Posted On: May 30, 2019
On May 17, Colleen was recognized as the 2019 Alumni Merit Award recipient for the Doisy College of Health Sciences at St. Louis University. She is a 1973 graduate of Doisy and received her bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy.
Colleen was awarded for her relentless championing of Independent Living and overall disability rights for more than 45 years. Since 1973, she has developed initiatives to support employment, accessible housing, public transportation and infrastructure for people with disabilities, and coordinated activities that promote the successful implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 2004, Colleen helped create and then taught disability studies at Maryville University. She organizes international conferences on universal design – an approach to design that works to ensure products and buildings can be used by everyone, regardless of their ability or disability.
Colleen served as the commencement speaker for the Doisy College of Health Sciences on May 18, 2019. In her Commencement remarks, Colleen invited graduates to become agents of change. Click here to watch a video of the event, Colleen’s speech begins at 31:26
She wants them to realize that every contact they have with persons with a disability could set a positive tone and set them on a path of hope and encouragement for independent, productive lives after their healthcare or rehabilitation stays.
“Any one of us can become disabled at any time,” Colleen said to the students. “Any one of us can have a friend or family member with a disability. It is in each of our interests to have a positive attitude about living with disability.”
Colleen praised the Disability Rights Movement in the U.S. for changing the world to welcome people with disabilities. She paid tribute to her late husband, Max Starkloff for helping her, as a newly graduated Physical Therapy student, see disability through his lens. She credits this vision with becoming an agent of change herself.
Colleen reinforced, “Your attitude about a subject drives how you address it … We had plenty of physical therapists back then, but not enough agents of change.”
The team at Starkloff Disability Institute is honored to work with Colleen and see the strides she makes for people with disabilities on a daily basis. Congratulations, Colleen, on your latest well-deserved achievements!