Joanne Kinney Hartenstein; 1970 Budget Committee (left to right): Joanne Dickson, Mary Angeli, Chris DeRosia, Ann Chiappelone, Vicki Clares
The Disabled Students Assistance Fund (DSA) was established in 2013 by Holy Names University (HNU) alumna, Joanne K. Dickson ‘70. Inspired by her own experience, Mrs. Dickson created the fund to help students with disabilities achieve their academic goals and flourish at HNU. Since its creation, the fund has supported numerous new services and programs.
The founder, Joanne Dickson, was born in 1948 and grew up in Oakland, California. Due to complications associated with a premature birth and outdated medical practices she developed Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP left Mrs. Dickson mobility challenged -- she didn’t walk until she was five and used crutches before beginning to use a wheelchair eight years ago. These challenges didn’t stop her from pursuing her academic ambitions, and in 1968 she was accepted at HNU. As the first student with a disability at HNU, Mrs. Dickson laid the groundwork for greater campus-wide understanding and accessibility resources.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Mrs. Dickson took graduate school courses and also worked hard to finally get her driver’s license. It was this achievement that inspired her family friend, John Allen, to gift her with a specially-fitted car, telling her, “Now you can fly--you can get a job and live your own life.” Within 6 months Mrs. Dickson was hired to found and run the Disabled Student Program at Humboldt State University. Mr. Allen did not expect repayment for his gift, but instead he asked her to, “Help others and pay it forward.” Mrs. Dickson believed the best way to pay it forward would be to start the DSA fund at HNU, so that other students could receive the wonderful education she did, and it would be a little easier for them.
Since its founding the DSA fund has supported many new programs and initiatives at HNU, including:
- Launch of a smartpen lending program
- Installation of an accessible computing station
- Subscription to SensusAccess, software that converts documents into a range of alternative media
- Professional development for Disability Support Services (DSS) staff
- Individualized student support services
In the future, Rebecca Whitney, disability support services coordinator, hopes to use the fund to support the adoption of additional text-to-speech services, expand the smartpen program, and with additional contributions, offer events to educate the community on disability issues, and improve accessibility across campus facilities.
Mrs. Dickson hopes that others in the HNU community and beyond will be inspired by the mission of the DSA fund to help students with disabilities achieve their academic goals. She hopes that the fund will continue to grow and support even more students in the upcoming years.
HNU community members interested in contributing to the fund are encouraged to contact Kelsey Lindquist, assistant director of annual giving, at email@example.com.
Students and others interested in learning more about the services available may contact Rebecca Whitney, disability support services coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.