University of Pittsburgh
April 16, 2003

Dick and Ginny Thornburgh Donate $50,000 Betts Prize To Pitt for Lecture Series on Disability Law

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Dick and Ginny Thornburgh, who recently received the Henry B. Betts Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), have donated the $50,000 Betts Award funds to the University of Pittsburgh to establish The Thornburgh Family Lecture Series in Disability Law and Policy through Pitt's School of Law and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), in conjunction with the Dick Thornburgh Archival Collection in Pitt's University Library System.

Pitt's law school and SHRS worked to create the disabilities law concentration for the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree, the first such degree program in the nation. At the March 4 AAPD Leadership Gala in Washington, D.C., the Thornburghs, known for their advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities, praised the two schools, saying that they provide an outstanding experience for students and are ardent advocates for people with disabilities.

"This is just one more example of Dick and Ginny Thornburgh's far-reaching generosity to the University of Pittsburgh," said Nordenberg. "In so many different ways, the Thornburghs always have been strong supporters of Pitt. Two key examples are Dick's service as a trustee and their donation of the Dick Thornburgh Archival Collection to our Library System. Now, with the creation of the Thornburgh Family Lecture Series in Disability Law and Policy, they have given the University an important opportunity to build upon its academic strengths within the School of Law and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences—strengths which have, at their core, a mission of advocacy for those with disabilities. We are deeply grateful to the Thornburghs and AAPD for making this gift possible."

A former governor of Pennsylvania and attorney general of the United States, Dick Thornburgh is a 1957 graduate of the University's law school. Together the Thornburghs have dedicated themselves as advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, working to maximize opportunities for them in their communities, jobs, schools, and congregations. Their son, Peter, suffered a serious brain injury as a result of a 1960 car accident. He inspired and grounded their advocacy efforts.

While attorney general, Thornburgh played a major role in the 1990 enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A recipient of the George Bush Medal in 2001 for his service to people with disabilities, Thornburgh is a founding member of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) and serves as vice-chair of the World Committee on Disability.

Ginny Thornburgh is director of the Religion and Disability Program of N.O.D., and for more than 13 years she has focused on making congregations and seminaries more welcoming to people with disabilities.

As described by the Thornburghs, the lectureship will address high-profile aspects of disability law and policy and seek to attract speakers of national prominence.

AAPD administers the Henry B. Betts Award, created in 1989 by the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. It is named in honor of Henry B. Betts, a pioneer in the field of rehabilitation medicine who started his career with the institute in 1964, making it the base for his career as an advocate for people with physical disabilities and as a leader in the field of rehabilitation medicine.

AAPD is a national membership organization dedicated to promoting the economic and political empowerment of all people living with disabilities in the United States. AAPD was founded in 1995 by a group of cross-disability leaders to help unite the diverse community of people with disabilities, including their family, friends, and supporters, and to be a national voice for change in implementing the goals of the ADA: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.