Lu Zeph, EdD’83

CREDIT: Adam Kuykendall/University of Maine

Lu Zeph believes people with disabilities have both a civil and a human right to develop their abilities in an inclusive community. “The disability rights movement is rooted in the Civil Rights Movement,” she states. Both faced similar opposition, she says, and both have advanced society.

As a young girl growing up in Boston during the 1960s, Zeph was inspired to work for social justice by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and members of the Kennedy family. Today the former Head Start teacher is an internationally recognized expert on intellectual and developmental disabilities and an important advocate for people with disabilities.

For the past 20 years, Zeph has directed the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine, where she also currently serves as interim associate provost. As a Kennedy Public Policy Fellow, she has advised the U.S. Senate on disability issues and also served as executive director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation.

“Inclusive education is not just about people with disabilities,” says Zeph. “It’s about creating schools and classrooms in which the full range of learners can succeed.

“When children learn to experience kindness, empathy and respect in a setting where diversity is valued, it creates an environment in which all children can thrive.”

—JOANNE LAMPHERE BECKHAM