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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI engineering student honored with community service award

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

URI engineering student honored with
community service award from Independent Living Council
Scholarship established to support students with disabilities

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 28, 2006 – An engineering student at the University of Rhode Island has been recognized with a community service award from the Rhode Island Statewide Independent Living Council for his efforts to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. The award was presented to Kevin Cronin of South Kingstown at the Council’s annual meeting last night.

The award recognizes Cronin’s work to help create a unique switch and arm brace to help 11-year-old Caitlin Farless of Wakefield more easily operate a voice output device that helps her communicate. Farless has cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury. The device Cronin developed also helps Farless operate a radio, toys and other equipment.

According to Linda Hutnak of the Independent Living Council, the annual community service award “honors individuals who personify the philosophy of independent living and who, through their efforts, have made life better for others with disabilities.”

A car accident during his freshman year at URI in 1997 left Cronin a quadriplegic, but after years of surgeries and rehabilitation he was inspired to use his mechanical abilities to create ways to help himself and others with disabilities. He helped develop the device for Farless while working as an intern in the URI Assistive Technology Laboratory in 2005.

“Helping Caitlin has given me a great sense of accomplishment,” said Cronin. “It gives me motivation to want to create more tools and devices to help more people. Every day I find myself thinking about how I can make things better for myself and other people by adapting equipment for their special needs.”

While Cronin is not enrolled at URI this fall due to ongoing health concerns, his mother, Nancy Gillespie, has established the Kevin T. Cronin Engineering Scholarship to provide financial assistance to a physically disabled undergraduate student studying engineering at URI.

“I know the overwhelming challenges that Kevin faced while working to earn his college degree, and I want this scholarship to be able to support others who face equally daunting challenges,” said Gillespie. “I’m extremely proud of the way Kevin has faced up to the adversity in his life. He’s an inspiration to me, and I’m sure this scholarship will inspire others to succeed as well.”

Those interested in contributing to the scholarship fund are encouraged to contact URI Senior Development Officer Robert Clough at 401-874-2162 or rclough@advance.uri.edu.

URI Engineering Professor Ying Sun, who mentored Cronin in the Assistive Technology Lab, spoke about the URI student at the Independent Living Council award ceremony. “Kevin has been an invaluable asset to the URI Assistive Technology Lab since he joined us. Many fellow students have benefited from his knowledge of developing assistive technology as an engineer and as a user. His constant striving for independence and generous help for other persons with disabilities has inspired all of us.”