McBurney Disability Resource Center Celebrates Grand Opening

Bobbi Cordano

Bobbi Cordano (

“The Chief is smiling,” Greg Rice (’77 BA BUS) told the audience at the McBurney Disability Resource Center grand opening celebration. Rice was a student of the late, legendary James Graaskamp, professor of real estate in the UW-Madison School of Business and “The Chief” to his students. Rice, managing partner of Executive Management, Inc., also was project manager on the McBurney Center construction project, where he heeded his teacher’s lessons and high expectations.

Hosted by Cathy Trueba, director, and the McBurney Center’s staff and students, the event also included Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano (’90 JD LAW), alumna and disability advocate, and Meagan Minster (X’12 BSW), current UW-Madison student and McBurney Center employee. Provost Paul DeLuca welcomed more than 100 guests and recalled that one of the Center’s early homes was in the same building as his dentist.

Cordano, a member of the Deaf community, utilized McBurney Center resources while pursuing her law degree. Currently, she is vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. She worked as assistant attorney general for Minnesota and at the University of Minnesota as director of Disability Services, Office of Disability Services and as assistant dean, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Junior Meagan Minster (X ’12 BSW) was recently admitted to the Social Work program. She has been employed at the McBurney Center for three years as a Disability Program Aide (DPA) and was promoted to DPA Coordinator supervising front desk operations and student receptionist staff. She is a 2010 recipient of the McBurney Scholarship Program.

Blair Mathews (’53 BSE, ’54 MS EDU), emeritus assistant dean of students and another of the McBurney Center’s pioneering founders, also was on hand to share stories of the early challenges and triumphs.

“It is uncommon for a disability program to be able to design space from the ground up,” said Trueba. “The care and quality of the McBurney design underscores the campus commitment to students with disabilities. The message of inclusion in our location at the front door to campus along with the Office of Admissions and Recruitment demonstrates the University’s national leadership in serving this population. This is the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

Photos from the Grand Opening

Sandy Wilcox at mcburney with Al Fish McBurney Center staff demonstrated how closed captioning is done in the area devoted to Deaf and Hard of Hearing services. Cathy Trueba ('86 MA EDU), director of the McBurney Disability Resource Center, welcomed guests to the grand opening.

The new location at 702 W. Johnson Street features:

  • After-hours access for students using the Adaptive Technology Lab,
  • Dedicated space for the Accessibility Advocates student organization and the McBurney Speakers Bureau peer eduction program,
  • The James Graaskamp Conference room with enhanced audio/visual capabilities,
  • Accessible parking and a Madison Metro Paratransit stop near the front entrance,
  • A central campus location.

Founded in 1977, prior to the Americans With Disabilities Act, the McBurney Center has advocated for and assisted students, families and the UW-Madison campus community in navigating the academic and practical concerns faced by people with disabilities. The Center is a welcoming community and resource for students with ADHD; Deafness or hearing loss; learning disabilities; low vision and blindness; mobility, psychiatric or health-related disabilities; and traumatic brain injury.

Graaskamp, paralyzed by polio as a teenager, navigated campus in an oversized wheelchair and was one of the primary campus leaders who helped create the Center in the late 1970s. He encouraged naming the Center after his friend, Mike McBurney (’60 BA, ’63 JD). Mike McBurney was paralyzed as a result of a diving accident but earned both of his degrees at the UW-Madison and practiced law until his death in 1967. A gift from the McBurney family fund provided initial financial support for the Center. Mike’s sister, Georgianna McBurney Stebnitz joined other guests to tour the Center and dedicate the James Graaskamp Conference Room.