Q: Long before KU named an institute after him, this retired KU professor spent two years as a prisoner of war in World War II. In fact, he was held in the same German camp that became the subject of the 1963 movie The Great Escape. What’s the name of this KU professor emeritus, who became a pioneer in the study of intellectual disabilities?
A: Richard Schiefelbusch (or Dick Schiefelbusch)
Richard L. Schiefelbusch joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and became a navigator on B-24 bombers in the European Theatre of Operation during World War II. His plane was shot down while on a mission. He parachuted into the Baltic Sea, was captured, and spent two years in prisoner of war camps - including Stalag Luft 3 in Poland, which was the subject of a 1963 movie The Great Escape. In the camps, he taught group communication courses to the prisoners and helped organize a “civic” organization that worked to improve camp morale. For these efforts, he received a commendation.
After the war, he completed a doctorate at Northwestern University that set his course for a lifetime of public service. It all began with the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, which he established in 1949 at the University of Kansas. Soon after, he took charge of the Kansas Bureau of Child Research.
Schiefelbusch brought together experts to pioneer new ways of studying and addressing intellectual disabilities beginning at the Parsons State Hospital and Training School in 1958 that drew world-wide attention. He retired in 1990.
The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at KU was named to honor his 40 years of leadership and vision.
Compiled from the website of the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies: http://www2.ku.edu/~lsi/aboutus/history.shtml