned any of this himself).  I only knew that he had been described to me as an amazing and unique healer with a quiet compassion and confidence.  That description could not have been more accurate.  Ted helped me like no other person ever had with my chronic back problems, and I would seek him out from time to time over the years to help with the physical ailments that aging athletes encounter.

Most recently, I had been diagnosed with trigger-finger.  I was in constant pain and could barely move my thumb.  I was told by two leading orthopedists that I would need surgery.  After telling the doctors that I wanted to avoid that, one of them agreed to try cortisone shots (before surgery) I had two - neither of which helped.  Before going for the surgery I decided to call Ted to see what he thought.  I knew from past experience that Ted would take into consideration what my physicians had advised, however, he would ultimately give the greatest weight to what I said to him about how my body was feeling.  After examining my thumb (Ted always made house calls!) - - Ted told me that he was confident that he could help me through a regime of physical therapy, acu-pressure and guided exercise.  That was all I needed to hear.  Ted came to see me two times a week for two months and then once a week for two to three months after that.  By the time he pronounced me done with treatment, I was pain free and had full movement in my thumb.  I am sure that there are countless numbers of people who could tell stories like this about Ted.  Perhaps the most remarkable part of this to me was that this recent treatment ended just six months before Ted passed away.  During my treatment, he traveled to me (in all kinds of weather) by subway and by foot, back-pack over his shoulder, walking several blocks to my apartment.  Ted never mentioned his illness; as always he was unrelentingly focused on his task.

Healing a patient.

Mitchell Stern

 
The International Center for the Disabled (ICD) had responsibility  for clinical education of students from at least six physical therapy program located in the Greater New York area; Columbia University, Downstate Medical College, Hunter College, La Guardia College, Long Island University, and New York University.

It should be noted that International Center for the Disabled (ICD) is the first rehabilitation center founded in the United States and has a renowned reputation for quality service.  The entire I.C.D. physical therapy staff would agree that credit for this reputation as represented by the physical therapy department should be given, primarily, to Ted Corbitt.

The Faulty of the Program in Physical Therapy – Columbia University

Ted’s clinical practice expertise is in the area of therapeutic exercise and neurophysiology.  For years he has studiously followed changes and new developments as they occurred in our field.  He attend continuing education courses, participates in numerous workshops, and he reads extensively.   Because of his broad knowledge, his ability to integrate various treatments approaches and his clinical teaching talent, we asked him to share his expertise with all students by presenting formal classes in addition to his clinical teaching.  This he did for 20 years or more.

Yet will all of this notoriety he remains a kind, gentle, reserved, and modest man.  His outstanding contribution to physical therapy education has gone too long unheralded.  He deserves to be recognized.  He deserves the Signe Brunnstorm Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching.


Ruth Dickinson
Associate Professor & Director, Program in Physical Therapy
Columbia University - 1989

 
Being exposed to Ted made me realize how important it is never to limit yourself to a certain clinical view point.  Ted taught me the importance of using as much of your academic and clinical knowledge as possible in every treatment.  I learned that each treatment with each patient should be looked at separately in order to give the patient the best possible care.

Ted is extremely quiet and modest person.  I have wondered often if he is aware of the strong influence he has had on me and many other therapists who have been lucky enough to have been exposed to him.


Susan Milliken P.T.
1989

 
Mr. Corbitt has maintained an attitude of openness to new techniques which I have not seen matched.  His openness is backed up his knowledge of these techniques.  His knowledge comes from study through both independent reading and formal course work.  

The students are always amazed at the wealth of Mr. Corbitt’s knowledge and the number of people who seek him out and to whom he gives so freely.  Ted serves as an excellent clinical role model for students as he has a superb ability to manage multiple patient treatments.  He is very well organized and able to provide a detailed and varied treatment regimen for each of his patients, sometimes treating 17 a day.  The student becomes involved in both the treatment and the planning process for giving patient care.


Gail Grisetti, M.S., P.T.
Associate Professor, Old Dominion University
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