The Office of Disability Services at Villanova University has established the Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award to recognize an individual, group, or organization that exemplifies the spirit and service that Father Bill embodied throughout his life. The annual award, established in 2012 in honor of the late Father Bill Atkinson, is designed to recognize an individual, group, or organization for outstanding service to their community and beyond.
Awards & Recognitions
2019 Fr. Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award Winners
Michael and Deb Gaynor
Junior Management Information Systems major
Why this standout leader on campus isn’t afraid to embrace disability as part of his identity
Andrew Wykowski’s college experience has all the hallmarks of a Villanova education. He’s thrown himself into campus life as an Orientation leader, he’s active in student groups, and he’s found purpose and meaning through participating in service trips. However, he had different criteria on his college search than many of his peers.
The first stop on his campus tour was Villanova’s Office of Disability Services (ODS). Less than a year before, Andrew had broken his neck and been temporarily paralyzed in a swimming accident. He had spent months enduring grueling physical therapy and, to the awe of his doctors, therapists and parents, he was walking again with assistance less than four months after the injury—a feat that typically takes two years.
But his ongoing recovery was not forefront in his mind when Andrew met with staff from ODS during that first visit. It was the severe dyslexia that he’d coped with since grade school.
“I’ve worked to find my identity in my disability throughout my whole life, so college for me has been about surrounding myself with people who are supportive and make me feel comfortable to be who I am, and also being that support for others,” he says.
He’s found that at Villanova, especially in LEVEL, a student organization formed to bridge the gap between students with various abilities and disabilities. Academically, Andrew credits the support provided by ODS staff, who made sure he had the technology and other accommodations he needed in class, with helping him to get on and stay on the right track.
“I’ve been accepted and embraced here, and that feeling has been integral for me in growing into the person that I am,” he says.
Students, Jordan Dilliard, Thomas San Nicholas, Peter Prokop. Ellie Wright and Nick Carney receive a citation from Delaware County Commissioner Council Chairmen, John McBlain for their work on Gold Mettle, a movie about the Delaware County Soccer Team that participates every year in the Fall Festival Special Olympics. The movie follows the team as they prepare for the games and the effects it has on the athletes and their families. Beautifully written, produced and photographed, this film was a result of their Film class with faculty, Steve McWilliams, John O'Leary and Matt Marencik.
LEVEL's FALL EVENTS
LEVEL had another incredibly successful semester during the Fall of 2016. As a group, we went to a Phillies game, visited the haunted Eastern State Penitentiary, teamed up with the Career Center for a Disability Panel at the Career Fair, and went on another amazing retreat. The group became closer than ever this semester and also pulled off an event that has been in the making since the group was started--a banquet. LEVEL is constantly growing and evolving as new members make their mark on the group.