August 15, 2008



Tina Hoagland, Interim Coordinator of Service Programs, MCD, 657-2039
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Montana Center on Disabilities inducts three Hall of Fame at Sept. 30 celebration


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Helen Keller, deaf and blind for all but 18 months of her life, once said that “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”


That same optimism and tribute to diverse abilities will be at the center of a night of celebration this month when the Montana Center on Disabilities at Montana State University Billings honors three people for leadership. The honorees include a recent MSU Billings graduate, a Missoula advocate for the rights of the disabled and a young woman from Wolf Point.


The Montana Center on Disabilities annual dinner celebration and induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame for Leaders with Disabilities, is set for Tuesday, Sept. 30 at the MSU Billings SUB ballroom on the main campus. The event begins at 5 p.m. with a reception followed by dinner and recognition.  The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and RSVPS are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.


Keynote address for the evening will be provided by Lois McElravy, a Missoula woman who sustained a brain injury as the result of an automobile accident in 1990, and now has her own business, Lessons From Lois, teaching how to effectively use humor to adapt to change, manage stress, and overcome the seriousness of life challenges.


The Hall of Fame was for Leaders with Disabilities was founded in 2002 to recognize contributions made by individuals with disabilities who make Montana’s communities better places to live. Any person with a disability who has made a significant, positive impact in the state through activities such as volunteering, mentoring, coalition building, legislative activities, fundraising, advocacy or program development are eligible for the Hall of Fame.


Those to be inducted this year are Bob Liston of Missoula for Lifetime Achievement; Sam Herbert from Billings as Leader of the Year; and Kira Foote of Wolf Point as Emerging Leader.


The Lifetime Achievement award recognizes a person with a disability who has devoted his or her efforts to leadership activities. Liston, who has served on the Disability Rights Montana board for eight years (four of those as president) has provided “unwavering and uncompromising leadership in the values of equality, freedom and self-determination,” according to MCD officials. He is also the Montana organizer for ADAPT, the grassroots advocacy group famous for its civil disobedience actions on Capitol Hill, and has been repeatedly arrested for protesting against failed policies that keep people with disabilities in institutions.


On Sept. 25, 2007, Liston testified at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on issues related to home- and community-based care, where he stated, “Both my personal and professional lives have been lived, with intention, ‘in the trenches’ partnering with one person at a time to help them live the life of quality and dignity they want, surrounded by their families and friends, in their own communities.”


The Leader of the Year award recognizes a person with a disability who has made significant leadership contributions during the preceding calendar year. Herbert, who graduated Magna Cum Laude from MSU Billings in May, also received the “Outstanding Service Award” from the university’s Communications and Theatre Department. He was awarded with the Buckley Scholarship at the American Council of the Blind’s 2008 Annual Convention and has begun graduate studies this fall. He is also one of two MSU Billings students chosen to intern in Washington D.C. through the federal Work Force Recruitment Program.


The Emerging Leader honor recognizes a young person between ages 18-24 with a disability who has been involved in activities that reflect an interest in a life of leadership. Foote started working with a mentor through Equity Outreach during her junior year of high school at Wolf Point. Equity Outreach is a project created by the Montana Center on Disabilities and now run by North Central Independent Living Services in Poplar. Foote continues to serve on the advisory council for that project and after graduating from high school, she began to mentor students with disabilities, moving full circle.


Foote participated in the 2006 Montana Youth Leadership Forum (MYLF), a leadership training program for high school-aged youth with disabilities, and returned in 2008 as volunteer staff. In the fall of 2006, Kira spoke on behalf of both of these programs at the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living in San Antonio, Texas.


Also at the annual event, the Montana Center on Disabilities will honor two MSU Billings faculty members with the Faculty Award for Exceptional Support of Students with Disabilities. The winners are nominated by students. This year’s honorees are Mr. Randall Pugh, a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Theatre, and Ms. Ann Halubka, a part-time instructor in the College of Education.

Six MSU Billings students with disabilities and registered with Disability Support Services who will receive scholarships from MCD will also be recognized at the dinner.


For more information or to RSVP for the event, call Tina Hoagland at 657-2039 or Marilyn Hurless at 657-2092 by Sept.  20. The toll-free number is (888) 866-3822.