(L to R) Darryl Reid, American Legion State Commander, Bob Looby, NJ State Employment & Homeless Chairman, Rich Liebler.
Richard Liebler '67, a member of the Seton Hall University Board of Regents from 1998 until 2018, was recently awarded the American Legion Superior Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with at-risk veterans. The event honored an over 50-year commitment to giving back to his country through military service and outreach. A tour in Viet Nam, a family tragedy, and a commitment to personal and professional growth with the University transpired to give him the tools and perspective to be an agent for change–first, through the Youth and Adult Automotive Training Center, and then the Sansone Military Programs, both of which he began to give fellow veterans a second chance at life.
Liebler entered the Marine Corps as a jet pilot in Viet Nam not long after graduating from Seton Hall. However, injuries sustained during duty prevented him from continuing as a pilot for the airlines, so he made a successful long-term career in the auto industry. When the abrupt loss of his 17-year-old son in an auto accident caused him to re-examine what was important in life, he founded the New Community Youth and Adult Automotive Training Center in his son's honor. The Center was instrumental in providing at-risk individuals, ex-offenders, veterans and veteran ex-offenders with life and employment skills, as well as placing graduates in what for many, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a fresh start.
Subsequently, he helped the Job Corps in Edison, NJ, start a technician program. This was followed by helping to create the Sansone Military program through the Sansone Auto Group. Through this organization, in partnership with the Department of Corrections, Liebler further expanded the ability to assist veterans, many of whom were incarcerated, in transitioning to civilian jobs. According to Military.com, eight percent of the total prison population at any given time are incarcerated veterans. This translates to approximately 200,000 veterans that are currently serving sentences in U.S. prisons for offenses of varying degrees.
In July, Liebler will launch a unique pilot program in partnership with Middlesex County Adult Corrections Mental Health Director Shoval M. Gur-Aryeh, Ph.D. to hold group and individual sessions with inmates six months prior to release. The program will include mental health and employment skills counseling. Those that qualify will be offered paid internships at the Sansone Auto Mall upon release. With anticipated success, other companies will also become internship sites.
Liebler credits his experience in Seton Hall's graduate online professional counseling program with giving him the skills needed bring his latest endeavor to full realization. He states, “This program has enabled me to put forth a rational pilot program. My counseling skills have been greatly enhanced through some outstanding professors, and I can now convince corrections officials that a combination of mental health and employer based counseling can give ex-offenders a second chance.”
Liebler's work is a national model for Ford Motor Company Urban Initiatives. In addition to the American Legion Superior Lifetime Achievement Award, he was honored with Seton Hall's Humanitarian Award at its annual Many Are One Gala in 2001. He will graduate with a M.A. in Counseling in August 2019 followed by his Ed.S. in Professional Counseling in 2020. He will then obtain his LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certifications thereafter.
Learn more about the M.A. in Counseling/Ed.S. in Professional Counseling (Online) here.