Disability studies pioneer Tom Skrtic wins Tolley Medal, to be presented by SU’s School of Education May 2
Disability studies pioneer Tom Skrtic wins Tolley Medal, to be presented by SU’s School of Education May 2 April 22, 2009Sandi Mulconrysandi@groupmcom.com
For four decades, William Pearson Tolley was one of the nation’s pre-eminent leaders in higher education. By the time he retired in 1969, having served as Syracuse University’s chancellor for 27 years, he had reconfigured the Syracuse campus, tripled enrollment and made lifelong learning his career legacy.
As part of that legacy, Tolley endowed the Tolley Medal in 1966 to recognize distinguished leadership in lifelong learning. Since then, the medal has been awarded just 12 times-most recently in 2004.
In recognition of the critical importance of lifelong learning in today’s world, SU’s School of Education-known for its innovative programs in both lifelong learning and disability studies-will award the medal regularly beginning with this year.
The 2009 recipient is Tom Skrtic, professor of special education at the University of Kansas and a senior research scientist in KU’s Institute for Life Span Studies. Skrtic will receive the medal May 2 during the awards dinner of the Ninth Annual Second City Conference on Disability Studies in Education, held at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center.
Skrtic also will receive the conference’s Senior Scholar Award and will give the opening plenary address, “Rights, Capabilities and Disability Needs Politics: Institutional Barriers to Social Justice in School and Society.”
“Tom Skrtic was one of the first scholars in the United States to help develop the field of disability studies, even before we had the term ‘disability studies,'” says Douglas P. Biklen, dean of the School of Education, who will present the award. “His scholarship examines issues of voice, democracy and inclusion, and calls on the world to examine cultural and social meanings of individual difference.”
“I am deeply honored to receive the Tolley Medal and humbled to be included among its recipients,” Skrtic says. “Access to meaningful lifelong learning for all is a core entitlement of a just society and thus a central concern for the field of disability studies in education.”
Working to build a new discipline
Skrtic was recognized in 2004 by the Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership as one of the two most influential figures in reconceptualizing the philosophy and practice of special education.
He has directed 30 federal grants and contracts; published seven books and more than 100 articles, chapters and research reports; and lectured and consulted on school organization and special education policy throughout the United States and Canada, and in Asia, Europe and Russia.
He also has received numerous honors for his teaching, including the Faculty Achievement Award for Teaching from the University of Kansas School of Education (2008) and being named the Gene A. Budig Teaching Professor in Special Education by the University of Kansas (2005-06) and a Danforth Associate, for excellence in humanistic teaching, by the Danforth Foundation (1978-84). From 1996-2002, he was a senior scholar at the Glenda B. and Forrest C. Shaklee Institute for Improving Special Education in Wichita, Kan.
The Tolley Medal
Syracuse University established the Tolley Medal in 1966 to recognize outstanding contributions by national and international leaders in what was then known as adult education. In naming the award for Tolley, SU’s Board of Trustees paid tribute to a man whose own interest was expressed in consistent, personal support of Syracuse’s program and of adult education activities worldwide.
At first, the medal was awarded by the Board of Trustees; later, it was awarded by University College, SU’s continuing education division.
Past recipients are: Morris Keeton of the Institute for Research and Assessment in Higher Education at the University of Maryland University College (2004); Kay J. Kohl of the University Continuing Education Association (2003); Milton Reid Stern of the University of California, Berkeley (1994); Alexander Nathaniel Charters, SU professor emeritus of adult education (1986); Paul Henry Bertelsen of UNESCO (1983); Thurman James White of the University of Oklahoma (1979); Lalage Brown of Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria (1975); James Robbins Kidd of The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (1973); Kenneth G. Bartlett, SU professor emeritus and first dean of University College (1971); Sidney G. Raybould of the University of Leeds, England (1970); Mohan S. Mehta of the Indian Adult Education Association (1969); and Cyril O. Houle of the University of Chicago (1966).
School of Education tradition in disability studies
SU’s School of Education, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007, is renowned for its accomplishments in disability teaching practices and inclusive education.
The school pioneered the inclusion movement in the United States, making way for all learners to participate fully in mainstream classrooms and other inclusive learning environments.
It also offered the nation’s first graduate program in disability studies.
The School of Education is a partner in SU’s interdisciplinary Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies-a policy, research and advocacy organization that works to ensure the rights of people with disabilities-and home to the Facilitated Communication Institute, which fosters understanding and knowledge of facilitated communication, an alternative means of expression for individuals with severe disabilities.