Fialkowski Papers to Reside at Temple University Libraries

April 2015

PHOTO: David Fialkowski, Mary Bisignaro, and Celia Feinstein at presentation
David Fialkowski and Mary Bisignaro present the Fialkowski family papers as Institute Co-Executive Director Celia Feinstein looks on.

The papers of the Leona and Marion Fialkowski family are now a permanent part of the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University Libraries. On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, siblings David Fialkowski, Kate Fialkowski, and Mary Bisignaro formally donated the collection to the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education, in memory of their brother Walter.

Leona Fialkowski was a pioneer and tireless activist for the rights of people with disabilities, having worked during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to improve Pennsylvania's educational, residential, and employment systems and create a world where all people are treated with equal dignity throughout their life. The mother of eleven children (two with significant disabilities), inspired countless individuals and families to advocacy. Before her death in 1996, Leona wrote: "The torch must be carried by the parents of the younger generation, and the tools that I give them to overcome their obstacles are the following: Never-ending hope, perseverance, and the unequivocal belief that all people are created equal."

Celia Feinstein, co-executive director of the Institute on Disabilities, says that impact of Marion and Leona Fialkowski's work will be felt for years to come. "Families have benefitted from their tireless work on behalf of their sons," Ms. Feinstein says "and for countless others throughout the city of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth and the nation.

Ms. Feinstein added that Leona was instrumental in helping to close the Pennhurst center. "She taught families to advocate for themselves and to expect nothing but the best lives in the community for their sons and daughters."

The Fialkowski papers include photographs, letters, newspaper articles and other documents that demonstrate a lifetime of dedication to equality and full inclusion for people with disabilities.

"It was our parent's desire that this collection be a standing recognition of the inestimable value of the lives of their sons, Walter and David—emblematic of all lives with and without disabilities," Kate Fialkowski explains. "It was their hope that these papers could eventually inform, educate, and inspire other leaders in courageous and tenacious pursuit of essential human dignity. In fulfillment of our parent's wishes, we are honored to donate this collection in memory of our brother Walter."

The Fialkowski papers will join other notable disability rights collections housed at the Special Collections Research Center including the Dennis Haggerty papers, donated to the Institute in 2008, as well as the papers of Judge Raymond Broderick who presided over the landmark Halderman v. Pennhurst case, and the records of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

"This collection will help generations of students, scholars, and others tell the stories of the little-known history of the Intellectual Disabilities Movement," says Margery Sly, Director of Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries. "It is an important addition, offering the perspective of not only an advocate but a mother."

PHOTO: Alison Andregic accepts award from David Fialkowski and Mary Bisignaro
Graduate student Alison Andregic, right, accepts award from Mary Bisignaro and David Fialkowski.

David Fialkowski, Leona and Marion's youngest son, along with two of his sisters, Kate and Mary, also named the annual Fialkowski Family Disability Studies award winner on April 21. The award is given to a Temple University graduate student who exemplifies the mission and vision of the Institute on Disabilities and who has demonstrated excellence in the areas of community inclusion, integration or disability rights. This year, the annual Fialkowski Family Disability Studies Award winner is Alison Andregic.

Amy Goldman, co-executive director of the Institute says, "The Fialkowski award is just one of the ways that the Institute demonstrates its commitment to guiding the next generation to becoming fully informed and impassioned leaders of all people, including individuals with disabilities."

The gift and award was presented during the annual Graduate Student Poster Session sponsored by the Institute on Disabilities in partnership with the College of Education at Temple University. During the session, nine graduate students presented posters on a variety of topics. Also presenting were students from two College of Education courses, Ethnographic Research Methods and Introduction to Research Design and Methods.

To view an interview with Kate and David Fialkowski, about the history of the movement, go to the Visionary Voices section of the Institute's website:

For more information about any of these programs, email:

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