WMU News

Ted Kennedy Jr. speaks at HHS anniversary gala

April 8, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A Kennedy family scion who has devoted his career to being an advocate for the civil rights of people with disabilities will headline a gala 25th anniversary celebration Friday, April 12, for Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services.

Ted Kennedy Jr., who currently practices law in New Haven, Conn., will be the keynote speaker at a special dinner celebration set for 6:45 p.m. at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. Some 250 community leaders, University administrators, and health and human service professionals as well as WMU alumni, faculty and staff are expected to attend the event, which is by invitation only.

Dr. Janet I. Pisaneschi, dean of the college, will preside over the evening's activities. Other highlights of the celebration will include recognition of 24 outstanding alumni from among the College of Health and Human Services' seven academic units. Those honored will include professionals who enjoy national reputations in such fields as blind rehabilitation, gerontology, holistic health care, occupational therapy, treatment of substance abuse, the physician assistant profession, social work, and speech pathology and audiology.

At the celebration, Kennedy will deliver the college's annual Burian lecture, named for the late William A. Burian, who became the first dean of the college when it was established in 1976. Kennedy's address is expected to focus on health care policy in such areas as rehabilitation and social services.

Since losing one of his legs to bone cancer in 1973 at the age of 12, Kennedy has devoted much of his personal and professional life to enhancing opportunities for those with disabilities. He has been a teaching fellow on disability policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and served as executive director of Facing the Challenge, a nonprofit advocacy and public policy office on disability issues.

He serves on the National Policy Committee of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and was recently appointed by Connecticut Gov. John Rowland to serve on the board of that state's Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. A member of the research faculty of Yale University's School of Medicine, Kennedy has focused recently on the study of environmental factors that lead to disease and disability. He also is active in addressing the problem of pediatric lead poisoning, one of the leading known causes of mental retardation.

Kennedy is a 1984 graduate of Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree from Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1991. In 1997, he earned a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

WMU's College of Health and Human Services was founded in 1976, bringing together a number of programs that previously had been scattered throughout the University's administrative structure. The college includes one of the University's oldest professional programs, the Department of Occupational Therapy, which was established in 1922, as well as such recent additions as the WMU Bronson School of Nursing, which was established in 1995. Other units include the departments of Blind Rehabilitation, Physician Assistant, and Speech Pathology and Audiology, as well as the schools of Community Health Services and Social Work.

The college is home to more than 1,000 students almost evenly divided between those studying at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Nearly 10,000 alumni reside in every state in the nation as well as across Canada and in a number of foreign countries.

Media contacts: To arrange or confirm coverage, contact Kurt Haenicke in the College of Health and Human Services at (269) 387-2654, or Cheryl Roland in the Office of University Relations at (269) 387-8412.

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400