University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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UW-Eau Claire Professor Receives
Service Award from Local Agency

 MAILED:  May 28, 2003

Dr. David Franks, professor of special education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, received the Reta and David Martell Distinguished Service Award at the ARC Eau Claire's annual awards banquet May 9.

According to Barbara Shafer, executive director of the Arc Eau Claire, which advocates for the rights of citizens with cognitive disabilities, Franks was nominated by a group of Eau Claire area educators who wanted to recognize his more than 40 years of dedicated service in the field of special education.

Chris Hambuch-Boyle, an early childhood special education teacher at the Lowes Creek Early Learning Center, said she and eleven of her colleagues recognize Franks as a university leader in his efforts to get special education student teachers into Eau Claire area classrooms early in their academic careers. In their nomination letter, they wrote about his willingness to take on specific research projects aimed at improving special education programming in Eau Claire area schools, as well as his many other activities.

"He is one of the foremost leaders advocating for meeting the special needs of young children in the state of Wisconsin - testifying at hearings, actively lobbying local, state and national organizations, contributing to the research literature and sponsoring numerous training opportunities," wrote Hambuch-Boyle and Betsey McDougall-Gibbs, the early childhood program support teacher who helped compose the nomination letter. The group of educators also mentioned the lasting images they have of him "down on one knee striking up a conversation with a child," as well as "his lifetime commitment to educating young teachers to be the best they can be."

Hambuch-Boyle said seeing Franks get the award was especially gratifying for her because Reta Martell, whom the award is named for, was a paraprofessional in her classroom, and her friend, for twenty years before cancer took her life in April of 2000. Reta and her husband David, who also died of cancer in 1991 and whose name was recently added to the award, had a son with Down's Syndrome, and Hambuch-Boyle said they both were tireless in their efforts to improve the quality of life for all children with disabilities.

"Reta was instrumental in starting Special Olympics for adults here in Eau Claire and also served on the board of The ARC, and David helped make Boy Scouting possible for young men with disabilities," said Hambuch-Boyle. "Receiving an award in their name truly indicates that someone has had a lifetime commitment to working for consistent and long-lasting improvements to services for children with disabilities."

Franks said he was delighted to receive the award, noting that the long history of work by The Arc has influenced and continues to influence his work as a teacher and educator. He also credits the children, families and other professionals in the community who have contributed to his work.

"The nomination by many local early childhood special education teachers and special education administrators is greatly appreciated, " said Franks. "The award is very meaningful to me because I was privileged to know David and to work with Reta. Meeting both their children at the awards dinner was special," Franks said.
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Updated: May 28, 2003