University Advancement

$50,000 scholarship donation in memory of Hank Bersani

Dr. Hank Bersani Jr.

Western Oregon University (WOU) has received an anonymous gift of $50,000 toward the Hank Bersani Student Scholarship Fund. It was created in April to honor the memory and work of Dr. Henry Alexander (Hank) Bersani Jr., a beloved professor of special education at WOU who died following an accident in March. The scholarship will support students who want to follow in his footsteps to become educators and leaders in the field of special education. Working closely with family members, the university plans to name its first recipient this fall.

This donor was deeply moved by Bersani’s contributions; both in and out of the classroom; as a scholar, teacher, leader, and for his work in support of people with disabilities. Through his compassion for others and love of learning, Bersani embodied the spirit of WOU’s College of Education (CoE).

After receiving notification of the anonymous gift, wife Lynda Bersani stated, “Hank worked hard in many ways throughout his 40-year career to advance the cause of justice and opportunity for persons with disabilities and their parents, but the venue in which he best expressed and fulfilled his lifelong passion was in the College of Education of Western Oregon University. There he both taught and learned from his students who he knew would carry forward that passion in their own careers. We are so grateful for this generous scholarship gift because it will help extend Hank’s legacy of passion for justice as it encourages students to pursue studies in special education.”

Born in Syracuse, New York on February 10, 1951, Bersani graduated from St. Michael’s College (Vermont) with a bachelor’s degree, and from Syracuse University with the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Special Education. He joined Western Oregon University in 1999 after serving at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in the areas of public health and preventive medicine. He also provided training coordination for OHSU in special education and rehabilitative counseling. Bersani had extensive experience providing administrative, instructional or research services for The Arc of Oregon, Human Services Research Institute, Portland State University, University of Portland, Lewis & Clark College, National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Syracuse University, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and other organizations supporting research and training on issues related to the community integration of persons with disabilities.

More recently, Bersani shared his knowledge and expertise with the Forgotten People Foundation; an organization assisting special needs children and adults in Vietnam. In January of this year, Bersani participated in an international forum on disability issues in Doha, Qatar, and toured the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs.

The recipient of many awards, Bersani received the Mario and Alma Pastega Scholarship Award for scholarly work at WOU, the Multnomah County Arc Educator of the year award, the Rosemary F. Dybwad International Travel Fellowship Award, the Mary Switzer Distinguished Research Fellowship from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Arc US Franklin Smith National Service Award, and a Public Policy Leadership Fellowship from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation in Washington, DC., where he was assigned to U.S. Senator John H. Chaffee working on Medicaid waiver legislation. Bersani was a Fellow in the American Association on Mental Retardation, renamed the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. He served as its president in 2006-07 and was actively involved in the change of name for the organization, advocating a more contemporary view of intellectual and developmental disabilities that the new name signified.

To make a gift to the Hank Bersani Student Scholarship Fund, click here and please note that it’s for this fund. Or contact Tommy Love, director of advancement and executive director of the WOU Foundation at 503-838-8134 or

About the College of Education
The CoE has been continuously accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and Oregon’s Teacher Standards and Practices Commission since 1954. The college is one of only eight nationally accredited teacher preparation programs in Oregon. In 2008 the college achieved accreditation by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). The BA/BS in American Sign Language/English Interpreting program earned full national accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education in 2010.

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Tommy Love
Director of advancement and executive director of the WOU Foundation
503-838-8134 or

One thought on “$50,000 scholarship donation in memory of Hank Bersani

  1. My fifteen year old daughter has an opportunity to travel with people to people this Summer. We are in the process of identifying potential sponsors and grants to make her dream a reality. Kassandra worked at the Palettes Foundation in Tokyo Japan along side of individuals with developmental disabilities and met with the ambassador of social services, Naoko Taniguchi. She now has an opportunity to travel with people to people and again learn about the rights and opportunities and conditions of people with special needs in other countries. Please contact me at
    I am an SMC graduate, 87.

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