The McBurney Center is founded in memory of Floyd Mike McBurney. Born and raised in Madison, WI, Floyd Michael McBurney sustained a cervical spinal cord injury in a fall off a pier at age sixteen. Like other individuals with severe physical disabilities in the 1950s, Mike faced a future containing physical and social barriers reflective of the times. Undaunted by his quadriplegia, however, and with the support of family and friends, Mike enrolled at UW-Madison a year after his accident.
Mike graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1960 and earned a law degree at the UW School of Law in 1963. Graduating third in his class, Mike went on to practice law with his father Floyd for three years before running for and winning election as Dane County District Attorney in 1966. It would be easy to imagine that Mike's life would continue on with one achievement after another following him into the future. Sadly, however, Mike died shortly before taking office in 1967, and the dreams and ambitions he held were cut short.
While an undergrad at UW, Mike's sister Georgianna McBurney Stebnitz introduced Mike to James Graaskamp. Graaskamp, a faculty member in the School of Business and a fellow wheelchair user, took this young undergrad under his wing and became a lifelong friend. Recognized in 2006 by the Urban Land Institute as one of Ten Real Estate Legends, Graaskamp was described as a leader with the capacity to make a lasting profound difference, to take risks in pursuit of excellence and whose perseverance ultimately results in better buildings, better neighborhoods and better communities. Graaskamp understood firsthand that the best communities are built when everyone in the community is included.
After Mike died, Graaskamp approached the McBurney family with the idea to use the contributions made in Mike's memory to start a formal disability services office. Working with Dean of Students Paul Ginsberg and Assistant Dean Blair Mathews, the McBurney Center was founded in 1977.
McBurney and Graaskamp were committed to improving access for students with disabilities long before the passage of any federal legislation requiring campus access. They also embraced the idea that a college education is more than attending classes and taking exams. Social, recreational, and athletic events as well as employment and volunteer opportunities are just as essential for students to experience to realize the full measure of the Wisconsin Experience. Creating an accessible campus community for all students is the cornerstone of the McBurney mission and the legacy given to us by these two remarkable men we are proud to claim as Badgers.