John Roberson named executive director of Pathlight


Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2022 3:41:54 PM
Modified: 4/19/2022 3:40:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Bringing a wealth of human services experience, John Roberson is about to begin his tenure as executive director of Pathlight, the regional organization that serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“I’m extremely excited and humbled by this exciting opportunity to be part of an organization with such a deep and rich history, and an organization that is so well respected in the community at large,” Roberson said in a phone interview.

Roberson, who most recently served as vice president of children and families for the Center for Human Development in Springfield, will start work at Pathlight on May 2. He will replace Ruth Banta, who announced in January she would be stepping down after 20 years with the organization.

Once he is on the job, Roberson said he will begin the process of getting to know the staff, and the families and individuals that Pathlight serves, and promote its mission, as he describes it, “to assist people with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and autism in reaching their full human potential.”

Created in 1952, Pathlight serves 320 people in group homes, apartments and in foster care, with families in the four western counties of the state; with another 2,000 children, teenagers and adults getting assistance through programs such as Whole Children, Milestones and Autism Connects.

“We feel privileged to have a leader of his experience, character and integrity guiding Pathlight into the future,” Hank Drapalski, chair of Pathlight’s board of directors, said in a statement.

The organization operates with 520 staff members and $32 million in annual revenue, and also has 165 care provider homes. It is largely funded by the state Department of Developmental Services.

Roberson, who has a son on the autism spectrum who has received Pathlight’s services, said he has seen the wonderful work the organization does firsthand, and that he was humbled to be considered for the position. His main objective from the outset, he said, will be to ensure the good work continues.

During his career, Roberson has designed and implemented programs tailored to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families, and he brings an extensive background in leadership and operations for community-based residential programs, and ways to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities and special needs.

At the Center for Human Development, Roberson managed a $25 million annual budget and an expansion of services with local, state and federal agencies for a division that provides housing, child development, behavioral health and court-guided support services.

Before becoming vice president of children and families, Roberson served in various roles, including managing two large residential facilities as director of the agency’s Juvenile Justice Programs. His previous work has also included being lead treatment supervisor for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, overseeing treatment staff and developing treatment programs for inmates at the Pre-Release Center.

Roberson is a member of the Child Welfare League of America and the American Correctional Association. He has also served as a board member of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts, the Restorative Justice Collaborative of Hampden County and the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence. He holds a master’s degree from Cambridge College in Springfield.

The change in leadership comes as Pathlight will be consolidating some of its programs, such as Whole Children and the Milestones day program, both based in Hadley, into a new location at Village Hill in Northampton, along with the Family Empowerment program.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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