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Skrtic appointed as 2nd Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education

Friday, September 11, 2015

LAWRENCE — Tom Skrtic, professor in the Department of Special Education, has been appointed as the new Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education. He follows Don Deshler, professor emeritus of special education, who first held the post.

In 2004, Atlanta residents Delbert L. “Del” and Barbara Ossian Williamson established the professorship at KU.

“Cerebral palsy claimed the lives of our twin boys, born prematurely in 1968, but for six years we experienced the care and commitment of a number of special education teachers,” said Barbara Williamson, education graduate, ‘63. “Those teachers were there for us when we had a special need, and we hope to impact the lives of other families by helping to enhance the already strong special education program at KU.  We were so pleased with Dr. Deshler’s leadership and are sure Dr. Skrtic will further enhance special education studies at KU.”

“Few faculty have sustained the lively pace of engagement in learning, scholarship, teaching and service that Tom has for the last 39 years. His scholarship continues to be the standard that many of us here at the University of Kansas as well as around the world aspire to. We are privileged to have Tom named as the Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education,” said Elizabeth Kozleski, chair of the special education department.

Skrtic joined the School of Education in 1976 and is particularly known for his organizational critiques of professional bureaucracies and the distance they create with the individuals whom they intend to serve as well as the internal machinations and reproduction of bureaucracy. In Skrtic’s view, the ideal of civic professionalization in which the goals of workers are to persist in sustaining an adhocracy that, at its heart, is committed to democracy, emancipation, opportunity and equity. His writing takes these complex concepts and makes them accessible to generations of educators. 

It is not only what Skrtic writes about and how he embodies these ideals that makes his work so unique, it is also how he helps his students and his colleagues develop their own capacities to write and engage in research that is use-based, relevant and timely. He works with students to help them examine their own experiences. He helps them to understand how to analyze current practice, scrutinize its underlying assumptions and conceptualize how everyday practices might be redesigned with social justice in mind. 

Del Williamson, who studied engineering at KU in the mid-1950s, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Findlay College in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1959. He worked for General Electric for 45 years and retired as president of Power Systems Global Sales in February 2004. Barbara Williamson, a Topeka native, taught at Central Junior High School in Kansas City, Missouri, and for two years at a middle school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has volunteered for a variety of philanthropic and community organizations over the years, including school tutoring programs, Literacy Volunteers and the Girl Scouts.

The Williamsons married in 1963, shortly after Barbara graduated from KU, and have one daughter, Sara, who lives in Wellington, Florida. The professorship in special education is the second one that the Williamson family has established. The first, in 2001, is the Williamson Family Distinguished Professor in Counseling Psychology.

The Department of Special Education is housed in the School of Education, a nationally ranked school preparing educators and health/sport/exercise professionals as leaders.   


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