Honorary Degree Nomination Form
Name of Candidate: Ralf Hotchkiss
Engineer, Whirlwind Wheelchair co-founder, Chief Engineer and principal instructor; Women Pushing Forward Advisory Board member
Major Achievements or Contributions
Mission and Goal Fit: According to the World Health Organization, there are 20 million people in the developing world who need a wheelchair and do not have one. Without wheelchairs most of these people are unable to work or attend school and spend much of their lives in bed. This lack of mobility contributes to pressure sores, the most common cause of death for people with spinal cord injuries. Often, when wheelchairs are available, they are poorly suited to the area and they break.
Getting the design exactly right has been a 30 year odyssey and the life's work of Hotchkiss. Working out of his non-profit Center "Whirlwind Wheelchair International," based at San Francisco State University, Hotchkiss has inspired and trained 33 wheelchair-makers in 42 countries. He travels to the remotest Third World countries to conduct workshops that teach people, with no previous experience, how to build sturdy, repairable wheelchairs that can tolerate rugged terrain without breaking down.
Always reaching frontiers, Hotchkiss had many design projects. One is a toddler's wheelchair, low to the ground to allow interactions with peers. Another is a new whirlwind wheelchair design that can cross more rugged terrain. A third project is to set up new distribution and marketing strategies to get wheeled mobility into the lives of people with fewer resources. Toward this goal, a trickle-up invention from Zimbabwe -- a front caster wheel, was adapted from a pushcart originally seen in Harare, Zimbabwe -- is already in use.
These designs are brought to production in areas where riders live in order to create employment for people with disabilities. This is the essence of self-reliance for independent living. Affordable and rugged wheelchair liberation means to Hotchkiss the "mobility that is the first hope of freedom and escape from isolation and full participation in family and community life." Whirlwind Wheelchair International has set up small shops in dozens of countries, often employing wheelchair users in producing the wheelchairs. Over the last 30 years, mechanics in places like Africa, Nicaragua and Asia, have built more than 15,000 wheelchairs.
Other notable projects of the group include improving access for people with disabilities in Russia and sending a group of female wheelchair makers to Beijing to teach workshops at the United Nations Women's Conference. After the earthquake in Haiti, Hotchkiss and other members of Whirlwind's staff went to Haiti to distribute 350 of their RoughRider wheelchairs to people with spinal cord injuries and amputations. The Hotchkiss group also launched a Whirlwind Women Project that brings women with disabilities into the process of design and production, emphasizing their skills and needs and in the management of these small enterprises.
In his 1985 book, "Independence through Mobility: a Guide Through the Manufacture of the ATI-Hotchkiss Wheelchair," Hotchkiss discussed in detail many aspects of his wheelchair design. He won a MacArthur "Genius" Grant in 1989 for his design and production of wheelchairs. Professor Hotchkiss is a Senior Research Scientist at San Francisco State University's School of Engineering and Technical Director of Whirlwind Wheelchair International. He teaches many classes and workshops at the University.
Personal, Moral Integrity
Ralf Hotchkiss was confined to the wheelchair after a bicycle accident rendered him a paraplegic in high school. After graduating from college, he worked for the Center for Auto Safety and then started his own Center for Concerned Engineering. Invention came easily to him and soon he came to the attention of the Veterans Administration, which made him a consultant on wheelchair design.
At that time, a single multinational corporation dominated wheelchair production. To Hotchkiss and other similarly disabled, wheelchairs were not only very expensive, they were poorly designed and difficult to repair as well.
Hotchkiss decided to revolutionize wheelchair manufacturing by greatly simplifying and improving the durability, flexibility and repair likelihood of the product. He began with changing the language by telling friends that he is "not wheelchair bound or confined to a wheelchair." Instead, he says he "has been liberated by a wheelchair."
This engineer-for-the-people has liberated the wheelchair itself from the stagnant and price-gouging grip of its manufacturer. Hotchkiss and his associates are instructing small builders of wheelchairs. Wheelchairs that would normally cost from $1,000 to $2,000 can now be built for $100 to $300 with higher quality and are easily repairable. Local materials and tools found in an average bicycle shop will do the job.
Recognition of Peers
Professor Hotchkiss is the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the Henry B. Betts Award for his work to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and the Chrysler Corporation's Innovation in Design Award. His alma mater, Oberlin College, awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 1991. He was awarded the SFSU President's medal in 2005. SFSU also honored Hotchkiss' extraordinary achievements and contributions by establishing the Ralf Hotchkiss Chair in Appropriate Technology for Disability in the University's College of Science and Engineering. With the establishment of the Ralf Hotchkiss Chair, SFSU aims to affirm its strong commitment to the importance of research and scholarship in the field of appropriate technology for people with disabilities.
