Prominent speaker to address disability rights at Penn State Lehigh Valley

September 09, 2015

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- Penn State Lehigh Valley is hosting internationally recognized speaker James Conroy, president of The Center for Outcome Analysis and co-founder of The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, on Oct. 6 as part of its Faculty Invitational Lecture Series.

Conroy’s work is centered on the historic tragedies and triumphs that unfolded at the Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Spring City. He was instrumental in creating the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, an effort to create a world-class museum to honor and memorialize the ongoing civil and human rights struggle of Americans with disabilities at a location of national significance. He was the principal investigator and designer of the Pennhurst Longitudinal Study, the largest study ever done up to that time on the topic of moving people with developmental disabilities from institutions to small community homes. Since then, Conroy has directed more than a dozen similar longitudinal studies in other states. He has been responsible for more than 250 formal research reports to government agencies and foundations, as well as more than 30 articles in scholarly journals and 10 book chapters. Conroy’s works have been publicized on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” ABC’s “Nightline,” public television, public radio, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

A breakfast featuring Conroy will be held for local health care professionals from 7:30-9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Penn State Lehigh Valley, located at 2809 Saucon Valley Road in Center Valley. Registration and networking begin at 7:30 a.m., followed by Conroy’s remarks at 8 a.m. To sign up for the breakfast, contact Loretta Yenser at 610-285-5038 or by Oct. 1.

A second lecture with Conroy will cover the historic treatment of people with disabilities and the movement to gain respect and rightful roles in society. His presentation titled “Disabilities Rights: The New Jim Crow” will be held from 12:15-1:15 p.m. on Oct. 6 in Room 302 at Penn State Lehigh Valley. This is part of the Faculty Invitational Lecture Series, which are all free and open to the public.

The fabled site of a new birth of freedom for people with disabilities, Pennhurst was created in 1908 for the detention of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The first residents literally built the campus. Over the course of the institution's near-century of operation, some 10,000 residents would manage every other aspect of Pennhurst's operation — unpaid and unable to leave.

The culmination of centuries of misunderstanding of disability, early neglect and abuse at Pennhurst resulted in two U.S. District Court rulings in the 1970s. The rulings ordered the institution closed, ruling it unconstitutional to force institutional confinement of citizens with intellectual disabilities and recognizing their right to education.  

In 2008, the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance was added as a member of the International Sites of Conscience, a worldwide network of Sites of Conscience — historic sites specifically dedicated to remembering past struggles for justice and addressing their contemporary legacies.

  • Headshot of James Conroy.

    James Conroy, Ph.D., is president of The Center for Outcome Analysis and co-founder of The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 09, 2015