When he first arrived in Urbana-Champaign in 1977, Brad Hedrick told a friend, “I’ve landed in the middle of a cornfield that is Disneyland for people in wheelchairs.” He found not only a campus but also an entire community that was accessible, something that was unheard of at the time.
Almost 40 years later, Dr. Hedrick was honored for his outstanding contributions to the University of Illinois’ leadership in accessibility with the 2016 Harold Scharper Award, named for the first World War II veteran with a disability to attend the University.
“I came here to study with Tim [Dr. Tim Nugent, founder of the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services], a giant in the disability movement,” he said. “It was a godsend to come here, and to serve people with disabilities in the state, the nation, and the world through DRES.”
Dr. Hedrick completed his Ph.D. in Leisure Studies, now Recreation, Sport and Tourism, and served as the head coach of varsity teams for students with disabilities as well as an administrator, educator, and researcher within DRES. He became the director of DRES in 1995, serving in that position until his retirement in 2014.
“The concept of the scientist-clinician was Tim’s,” he said. “While providing services, you study those services. That’s how we’ve grown and changed and evolved.”
When he assumed the leadership position, he said DRES was “the best-kept secret on campus.” He led a rebirth in awareness of the value of DRES and expanded services to students with non-visible disabilities. The unit now serves well over 1000 students across campus, which is routinely recognized as one of the top disability-friendly campuses in the world.
In 2005, Dr. Hedrick was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame for his contributions to the development of the sport. He received academic professional excellence awards from both AHS and the University of Illinois in 2006, and in 2008 was honored with the Charles K. Brightbill Alumni Award by the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism.
“One thing you learn as a coach,” he said, “is that you must always depend on others to achieve success. I’ve been fortunate to have spent my professional life in the vibrant and supportive community of DRES. It’s been a glorious ride.”