Name of Candidate: Marian Wright Edelman
Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Marian Wright Edelman is a lawyer, an educator, an activist, a reformer, and a children’s advocate.
Major achievements and Contributions
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation. Supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations, CDF advocates nationwide on behalf of children to ensure children are always a priority. The Children's Defense Fund's Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
Edelman began her career in the mid-60s when, while working as director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education office in Jackson, Mississippi, she became the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She also became nationally recognized as an advocate for Head Start at this time. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., and subsequently became counsel for the Poor People's Campaign organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prior to his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund, where she lobbied Congress for child and family nutrition programs and expanding Head Start. In 1973, the Washington Research Project became the Children’s Defense Fund, the United States’ leading advocacy group for children. As part of CDF, Edelman has also advocated pregnancy prevention, child care funding, health care funding, prenatal care, parental responsibility for education in values, reducing the violent images presented to children, and selective gun control in the wake of school shootings.
Edelman has served as director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and is the first African American female on the board of Yale University. Edelman has written many articles and books, including the autobiographical New York Times bestseller, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours.
Mission and Goal Fit
Marian Wright Edelman gave a commencement speech to the graduating class of Tarbut V'Torah, a Jewish Community Day School, in Irvine, California at which she said The first lesson that I keep telling over and over again: There is no free lunch in life. Please don't feel entitled to anything you don't sweat and struggle for. Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, reminded us that "many women may not get all they pay for in this world, but they will certainly pay for all they get." You've got to work your way up hard and continuously. And I know I don't have to say this: Don't be lazy, do your homework, pay attention to detail, take great care and pride in your work. Don't assume a door is closed; push on it. Don't assume if it was closed yesterday that it is closed today. Don't ever stop learning and improving your mind. If you do, you're going to be left behind. The second lesson is to assign yourself. My daddy couldn't stand to see us unengaged in constructive work. And he used to ask us when we had come home from school, "Did the teacher give you any homework?" If we'd say no, he'd say, "Well, assign yourself some." Don't wait around for your boss or your friends or teachers to direct you to do what you're able to figure out and do for yourself. And don't do just as little as you can to get by. And as you grow up and become citizens? Please don't be a political bystander and grumbler. I really hope every one of you will register to vote and vote every time. A democracy is not a spectator sport. And if you see a need, please don't ask, "Why somebody doesn't do something?" Ask "Why don't I do something?" Initiative and persistence are still the non-magic carpets to success for most of us.
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and under her leadership the CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. Marian Wright Edelman is oft-quoted, but is best known for saying “Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”
Marian Wright Edelman received her BA in 1960 from Spelman College, an historic African-American institution for women in Atlanta, Georgia. While at college, she won a Merrill scholarship to study abroad. Her search for a broad international perspective took her to classes at the Sorbonne in Paris, the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and with the help of a Lisle Fellowship, to Moscow just prior to starting her senior year.
She had planned on a career in the foreign service, but changed her plans as the events of the 1960s' civil rights movement occurred. Caught up in the African-American social consciousness of the times, she participated at sit-ins in Atlanta's City hall and was arrested. "Segregation was wrong, something to be fought against," she said. The experiences stimulated her to believe that she could contribute to social progress through the study of law. She entered Yale Law School on a scholarship after receiving her undergraduate degree. She did not love law but explained that she decided to study law "to be able to help black people, and the law seemed like a tool [I] needed." She received her JD from Yale Law School in 1963.
Marian Wright Edelman is quoted as saying “[w]hen I fight about what is going on in the neighborhood, or when I fight about what is happening to other people’s children, I’m doing that because I want to leave a community and a world that is better than the one I found.” Ms. Edelman has always been dedicated to the public interest from her time at the NAACP, as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign and when she founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Edelman also serves as a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Association to Benefit Children, and City Lights School and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Personal, Moral Integrity
Marian Wright Edelman was born in Bennetsville, South Carolina, on June 6, 1939. She was the youngest of five children born to Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola (Bowen) Wright. She spent her early years in Bennettsville. It was, as she described it, a small-town, socially segregated childhood. She went to racially segregated public schools, but excelled academically.
Edelman's quest for political, economic, and social rights and justice has its beginnings in her childhood. The elder Wrights instilled in their children a strong sense of service to others by their words and deeds. Indeed, as Edelman wrote, "Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time." She was expected to help out with chores at the nearby Wright Home For the Aged, the first such institution for African-Americans in South Carolina, which her father founded and her mother ran. "The only time my father wouldn't give me a chore was when I was reading, so I read a lot," she said of those years. Edelman credits her father with instilling in her an obligation to right wrongs. When African Americans in Bennettsville were not allowed to enter city parks, her father built a park for African American children behind his church.
Recognition of Peers
Marian Wright Edelman has received many honorary degrees and awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include eight books: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; Stand for Children; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind; I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; and I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children.