Minnesota’s loss is the nation’s gain as the highly respected Charlie Lakin leaves the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. After more than three decades at the U of M, Lakin will become Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education. Lakin accepts his new appointment August 29.
Lakin leaves an amazing legacy of service and research to people with disabilities. He has been director of the institute’s Research and Training Center on Community Living for 22 years. Colleagues and friends in Minnesota’s disability community say they will not only miss Lakin’s base of knowledge and research skills, they will also miss him as a friend.
The opportunity to contribute to research on a national level was something Lakin couldn’t pass up. “I’ve worked 35 years on the same floor, so any change is a huge change for me,” he said. The appointment by President Barak Obama comes as
Lakin turns 65. “So it’s a milestone for me in more ways than one.” Lakin praises the president for his “remarkable” commitment to disability issues and said it will be an honor to work for him. He’ll miss his work in Minnesota and friends. “But there are great young people here at the institute and they have a great ability to carry on.”
David R Johnson, Director of the Institute on Community Integration, said that while colleagues are excited about Lakin’s opportunity, his research work and skills will be very much missed. “Charlie has contributed so much, in terms of research, that has made countless lives better,” said Johnson. “He will leave huge shoes to fill.” Johnson added that Lakin is not only very knowledgeable; he has been a great co-worker and great friend to many.
Reflecting on his years in Minnesota, Lakin said, “For me it has been really rewarding to be part of the disability community here. Whatever one’s role is, there are shared values and an ability to work together.”
Although he is leaving the state at a time where these is disagreement on what level of service government should fund, Lakin said he’ll remember the harmony of people working together to reach goals for the community. “I think at a time when things are so discordant, I really want to focus on that.”
Lakin has 40 years experience in services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a teacher, researcher, consultant and advocate. He has directed numerous research and training projects and has authored or coauthored more than 300 publications based on that work. He frequently consults with state, federal and international agencies in matters of policy, research and evaluation. Among recognitions for his work are appointments by former President Bill Clinton to the President’s Committee on Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, the American Association on Intellectual Dybwad Humanitarian Award, the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Community Service Award and The Arc of the United States’ Distinguished Research Award.
The Institute on Community Integration is a federally designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). It’s part of a national network of similar programs in major universities and teaching hospitals across the country. As a UCEDD, the Institute is funded under the provisions of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
At the Institute, staff members work to promote the belief that all persons with developmental and other disabilities should live as valued members of local communities. Through collaborative research, training, and information sharing, Institute staff work to improve policies and practices to ensure that all children, youth, and adults with disabilities are valued by, and contribute to, their communities of choice.