2015 Genius Grant Goes To BC Alumna Alex Truesdell

Early last week, the MacArthur Foundation publicly named 24 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “MacArthur Genius Grant,” for the year 2015. These scholars, innovators, and artists were selected for a monetary endowment of $625,000 over five years based on the criteria of “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Unlike many grants of this variety, however, the MacArthur Fellowship grant is truly “no strings attached,” said Cecilia A. Conrad, the managing director of the foundation.

“They don’t have to report to us,” Conrad said in an interview with the New York Times following the announcement of the 2015 recipients. “They can use the funds in any way they see fit.”

Among this extraordinarily selective group of “people of outstanding talent,” for her work as the founder and director of the nonprofit Adaptive Design Association, is an inspired woman determined to change the lives of children with special needs—entrepreneur and former Eagle Alex Truesdell, LGSOE ’82.

Proclaimed by the MacArthur Foundation as a “visionary social entrepreneur … who challenges our assumption that disabilities are fixed,” Truesdell’s nomination and selection come as a result of her work with ADA, which creates innovative and inexpensive devices to improve the lives of children with special needs at home and at school. Ranging from steps that allow a child to climb in and out of a wheelchair to seats that make standard-sized classroom desks accessible for little people, Truesdell’s work as the director of ADA has reached people all across the United States and the world. The low-cost and high-quality adaptive equipment produced by the ADA as reached “families, clinicians, and educators as far away as India, Guatemala, and Ecuador,” and is constantly improving the lives of thousands of children.

Truesdell received a B.S. and M.Ed. from Lesley University, and, prior to founding ADA, was affiliated with the nearby Perkins School for the Blind for nearly 20 years. At Perkins, she was the founder and coordinator of the Assistive Device Center. A 1982 graduate with a M.Ed. from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, Truesdell’s accomplishment comes on the heels of the MacArthur Fellowship won by BC history professor Robin Fleming just two years ago.

“All of us at Boston College, particularly at the Lynch School of Education where she received her master’s degree, are proud of Alex for this prestigious honor,” Jack Dunn, director of the Office of News and Public Affairs, said in an email to The Heights.

Truesdell’s endeavors have once again taken her outside of the U.S. and she is currently in Lima, Peru setting up an adaptive design center at a school for children with multiple disabilities. This effort is one of many of its kind hoping to build an “association” of adaptive design projects across the world, with similar efforts underway in Toronto, Brazil, Boston, Montreal, San Diego, Romania, Holland and more, according to the ADA website. The Lima effort is one of two projects currently in its beginning stages, resembling a similar project in Portland, OR.

“She is a visionary social entrepreneur and a distinguished alumna who has brought great honor to her alma mater,” Dunn said.

Correction: the article incorrectly referred to the MacArthur Foundation as the MacMullen Foundation. The article has been corrected.

Featured Image courtesy of The New York Times

About James Lucey 36 Articles
James Lucey is the Features Editor at The Heights and a member of the class of 2017 at Boston College. He had high hopes for writing a good bio, but couldn't be clever on the spot. Hi mom.