LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 24, 2015) — The University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute staff was honored with two of the most distinguished awards given by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) last week in Washington, D.C.
Harold Kleinert, retired HDI executive director and professor emeritus, received the AUCD George Jesien Lifetime Achievement Award. Katie Hastings, HDI research assistant, received the AUCD Anne Rudigier Award for an outstanding student demonstrating a commitment to supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Kleinert was recognized Tuesday, Nov. 17, with the top honor from the AUCD. The award is named for George Jesien who served as the executive director of AUCD for 14 years and led the organization’s growth to a national force in the disability community. Joining Kleinert for the ceremony were his wife and daughter, Jane and Coady, Interim HDI Executive Director Kathy Sheppard-Jones, and a number of HDI staff and students.
Jesien offered a glowing introduction of Kleinert, describing his infectious laugh and good nature as he has inspired and mentored other professionals during a critical transitional time for people with disabilities in the U.S. During his acceptance speech, Kleinert described the tremendous progress in the disability movement since his early days as a special education educator working in an institution; the tremendous developments through the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and movements toward educational and societal inclusion; and the important role of advocates in ushering in those changes. He also emphasized that more work is yet to be done, particularly in the most vulnerable moments during a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis and at the end of life.
“We can think of no one who better exemplifies the characteristics of a George Jesien recipient than Harold Kleinert," Kathy Sheppard-Jones said. "So many of his colleagues have expressed that he ‘walks the talk.’ His strong spoken and written advocacy has been consistent with his lived advocacy. Harold has inspired, motivated, and empowered HDI staff to make our vision happen as well as colleagues around the state and nation. He does that by focusing on people first, not projects. He sees the strength in all of us and our ability to contribute, connect, and make a difference in a vision much bigger than us. In that way, he has inspired the next generations of leaders who will continue to carry on his work and be the agents of change he knows that they can be.”
Katie Hastings is an HDI Graduate Certificate student and a research assistant for the KY Peer Support/Network Project, where she has contributed tremendous energy and passion toward helping students with intellectual disabilities develop friendships and join their communities. She is a doctoral student in UK's psychology program and she serves on the board of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky and works directly with a young lady with Down syndrome to access supports. Hastings has been proactive in recruiting students to participate in the KY Peer Support/Network Project and developing a student leadership module to train students with disabilities to take on leadership roles at school.
“I have been the research assistant on the KY Peer Support Network Project since January 2014," Hastings said. "My primary role is to support my designated pilot site schools and monitor data collection from each of our schools every month. My favorite part of the job is visiting with my pilot sites; I travel to each of my three schools once a month. I have developed some great relationships with my contacts at the schools and have even gotten to know some of the students! I also love presenting to different groups about the project. I have been involved with presentations to the Kentucky Exceptional Children’s Conference, Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools, and the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky. Of all the environments I find myself in as a graduate student, HDI and this project are my favorites!”