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ASU professor establishes annual disability awareness lecture through Lincoln Center

A man and a woman pose together on a bridge.

Lawrence J. and Virginia Devlin Bolmarcich. Photo courtesy Sarah Bolmarcich

July 28, 2023

The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, housed in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is establishing a new lecture series to raise awareness of disability and promote a positive disability culture at Arizona State University.

The series is named the Lawrence J. and Virginia Devlin Bolmarcich Memorial Lecture, after the parents of Sarah Bolmarcich, an associate teaching professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures.

When her mother passed away in 2022, Bolmarcich began envisioning a way to memorialize how her parents lived and promote their core principles of fairness for women, minorities and those with disabilities.

For at least six generations, their family members, including Sarah herself, were diagnosed with inherited hearing loss. 

“It goes back to at least my great-great-great-grandfather in Scotland, and my mom had it and passed it to my sister and me. It was this thing that marked our lives,” said Bolmarcich. “And although my dad was not hard of hearing, he was the most supportive person I’ve ever met about disability.”

Lawrence was a second-generation American and first-generation college student, earning his bachelor’s degree from Drexel University in 1967 and a master’s degree from St. Joseph’s University in 1974. He served as a civil engineer for the United States Army and then the U.S. Navy. He passed away in 1997. 

Virginia was from generations of Irish Americans in Philadelphia and was the first to attend college at the University of Pennsylvania College for Women. She later attended medical school and held a successful career as a diagnostic radiologist.

“Neither of them were activists as we think of them today, but they both tried to live by these principles of equality, respect and fairness,” Bolmarcich said.

The annual series will feature a lecture and workshops that actively promote a disability-inclusive culture at ASU, which is embedded in the institutional fabric of the university’s charter.

“The Lincoln Center is honored to play such a key role in helping facilitate Dr. Bolmarcich’s generous gift to the university. It is hard to overstate the value of what Dr. Bolmarcich has offered to all of us: Questions of disability and disability justice matter profoundly and should be front of mind at ASU,” said Gaymon Bennett, director of the Lincoln Center.

“We live so much of our lives in built environments. Because of that, as our friends in disability scholarship remind us, we can experience a misfit between who we are and who our environments demand that we be. By promoting awareness of disability and positive disability culture, this memorial lecture will allow us to take significant steps forward in the lived experience of disability at ASU.”

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