Veterans’ Issues Explored at Conference

Oct 21, 2008

Approximately 180 people attended the University’s 7th Annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disAbility. “Veterans, Vocations and Values: Rehabilitation Rallies for Results” was the theme of the Conference, held Oct. 8 – 9 in the Patrick & Margaret DeNaples Center on campus.

In his opening remarks at the Conference, University President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., noted how St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, would be proud of the work of those who seek to develop programs and services for persons with disabilities, particularly those who have served our country.

“Ignatius would applaud the work that you do today. Ignatius would applaud the mobilization of resources to get things done,” said Fr. Pilarz.

Patricia Leahy who, together with her husband Edward Leahy ’68 served as Honorary Co-Chairs of the conference, also recognized the significant contributions of veterans. “Our veterans have served our country and we want to recognize you for your sacrifice and your service,” she said.

The conference included presentations by four keynotes speakers, including Richard Pimentel, a Vietnam veteran whose life story is captured in the movie  The Music Within.

In the Opening Keynote address at the conference, Pimentel recalled a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that had a lasting impact on his life. Quoting Holmes, Pimentel said, “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them,” and added, “there’s music inside all of us.” Some, said Pimentel, find their music; others find the instrument to play that music; still others discover the venue or the audience.  “But we will not go to our graves with our music inside of us,” said Pimentel, who is a nationally renowned expert on disability management, job recruitment, job retention and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The conference also included keynote addresses by David S. Macpherson, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer, VISN4; Juan J. DeRojas, M.D., a veteran of the War against Terror and the Gulf War, and a board-certified general surgeon with an extensive military record; and Ryan Kules, retired U.S. Army Captain and program manager for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The Conference also included the presentation two awards. Hon. David Wenzel, Vietnam War veteran and former Mayor of Scranton, received the Leahy Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Leadership, and Josie Cordaro, who has written and delivered a poem every year at the University’s Disability Conference, received a Leahy Award for  Excellence in Community Service.The Leahy Awards are given annually to individuals who exemplify excellence in leadership and advocacy for persons with disabilities.

A Welcome Home Town Meeting, open to the public free of charge, was held on Oct. 8 and included a panel discussion moderated by Ralph Pacinelli, D.Ed., CRC, LPC, retired regional commissioner for the United States Department of Education and a Leahy Faculty Fellow at the University.

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