Jane Small dedicated her life to championing the rights of people with disabilities. Her work earned accolades from elected officials and civil rights activists across the country, including a declaration by then California Gov. Gray Davis of a “Jane Small Memorial Day” when she died in 1999.
Hoping to inspire a new generation of advocates, California State University, Northridge officials award CSUN’s first scholarships to students working on behalf of people with disabilities in Small’s honor next month.
The Jane Small Scholarship for Advocates for People with Disabilities was created by Small’s son, Jack Goetz, an educator and mediator, and his wife, Jennifer Kalfsbeek-Goetz, assistant dean of CSUN’s Tseng College. The pair said it was only “natural” to create such a scholarship at CSUN given the university’s international reputation for meeting the needs of students with disabilities and creating programs to serve people with disabilities in the community.
“I’m surprised that someone hadn’t done something like this before us,” Kalfsbeek-Goetz said. “Jane Small was such an inspiration, and she still is. Her mission to create access for disenfranchised groups is being recognized in this scholarship. There is no other place in this country, maybe even the world, more about disabilities access — relevant disabilities access — than CSUN. It’s part of our culture. It’s who we are.
“It’s only right that we honor those students — in their classroom work, their research or in their personal lives — who are making that idea of accessibility a reality,” she said.
Kalfsbeek-Goetz and her husband established the endowment for the scholarship with a $10,000 gift. University officials are accepting applications this spring for one to two $1,000 scholarships, which will be awarded to students attending the university this fall. The scholarships are open to all students, from entering freshmen to graduate, credential and non-credit enrolled students, who are using their studies and/or volunteer work to advocate for people with disabilities.
Small spent much of her life working on behalf of the disenfranchised, particularly those with disabilities. She served as vice chair of the city of Los Angeles’ Advisory Council on Disability, legislative chair of the California Association of Persons with Handicaps, director of program development of the Los Angeles Comprehensive Rehabilitative Center, director of the Westside Center for Independent Living and was a member of the UCLA’s Chancellor’s Committee on Disability and the Los Angeles Olympic Committee Advisory Board on Disability. She also was active with the housing task force of the California Department of Rehabilitation, the Select Committee on Consumer Involvement of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities. Small founded the Disabilities Awareness Month observance in Santa Monica and initiated that city’s creation of the Office of the Disabled.
In 1990, at the age of 59, Small enrolled in law school, determined to give more power to her advocacy efforts, Kalfsbeek-Goetz said.
“She was always trying to find ways that she could do more,” Kalfsbeek-Goetz said.
Small died in October 1999. A month later, then Gov. Davis proclaimed Nov. 20, 1999 as “Jane Small Memorial Day,” to honor her work advocating on behalf of people with disabilities.
“The scholarship is another way to honor her legacy,” Kalfsbeek-Goetz said. “It will hopefully inspire future advocates to follow in her footsteps.”