Disabled advocate leaves $100,000 to support students

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Disabled advocate leaves $100,000 to support students

A $100,000 bequest from Fresno State alumnus, volunteer and advocate for the disabled Philip Stephens will support scholarships and programs benefiting disabled students.

Despite facing extreme physical disabilities, Mr. Stephens lived an inspirational life dedicated improving the quality of life for students with disabilities at Fresno State.

Born in 1939 with cerebral palsy, Mr. Stephens struggled with physical and speech impairments, finding solace in academia. He excelled in school, studying economics at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Years of therapy improved Mr. Stephens’ condition, until complications from a surgery in 1970 left him unable to walk, speak or feed himself.

Mr. Stephens learned to communicate by pointing at a word or letter on a work board. Determined to live a full life, he joined a center for independent living at the University of California in Berkeley and was able to complete his undergraduate degree.

He continued his education at Fresno State, moving into the dorms in 1973. He quickly became ingrained in the campus community.

Mr. Stephens graduated with a Master of Arts in Economics in 1977, but his relationship with Fresno State was far from over. For more than 20 years, Mr. Stephens was a driving force for improving opportunities for students with disabilities. He volunteered as a counselor, mentor and tutor.

Mr. Stephens died on Sept. 25, 2011 at the age of 72.

Michael Stephens visited Fresno State from Washington D.C. last week to honor his brother, Philip. Michael participated in the unveiling of a plaque in the office of Services for Students with Disabilities and tree planted in his brother’s memory in a garden east of the Henry Madden Library.

“I cannot overstate how important Fresno State was to the enrichment of his life,” Michael Stephens said. “The university gave him a sense of purpose.”

Half of the bequest will fund scholarships for Fresno State students with disabilities and students studying physical therapy. Two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded each year for five years beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.

The remaining $50,000 will support the Services for Students with Disabilities program. “Technology is changing so quickly and it is important that our students are up to speed,” explained program director Janice Brown. “This gift is going to make a tremendous difference in helping our program meet our students’ needs.”

Fresno State’s Services for Students with Disabilities program endeavors to ensure a fair learning environment for students with disabilities. Staff members work with students, faculty and other campus resources to coordinate accommodations and support students as they pursue their education.

The Stephens gift supports the university’s Campaign for Fresno State, an initiative to raise $200 million in support of scholarships, faculty, programs and facilities. Through February, the campaign had raised more than $181.8 million. It is the university’s inaugural comprehensive campaign and among the largest in the CSU system.

For more information, contact Kathleen Schock, the campaign communications director, at 559.278.2756 or kschock@csufresno.edu

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By |March 29th, 2012|Categories: PRESS RELEASES|Tags: , |1 Comment