The Alana Down Syndrome Center honors the memory of Professor Thomas Hehir, a long-time advocate of students with disabilities. He died on Wednesday, June 22, after a battle with ALS. Hehir had a long and storied background working in education, most recently as a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was an ally in the defense of human rights, particularly children and people with disabilities, and was a staunch supporter of integration and inclusion of all students together in schools. His career spanned policy, writing, teaching, public service, and was an contributor to the Alana Institutes efforts to advocate for the rights of students with disabilities.
“Thomas Hehir was one of the easiest people to love I’ve ever met. He worked tirelessly so that schools are spaces for all children and adolescents, and he inspired Alana in several initiatives to strengthen an education that values differences”, comments Ana Lucia Villela, president of the Alana Institute and Foundation.
In 2016, Hehir coordinated an Alana Institute survey on the benefits of inclusive education for students with and without disabilities. He was also featured in the film “Forget Me Not,” produced by Maria Farinha Films and Route 6. Hehir’s work in this area helped inspire the MIT ADSC statement of purpose and goals.
He regarded the fact that many students with disabilities are still studying in separate environments as a “great failure.” His legacy reinforces the commitment to a profound transformation in schools so that they can respond positively to the diversity of students. May he be an example for those striving for a society where no one is left behind.