Mission to be accomplished

Annie "Anne" Hopkins

On Jan. 20, 2009, the disability community lost a tireless advocate and social entrepreneur when Anne “Annie” Hopkins passed away unexpectedly at age 24.

At the time, Hopkins was a larger-than-life student in the AHS disability studies doctoral program. Her academic work and her personal accomplishments all centered on one goal: to positively change societal perceptions of people with disabilities.

Before her death, Hopkins and her brother Stephen co-founded 3E Love, an apparel company that produces merchandise featuring Hopkins’ wheelchair-heart logo, which she designed in 2004 when she and Stevie (as her brother is known) were both undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

That simple icon, as well as the products that feature it, are now embraced around the world, and the once small-scale, single-purposed T-shirt company has become “an international movement of acceptance,” to quote the 3E Love website.

After Hopkins’ death, her family established the Anne Hopkins Foundation to advance the work she was striving to accomplish during her life. In 2013, the foundation endowed the Anne Hopkins Scholarship Fund to support University of Illinois students, in Urbana-Champaign and in Chicago, who are working to continue Hopkins’ mission related to disability advocacy and awareness.

At UIC, the scholarship will annually support graduate-level students in Disability and Human Development whose academic interests align with Hopkins’ own: researching the intersection of disability and sexual/romantic relationships; pursuing social entrepreneurship; and advocating for the social model of disability, i.e., the concept that people are disabled more by unaccommodating environments, negative attitudes and social exclusion than they are by their medical diagnoses.

“Society and people’s perceptions are what make people disabled,” says Stevie Hopkins, talking about the importance of his sister’s academic work. “Research in the social model of disability opens people’s minds, and its impact expands beyond disability. I can’t change my disability, but I can change the way the world views the disabled. There shouldn’t [have to] be laws to enforce accessibility; society should naturally consider all people in all types of decisions, policy and designs.”

Chun-Shan “Sandie” Yi and Ashley Volion, PhD students in the disability studies program, were the inaugural Anne Hopkins Scholarship recipients. They were recognized on Sept. 30, 2013, during a reception attended by Hopkins’ colleagues, family and friends.

Yi’s work addresses the bodily and social experiences of disabled people, particularly experiences of social stigma. She creates “wearable art” that “centers on the histories and narratives generated within and performed by the disabled body through everyday social interactions, including intimate relationships with the self and others,” she says.

Yi will use her scholarship award to launch a series of community-based art workshops. She intends then to curate an exhibit of the art produced in those settings to promote community-building, education and advocacy.

Volion’s research focuses on issues of sexuality and disability.  Her early research is directed towards “debunking various myths associated with the intersections of gender, sexuality and disability from the vantage point of women with serious physical disabilities,” she says. With this scholarship award, she hopes to advance her research in this area by “delving further into how one’s disability and level of needed care-assistance affects how one views of [him/herself] as a sexual being.”

Education was very important for Hopkins. Even more important was action—selfless action.

“Annie was always thinking about how she could apply what she learned to benefit others,” recalls Stevie Hopkins.

The Anne Hopkins Scholarship makes it possible for students to achieve the degree Hopkins wasn’t able to finish, and to further her legacy of selfless action through research and advocacy.

To donate to the Anne Hopkins Scholarship Fund visit, ahs.uic.edu/support. To learn more about Annie Hopkins and the foundation in her name, visit annehopkinsfoundation.org. To learn more about 3E Love, visit 3Elove.com.