A UNC Charlotte professor has won the top faculty award given by the UNC system.
Diane Browder, a special education professor at UNCC, received the O. Max Gardner Award Friday during a meeting of the UNC system's Board of Governors.
Browder has spent more than two decades on academic instruction and assessment methods for severly disabled children. Her work has changed educational expectations for disabled children and helped shape educational policies and practices, according to a Friday news release.
"Dr. Browder is living proof that the research we do on our campuses matter," UNC system President Tom Ross said.
Browder's award, which carries a $20,000 prize, is given annually from the will of former Gov. Oliver Max Gardner to recognize faculty who make "the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race."
A Duke graduate, Browder has long worked to dispel the notion that children with severe disabilities can't learn cognitive or academic skills.
In accepting her award, she told a short anecdote that elicited smiles and tingles from a packed room of onlookers. It centered on a young girl who was severely disabled. She'd never spoken in her life, communicating essentially through with her eyes.
Then one day, Browder was quizzing her with pictures. She locked eyes on a picture and, for the first time in her life, spoke.
The word was "apple."