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The Starkloff Disability Institute is proud to name Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) as the first-ever recipient of the Max J. Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented by Colleen Starkloff at Party to the Max gala at the Grand Hall at Union Station on September 20, 2014. Senator Harkin, the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act and champion of people with disabilities, passed more legislation on behalf of the disability community than any other Senator.

Max J. Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award

Starkloff Disability Institute

Max J. Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award

September 20, 2014

Saint Louis, Missouri

 Senator Tom Harkin

Disability Rights Champion!

 Thank you for standing with the Disability Community to end discrimination and oppression! Your leadership brought legislation that paved the way toward emancipation,equality, and productive independence for all people with disabilities.

 The Max J Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes champions of Disability Rights, who like Max, rolled that rock up the mountain of oppression and discrimination toward disabled people, and ultimately achieved emancipation, equality and productive independence for all people with disabilities.

“Man and His Rock”

Painting by Max J. Starkloff


Shortly after Max J. Starkloff entered a nursing home in 1963, he became interested in painting and painters.  He began reading authors like Albert Camus and Rollo May.  He also studied art and was very inspired by the German Expressionists, like Max Beckmann, who heavily influenced Max’s work.  His early landscape paintings changed dramatically and one can see the theme of “struggle” in the new themes Max began to paint.

In 1969, Max painted “Man and His Rock”.  This painting was inspired by the Greek story, the Myth of Sisyphus.  The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight.  Then Sisyphus had to roll it up again.  Max often thought of himself somewhat like Sisyphus.  His work in the early days of the Disability Rights Movement—fighting for the right of the disabled to have access to public buildings, public rights of way, housing, education, transportation, health care and more, were sometimes ignored.  Like Sisyphus, Max continued to push his message about equality, independence and a full productive life wherever and whenever he could.  Unlike Sisyphus, however, Max ultimately prevailed. The result was his ability to change how millions of people with disability live their lives today and forever.

In 1975, Max J Starkloff left the incarceration of a nursing home behind.  He married, had 3 children, 7 grandchildren and a full, rich life as a local, state, national and international disability rights leader before his death in 2010.

“Man and His Rock” was one of his favorite paintings.

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The Starkloff Disability Institute has as its mission to create a world that welcomes all people with disabilities by empowering them, by influencing the non-disabled, by serving as liaison between the two groups, and by working toward a goal of economic independence through employment.

Max and Colleen Starkloff

Max and Colleen Starkloff co-founded Paraquad, Inc. one of the first ten federally funded independent living centers in the U.S. After 35 successful years at Paraquad Max and Colleen, along with David Newburger, co-founded the Starkloff Disability Institute to take THE NEXT BIG STEP - changing attitudes for a more inclusive society.