HOLYOKE — Disability-rights activist Chris Palames is the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Service Award from Holyoke Community College.
Palames is the founder of the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, executive director of Independent Living Resources in Florence, and a retired consultant for the Massachusetts Division of Capital and Asset Management, which manages construction projects for publicly owned facilities in the state. He has served on the Northampton Commission on Disability and the Massachusetts Disability Policy Consortium, and frequently advises the staff in HCC’s Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services.
HCC President Christina Royal presented the Distinguished Service Award to Palames at HCC’s 71st commencement ceremony at the MassMutual Center in Springfield on June 2.
“Chris has long been a valued friend of HCC, and, as a consultant for the Commonwealth, has had a significant role in helping to make HCC and other Massachusetts colleges more welcoming and accessible to all,” Royal said. “Chris, thank you for your friendship, and for the important work you do to make our world, our community, and our college a better place. We are so happy to honor you today.”
Palames began his life as an activist as a freshman at Wesleyan University in the 1960s, demonstrating for civil rights on the White House lawn. A spinal-cord injury left him a quadriplegic, but, after a year recuperating, he was back, protesting the Vietnam War and completing his bachelor’s degree in psychology.