Dr. Ann Turnbull has been a professor, teacher, researcher, and advocate for individuals with disabilities, their families, and service providers for more than 4.5 decades. After being a special education teacher and working in a residential institution, she joined the School of Education faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1973. After seven years, she and her growing family moved to Lawrence, KS where she joined the University of Kansas faculty. In 1988, she was the co-founder with her husband, Rud, of the Beach Center on Disability (www.beachcenter.org) which is a vital hub of national and international research and development on contemporary issues impacting the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families. Ann had a joint appointment with the School of Education and the Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies for 34 years until she retired in 2014.
Ann was the Principal Investigator on over 25 federally funded research and personnel development grants focusing primarily on supporting families of individuals with disabilities. She has co-authored 33 books in the fields of special education and intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is the co-author of two leading textbooks. One is Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools and the other one is Families, Professionals, and Exceptionalities: Positive Outcomes through Partnerships and Trust. She has also co-authored over 280 articles and chapters.
Ann has humbly received a number of awards. In 1999, she was selected by the National Historic Preservation Trust in Developmental Disabilities as one of 36 individuals who "changed the course of history for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 20th century." She received the University of Kansas’ highest awards for graduate education, as well as for research. She was selected in 1990 for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy International Leadership Award and in 2004 for the Distinguished Research Award from The Arc of the US. She was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability and the Council for Exceptional Children. Most recently she received the 2017 Keys to Access Award from CADRE.
Over Ann’s career, she has focused on a wide array of disability-related specializations across the lifespan from early intervention through adulthood. Her favorite topics encompass trusting family-professional partnerships, research-based IDEA implementation, family quality of life, inclusion in schools and communities, positive behavior support, transition to adulthood, comprehensive adult supports, and advocacy. During retirement, she is continuing to work on an array of activities including revisions of her textbooks, conference presentations, module development, and serving as an expert witness.
In addition to her professional credentials, Ann is the parent of three children, one of whom, Jay (1967-2009), was an adult son with multiple disabilities. Ann describes Jay as having an "enviable life" characterized by inclusion; productivity; and contributions to his family, friends, and community. His life and legacy continue to be the source of Ann’s greatest learning, and she appreciatively regards Jay as her “greatest professor.”