Friends of the Life Span Institute


The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies (LSI) is named for Dick Schiefelbusch, long-time director of KU's Bureau of Child Research, the original organization from which the LSI was formed. Dick always attributed the success of the Bureau and of the institute named in his honor to "a cluster of miracles." Perhaps the most important of the "miracles" experienced at KU was the success of the science conducted here. That science toppled conventional thinking about the potential of people facing a wide range of challenges and disabilities. Our scientists have also made pioneering and seminal discoveries in understanding how we develop, learn, think and age. All of these contributions have brought the Life Span Institute international recognition and unprecedented growth.

The growth of the institute from a two-room office into a world-famous research center has required the efforts of hundreds of individual stakeholders and supporters for more than fifty years.

Through the support of its Friends, the Life Span Institute looks to maintain its continued growth and evolution, and continue its influence in discovery, innovation and impact that allows it to influence social policy, disciplinary practice and the quality of individual lives across the life span and in communities throughout the world.


Friends of the Life Span Institute

  • Ron and Pam Borchardt
  • Scott and Julie Borchardt
  • Bill and Nancy Brady
  • John Colombo and Dale Walker
  • Steve Fawcett and Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett
  • Charles Greenwood and Judy Carta
  • Vance Hall
  • Frances Degen Horowitz
  • Amy McCart
  • Lee McLean
  • Virginia Merrill
  • Mabel Rice
  • Dick and Muriel Saunders
  • Richard Schiefelbusch
  • Carolyn Schroeder
  • Karrie Shogren
  • Dale Slusser and Sherry Fowler
  • Joe and Rita Spradlin
  • John and Linda Stewart
  • Rud and Ann Turnbull
  • John and Patty Turner
  • April Waldron
  • Frances Waldron
  • Gary Waldron and Sunny Foster
  • Steve Warren and Eva Horn
  • Mike and Kathryn Wehmeyer
  • Bruce and Melinda Wetherby
  • Glen and Nancy White
  • David and Dee Yoder
  • Mary Ann Zamarripa

The Friends of the Life Span Institute was founded in 2004 to further our collective impact on problems of human and community development, disabilities and aging.

Membership for an individual or couple is $1,000 per year. This annual membership contribution is put to work immediately in our effort to assure that the work of the Life Span Institute has an even greater impact in the future. In addition to the regular membership, we have recently instituted a Young Scientist Membership for $500 per year. This reduced rate is for graduates or postdoctural students who have been part of LSI programs or projects in the past and who are within 10 years of receiving their terminal degrees. Both memberships are tax-deductible.

What will your membership in the friends of the Life Span Institute bring you? First and foremost, we will keep you abreast of recent events in the Institute, with mailings like the LSI Annual Report. You will be invited to our annual Friends dinner weekend in the spring of each year to celebrate awards and to reconnect with friends and mentors. Finally, you will have the comfort of knowing that you are contributing to the continuing innovation and discovery that is characteristic of the work done at the LSI. You will be helping our scientists attain research-based solutions for the challenges of human and community development, disabilities and aging for the benefit of future generations of Kansans, of our nation, and of people all over the world.

We hope that, as a Friend of the Life Span Institute, you will share information on the important work of the Institute with your friends and colleagues. We are confident that increasing our circle of friends will provide opportunities for greater fund raising success in the future.

By joining the Friends of the Life Span Institute, you will be joining us in a journey of discovery and in creating a living legacy of making a difference in countless lives.

For further information: please contact Rob Hileman: 785-864-1997,,
or Dale Slusser at KU Endowment Association: 785-832-7458,

Friends of the Life Span Institute Awards

Friends of the Life Span Institute Graduate Research Awards

In 2005, the Friends of the Life Span Institute launched a new endeavor to assist the research and professional development of outstanding graduate research assistants affiliated with an LSI project. The Friends of Life Span Institute GRA Awards, established with the KU Endowment Association, recognize two doctoral students each year: one at the dissertation stage ($3000) and another in the early stages of graduate study ($2500).

Current Year Awardees


Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 12.05.06 PM_0.png

The Friends of the Life Span Institute selected Kristen Muller to be the 2017 advanced stage graduate student award. She is a Ph.D. candidate in speech-language pathology and graduate assistant under the direction of Professor Nancy Brady. Her primary research interests involve communication in individuals with autism who have minimal verbal skills.

Kevin Pitt edited photo copy.jpeg

Kevin Pitt was selected as the recipient of the 2017 early stage graduate award. Pitt is a doctoral student in speech-language- hearing with an emphasis on neurology and the application of brain-computer interfaces for augmentative and alternative communication. His long-term goal is to translate laboratory based BCI research into clinical applications.

Friends of the LSI Paul Diedrich Award Staff Award

The award was created when Friends of LSI member and former associate director for finance at Life Span Institute, Kristi Billinger contacted the director John Colombo to ask that her contribution to the friends of the LSI be used to create a new award. Also she asked that it be named in honor of former associate director of project development Paul Diedrich, who was for 36 years in charge of pre-award at the Life Span Institute.


Jessica Black-Magnussen was selected to receive the first Friends of the LSI Staff Award. Diedrich worked for many years with Black-Magnussen, who assumed the position of associate director of project development upon his retirement. When presenting the award to Black-Magnussen, Diedrich stated, “I learned more about departmental administration from Ed Zamarripa, but the person who I learned most whenever interacting with the University was from Kristi about research administration, and the person who was most helpful to me was Jess.”

The Friends of Life Span Institute Investigator Awards were established in 2012 to recognize outstanding new and mid-career LSI investigators. Each award winner receives $7500. The awards are for Principal Investigators on externally-funded LSI research projects who are evaluated on the nature and quality of their research record and the potential impact, or realized impact, of their work in generating new knowledge or contributing to translational science in keeping with the mission of the Life Span Institute.

Current Year Awardees



Dale Walker, a senior research faculty member at the Juniper Gardens Children's Project, was awarded one of two 2017 mid-career award by the Friends of the Life Span Institute. She is a national/international expert in early childhood development theory and research pertaining to learning language. This research has focused on identifying the effects of early experience on language development and school readiness, designing and validating interventions for promoting children’s early communication, and developing assessments and observations that can be used by practitioners for informing intervention with infants and young children.


Holly Storkel, chair and faculty member of the Speech, Language, Hearing department, was chosen for one of two Friends of the Life Span institute mid-career awards in 2017. Her research focuses on understanding why some children learn the words of their native language so easily while others struggle and discovering what can be done to help the children who struggle. Her current research focuses on children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), who are slower to learn new words than their peers, placing them at risk for academic failure. Her long-term goal is to develop an effective word learning treatment for kindergarten children with SLI, thereby improving their academic and vocational outcomes.


Navin Viswanathan, a faculty member in the Speech, Language, Hearing department, was awarded the Friends of the Life Span institute early career award in 2017. His research strives to answer a perennial question: how listeners understand language despite the variability of acoustics related to a speaker's dialect, rate of speech and background noise, especially in comparison to speech recognition systems. His work has broad clinical implications for tests of hidden hearing loss, children and adults with cochlear implants and childhood apraxia.