“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, February 28, 2011

The passing of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger

It is with a sincere and great sense of loss that I share the following here. It was one of the great honors of my life to have known Dr. Wolfensberger. My prayers are with his family and friends. Please keep them in your prayers as well. Also please pray for Ms. Susan Thomas who was Dr. Wolfensberger's right hand colleague for so many years.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are saddened today to learn of the passing of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger this past weekend. His death is a great loss to not only the thousands who embraced his research and teachings, but to the thousands whose lives have been changed by the values and principles he espoused.

Wolf Wolfensberger was made an honourary life member of Community Living Ontario in 1979 and was honoured at the conference at Queen's University that year. He was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2005 Community Living Conference in London, Ontario.

Wolfensberger lead the Normalization movement in North America and formulated the concepts of Social Role Valorization and Normalization. His teachings had a profound influence on the core values and principles of Community Living associations across Canada. Through his work, he shaped our beliefs about how we should support people and their families. He taught us that when people are supported to achieve socially valued roles, they inevitably develop meaningful relationships and rich lives in community. No other body of work has been as influential in shaping the way that people think and act with respect to the inclusion of people who have an intellectual disability in our society.

In 1991 Normalization was ranked as # 1 in the “Education and Training in Mental Retardation” list of 25 classic works in the field and in 2006 Exceptional Parent magazine named “the Work of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger on the Principles of Normalization and Social Role Valorization” as one of the 7 Wonders of the World of Disabilities.

Our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Dr. Wolfensberger will always be remembered for his brilliant mind and his great heart for disenfranchised and devalued people. In speaking with him you recognized you were in the presence of a great human being, someone of depth in his understanding of life. I will never forget his kindness and patience with me as I sat under his teaching on several occasions. The world has lost a significant force for good.



Jeff McNair said...

From Exec. Director of AAIDD in an email.

Dear Colleagues,

I’m sorry to let you know that Wolf Wolfensberger passed away on Sunday.

Dr. Wolfensberger was the originator of Social Role Valorization and the Normalization Principle, concepts that strongly influenced disability policy and practice in the US and Canada. He was widely recognized as a major contributor to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 20th century had a reputation for being a stirring and controversial speaker.

Dr. Wolfensberger was born in Mannheim, Germany and emigrated at age 16 to the US. His undergraduate degree was earned at Siena College in Memphis, Tennessee; he earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology at St. Louis University and a doctorate in psychology from Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) where he specialized in mental retardation and special education.

His professional positions included postings at Muscatatuck State School (Indiana), E.R. Johnstone Training Center (New Jersey), Maudsley Hospital (London, England), Plymouth State Home and Training School (Michigan), Nebraska Psychiatric Institute of the University of Nebraska Medical School, National Institute on Mental Retardation in Toronto, Canada, and the Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

He was the author and co-author of more than 40 books and monographs, and more than 250 chapters and articles. His writing has been translated into 11 languages. His best known books were Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded, The Principle of Normalization, PASS, and PASSING.

Calling hours will be held Friday, March 4, 2011 from 4-7 pm at All Saints Catholic Church, 112 Lancaster Place, Syracuse, NY 13210
The funeral service will be Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 10 am at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 259 E. Onondaga Street, Syracuse, NY 13202


Margaret A. Nygren, EdD
AAIDD Executive Director & CEO

Anonymous said...

hi Jeff. I am from Australia and have recently been on a journey with 'the church and disability'. - After a life time of working with and loving people with disabilities, and a life time in the church - having the 'epiphany' that 2 belong together, and maybe God wants me to do something about this! My journey has led me recently, among other things - to your book The Church and Disability, also to link up with the Christian Blind Mission Luke 14 program in Australia, and finally to motivation to commence a Master of Disability studies thru Newcastle Uiversity (NSW). I am amazed at the following 'coincidence'. Yesterday i was reading in my Uni course notes for the first time about the work of Dr Wolfensberger, and considering his insight and foresight and the powerful impact of his vision on current practices. This morning i felt to check your blog (hadn't looked at it for a few weeks) - and there was this notice of his death and the tributes to him - i realised - i was reading about him on the very weekend of his funeral. And to hear how you honor him as well - all seemed quite special and significant. Been intending to respond to one of your blogs to say how very impacting your book is for me - it definitely tears at the heart (and i am already one who is fully convinced of the beauty and joy(along with the challenges) of loving and welcoming people with intellectal disabilities). Your book has caused me to smile, to cry and to sit in silent awe over the cry of God to His Church to "welcome the stranger" and to 'speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves'. I think we are all going to be blown away at the Lord's banquet feast in heaven, to see who he seats in the places of honor! Just hope and pray we 'get this' down here first! Thanks for your honest, open,challenging and passionate writing. I am hoping i may be able to come over for the Joni and Friends Beyond Suffering course in July. For now, in Christ, Ros Wetzler

Deana S said...

Your posting is very touching. It is clear that Dr. Wolfensberger was a great influence on the lives of many and will be an irreplacable light in a very dark place. The dark place being the mindset and actions that many took regarding people with intellectual disabilities. I am a novice when it comes to knowing researchers and educators of disabilities, but what I am quickly learning is that Dr. Wolfensberger and his research on the Principles of Normalization and Social Role Valorization has been an important turning point in history. Prior to attending your class and reading Dr. Wolfensberger's concepts, I had never really even considered that people with intellectual disabilities were "disenfranchised" and "devalued." Of course, I understood that they were not being treated as they should be, but did not fully understand to what degree.

There is no doubt that the light that has been shed and the great works that have been accomplished by Dr. Wolfensberger and all of his "students" will continue to inspire others in order to help those with intellectual disabilities lead meaningful lives. The idea of social inclusion will continue to grow, meaningful relationships will be built, and, because of Dr. Wolfensberger, many individuals and their families will experience needed support and many blessings.

Anonymous said...

It is sad to learn that someone that did great has gone on to a better place. However, he did a lot while he was among us. I was so close to actually seeing him in person last year in 1/10 for a conference that was held at Cal Baptist, however he did not attend due to illness. So the only thing left to due now is to continue to read frim his writings.

Unknown said...

My advocacy for people with disabilities has been strongly shaped by the teachings of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger. His theories on SRV and Normalization changed my perspective to a Christian based perspective. I particularly enjoyed reading his book titled “The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger”. His teachings will remain alive and his contributions will continue to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

Blaine Clyde said...

Thank you Jeff for introducing me to the work of Dr. Wolfensberger. I am a much better advocate for my friends with disabilities because of his writings. I look forward to continuing to read his work.

jennifer said...

Dr. wolfensberger was a great donation to the disability community. His view on normalization principle have been the framework for the future of the disability community.

Sarah said...

Dr. Wolfenshberger's works has had a profound effect on my ability to advocate for people with disabilities. His SRV theory and history on human services has shaped my interactions with people with disabilities. Thank you for sharing not only his works with me but the touching post.