Tribute to David Pfeiffer: 1934 2003

Photo: David Pfeiffer

Professor David Pfeiffer passed away unexpectedly on December 17, 2003. An internationally recognized scholar in the field of disability studies, Pfeiffer, who used a wheelchair as a result of childhood polio, received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Rochester in 1975. Pfeiffer retired in 1997 from Suffolk University in Boston, where he served as Chair of the Department of Public Management. He also initiated Suffolk’s Disability Studies concentration in the MPA program.

In Hawai‘i, Pfeiffer became Resident Scholar at the Center on Disability Studies, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Political Science, and affiliated with the School of Medicine. Pfeiffer published over 200 articles about disability studies, primarily in refereed journals. He also was a well-known advocate who spent the years from 1977 to 1980 as the Massachusetts State Director for the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals. He was instrumental in the creation of the Massachusetts Office on Disability, organizing the Massachusetts Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, and amending the state constitution to prohibit discrimination based on disability. Among his numerous other accomplishments, awards, and activities, he was a Past-President of the Society for Disability Studies and editor of Disability Studies Quarterly. In recognition of his combined excellence in the areas of research, teaching, and advocacy in disabilities, the American Public Health Association DisAbility Special Interest Group awarded Pfeiffer the Alan Meyers Award during its annual meeting in San Francisco in November 2003.

He also served as a mentor to many disability studies scholars and writers, as demonstrated in the many tributes that arrived after he passed on.

At the time of Pfeiffer’s death, he was completing a book about disability theories and leading the effort to develop the Review of Disability Studies (RDS). In recognition of his many contributions RDS will perpetually recognize him as Founding Editor. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Hawai‘i, son Clifford of Massachusetts and daughters Catherine Pfeiffer and Carol Messmore, her husband Peter and their son, Peter, all residing in Florida.

Consistent with Dr. Pfeiffer’s wishes and with the support of his family, anyone wishing to acknowledge his life-long accomplishments, may make a contribution to the Dr. David Pfeiffer Memorial Fund being established with the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, Account #120-3263-4 (UAP) at the following address: University of Hawai‘i Foundation, PO Box 11270, Honolulu, HI 96822-0270.