It’s hard to find someone who had a greater impact on the way we understand and treat addiction today than Dr. Herbert D. Kleber. As Center on Addiction’s first medical director, he was instrumental in helping the organization become the leading think/action tank dedicated to assessing how substance use and addiction impact all sectors of society. He also served on the board of directors for Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, contributing to our legacy of iconic public service advertisements and family resources.
In January 2019, Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids merged, bringing together our complimentary assets and expertise. Today, nearly a year after Dr. Kleber’s death, we honor him as a leader who meant so much to us, and share thoughts and memories from four colleagues who had the privilege of working with him.
Click here to read a statement from our founder, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., about the passing of his friend and colleague, Dr. Herbert D. Kleber.
Remembering Dr. Kleber’s impact on the field of addiction
“Dr. Kleber was one of the renegades who really wanted to shake up the system. He wanted to make sure that addiction was treated in the medical mainstream and also that patients were not stigmatized, ostracized and relegated to an offshoot of the regular health care system.”
Marcia Lee Taylor, Executive Vice President, External and Government Relations
“When he started, there weren’t that many scientists committed to addiction medicine. It had been removed from mainstream health care. He was somebody with academic and scientific credentials who really dove into the issue of addiction, and really tried to approach it from a number of different standpoints. He really was one of the very first scientists to really adopt a holistic view of how the issue might be addressed.”
Sean Clarkin, Program Consultant
“He added a lot of credibility to the field. He’s been instrumental in all the changes we’re seeing now, in terms of calling addiction a disease. It’s no longer just a criminal justice issue. He’s very much missed but really left a mark on the how we address addiction.”
Linda Richter, Director of Policy Research and Analysis
“He was the epitome of leadership. He wasn’t loud, but the things he said made a difference. We still have a long way to go but we are a lot better off. I shudder to think where we’d be without Herb Kleber, as an organization or a nation.”
Tom Hedrick, Senior Program Officer and Co-Founder of Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Remembering Dr. Kleber’s impact as a colleague
“He was just the kind of person, no matter how many Ivy League institutions or fancy federal agencies he was associated with, he always had time to help people whether it was a young staffer trying to navigate this issue and figure out how to craft policy or a mom trying to help her son. He was incredibly giving, and as someone who had a lot of demands on his time, was always very generous with his time.”
Marcia Lee Taylor
“Dr. Kleber was one of three people who interviewed me for a position here at Center on Addiction, and I was way in over my head. I had just finished my degree, was looking for work in research and had some very minor experience in substance use. Interviewing with him, I felt like a poser, acting like I knew anything about the subject matter, but he talked to me as if I was a professional. He treated me like I was his equal even though I clearly was not. I learned a lot from him starting from that very first day.”
“At the Partnership, we were particularly lucky to have a special relationship with him. He was always eager to help. As we developed messaging campaigns and web-based tools and resources, he was very helpful in guiding us there.”
“If you were down because your legislation didn’t pass or a family you were working with lost a child, you could call him and he would always have something to say to you that would lift your spirits so you could get back in the fight.”
Remembering Dr. Kleber as a person
“Everything he said came from a wealth of knowledge and compassion.”
“He was terrifically committed. Always eager to help, and a pleasure to work with.”
“He always called you back when you needed him. I’m very proud to call him a friend.”
“No matter how serious our conversations were, he always had a fantastic sense of humor and a sparkle in his eye. He loved to be ironic and loved to not take life too seriously, even though he took his work very seriously.”