University of Pittsburgh
March 20, 2015

Building Bridges for Students with Disabilities

Former Governor Tom Ridge to deliver Pitt’s annual Thornburgh Family Lecture on Disability Law and Policy on March 25
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—As the chairman of the National Organization on Disability, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has spent much of the last decade working to fulfill the nonprofit organization’s mission to increase employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities.

Ridge will share his unique insights as the featured speaker for the University of Pittsburgh’s 2015 Thornburgh FamilyGov. Thomas J. Ridge Lecture on Disability Law and Policy. The lecture titled “Bridging the Employment Gap for College Students with Disabilities” will be delivered at 1 p.m. March 25 in Ballroom B of the University Club, 123 University Pl., Oakland. The event is free and open to the public; due to limited seating, registration is required

With only one in five working-age people with disabilities employed, the address will focus on the barriers that prevent college students with disabilities from finding employment. During the lecture, Ridge will share examples of programs that have worked for various institutions of higher learning and explain how those models can be adopted nationally. 

A native of Munhall, Pa., Ridge was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1994. Winning reelection in 1998, he served as governor until being named the nation’s inaugural Homeland Security Advisor by President George W. Bush in 2001. In 2003, Bush appointed Ridge the first Secretary of Homeland Security, where he served until 2005. Ridge also represented Pennsylvania’s 21st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1994 and was the assistant district attorney for Erie County, Pa. 

Ridge has held the position of chairman of the National Organization on Disability since 2006. He also is president and chief executive officer of Ridge Global, an international-security and risk-management advisory firm. He is a cofounder of the cybersecurity advisory firm Ridge-Schmidt Cyber and founding partner of the bipartisan government-relations firm Ridge Policy Group. 

The National Organization on Disability is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the full participation and contributions of Americans living with disabilities in all aspects of life. Founded in 1982, it is one of the oldest cross-disability organizations in the nation. 

The Thornburgh Family Lecture Series on Disability Law and Policy is sponsored by the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy at Pitt. The series was created through the generosity of Dick and Ginny Thornburgh as 2003 recipients of the $50,000 Henry B. Betts Award. The fund has been supplemented by grants from Pitt’s Office of the Chancellor and with assistance from the University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Law, and University Honors College. 

Previous Disability Law and Policy speakers have included former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, former chairperson of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; I. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, the world’s only university with all programs and services specifically designed to accommodate hearing-impaired students; and Joyce Bender, former chairperson of the American Association of People with Disabilities as well as the national Epilepsy Foundation.