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Outstanding Leadership in Disability Law Award Dinner & Symposium

Headshot of Tom Gilhool
Thomas Gilhool

TASH is celebrating those who have made history in the disability field, and who have worked tirelessly in the legal field for equity, opportunity, and inclusion for people with disabilities. TASH is pleased to announce the inaugural Outstanding Leadership in Disability Law Award Dinner and Symposium, to be held on Wednesday, June 14 at the George Washington University Marvin Center in Washington, DC. A half-day symposium will explore the history and future of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, followed by a reception and dinner to honor Thomas Gilhool, who built his career on precedent-setting lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities.

Symposium and Dinner Agenda (June 14, 2017)
  • 1 PM Symposium
    • Confirmed speakers include: Thomas Gilhool, Jim Conroy, Kate Fialkowski, Liz Healey, Andraéa LaVant, and Ed Martin
  • 5 PM Reception
  • 6 PM Dinner
    • Confirmed keynote speaker: Eve Hill
To learn more about the event, sponsorship opportunities, and ticket sales before purchasing, click here. The registration deadline is Monday, June 8th.
  • If you’d like to register for the event, click here.
  • If you’d like to sponsor the event, click here.
  • If you’d like to purchase an advertisement in the event program, click here.
Any questions about the Outstanding Leadership in Disability Law Award Dinner and Symposium can be directed to Dawn Brown at 301-529-0585 or at

“Congratulations to Tom Gilhool, a trailblazer who has always lit the path on the way to justice.”
– The Honorable Gerald Austin McHugh


About Thomas Gilhool

Thomas Gilhool, JD, is a retired staff attorney from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP). He has been the lead attorney in precedent-setting lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities. Gilhool was an attorney with PILCOP for 27 years. He retired in 2006 after being active in the public interest community for 41 years.

While serving as consumer advocate and director of law reform at Community Legal Services during the late 1960s, Gilhool won the first legal services case to reach the United States Supreme Court, Smith v. Reynolds, in which the Court struck down the durational residency requirement for public assistance benefits.

Gilhool‘s accomplishments also include his pioneering representation of plaintiffs in PARC v. Commonwealthof Pennsylvania, which established the constitutional right of children with disabilities to a free, appropriate public education. This decision was the source of the first federal civil rights acts in this area: Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act of 1973 and what is now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He served as the lead counsel in Halderman v. Pennhurst which established the Right to Habilitation, the Right to be Free from Harm, and the Right to Non-discriminatory Habilitation. In 1990 Gilhool developed a coalition of legal services organizations to enforce a new provision of the Social Security Act, which required states receiving federal funds to provide basic health care to children enrolled in Medicaid. The ensuing litigation led to the additional enrollment of 300,000 children in Pennsylvania.

In 2003 he received a senior Fulbright Fellowship in Japan and brought together Japanese and American advocates for disability rights to consider how each country could build on the success of the other. He then participated in the United Nations drafting of a convention on rights of persons with disabilities. Gilhool is also the first Philadelphian to have served as secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Lehigh University, Yale University and Yale Law School.

“We honor Tom Gilhool, his lifetime of service and many accomplishments.”
– Betsy and David Wice

Thanks to Our Host Committee

TASH would like to extend a huge thank you to our host committee: Ruthie-Marie Beckwith, Alison Barkoff, Jim Conroy, Ralph Edwards, Judith Gran, Frank Laski, Mat McCollough, Ruby Moore, Barbara Ransom, and Madeleine Will.

“Congratulations, Tom! With deep appreciation from the Board and Staff of the Georgia Advocacy Office.”

“To Tom: our friend and teacher. Your vision for a day in which people with disabilities live, play and work in an integrated world challenged and inspired a whole new generation of Public Interest Law Center lawyers.”

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