Disabilities need not preclude

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May 8, 2015

Driscoll '97 named 2015 Outstanding Alumnus by MSU Resource Center for Persons With Disabilities 

Kurt Driscoll ’97 exemplifies the power of higher education to solve problems and improve quality of life. Or, as Michael Hudson, director of the MSU Resource Center for Persons With Disabilities (RCPD) notes, “He is a beacon to help us realize that disabilities need not preclude the achievement of goals and dreams.” 

Kurt Driscoll '97 is being honored for "never losing sight of possibility."

Driscoll was presented the Outstanding Alumnus Award at the 2015 Resource Center for Persons With Disabilities (RCPD) ceremony on April 24 in MSU’s Kellogg Center. The Outstanding Alumnus Award recognizes the accomplishments, leadership and dedication of MSU graduates who have made significant contributions to their field – and who as Spartans apply their education to the betterment of society. 

Hudson said Driscoll is a pioneer in engineering. “Kurt is living a career characterized by noteworthy contributions, despite the challenges he lives daily,” he said. “His physical challenges, as one prevailing despite quadriplegia, demands creativity and effective problem solving to develop solutions throughout his life.” 

Driscoll earned an associates degree in mechanical drafting at Kirkland Community College in Roscommon, Mich., in 1994; a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at MSU in 1997, and an MBA in international business from Lawrence Technological University in 2011. 

At MSU, one of his first professors was Robert Hubbard, who is now retired and a professor emeritis of mechanical engineering. 

“When Kurt was an undergrad, he became interested in the work of my then grad student, Tammy Bush, who was studying seating posture changes and related support forces,” Hubbard recalled. “Tammy had developed a chair that could controllably change spinal curvature.” 

Hubbard said that after much consideration, Driscoll volunteered to sit in the prototype chair. 

“We adjusted the chair to a posture like that of his wheelchair with a flat back. With the help of his aide, we then transferred Kurt to the chair resulting in a posture that was slouched with no lumbar curvature, a common posture for wheelchair users,” Hubbard explained. 

“We then slowly adjusted the chair to increase Kurt’s lumbar curvature.  He smiled, inhaled a big breath and said ‘now I can breathe.’  This was very significant since slouched postures of wheelchair users impedes breathing function.” 

Celebrating with Kurt Driscoll '97 as he received the 2015 Outstanding Alumnus Award from the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities were his college friend Fred Harrington '96 of Petoskey, Professor Emeritis Robert Hubbard, and Associate Dean Thomas Wolff.

The experience sparked a lifelong interest for Driscoll, who has spent the past decade as a validation engineer for safety and regulations at Faurecia Automotive Seating in Auburn Hills, Mich. He is currently in charge of safety and regulation compliance for all of Faurecia’s new seating products in North America. 

“Without the people around me, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” Driscoll said. “I chose MSU because I knew I had the ability to get around here, and I knew MSU had programs to help me achieve my goals. 

“With the steadfast support from my wife, Marissa, and the support of friends and family – some determination and hard work and a willingness to confront changes and view them as opportunities -- have all contributed greatly to my success,” Driscoll explained. 

“The people who enter your life and offer support make the biggest difference. I have been able to do this because of the support I’ve been able to get. I can’t express how much that means,” he added. 

Hudson summarized it this way: “Throughout the past 20 years, Kurt never lost sight of possibility. He has delivered a noteworthy set of accomplishments that make us proud to call him an outstanding Spartan.”