Remembering professor, benefactor Janet Wessel

February 4, 2016

Wessel-JanetProfessor Emerita Janet Wessel, a pioneer in the field of adaptive physical education, passed away on Jan. 29, 2016 at age 96.

Wessel retired from the College of Education in 1984 after more than 25 years on the faculty. She continued to provide scholarly and financial contributions toward the goals of improving health and fitness for people of all ages throughout her life.

Her endowed planned gift to MSU will provide significant resources to support the research activities of students in the Department of Kinesiology, particularly those studying issues affecting girls and women.

Starting out as one of few female scholars in her field, she became a trailblazer through her study of women in physical activity during the 1960s and then in her quest to provide physical education for learners with disabilities in the 1970s.

Wessel is nationally known for creating the I CAN Achievement Based Curriculum (ABC), which set the stage for teachers integrating physical activity into classes for children with disabilities in an era when schools were just beginning to serve the population. The I CAN curriculum was later adapted for inclusive settings where students with and without disabilities are educated together.

“It was just truly pioneer work to get in and figure out what needed to be done,” said retired Kinesiology faculty member Gail Dummer, one of the many faculty and students Wessel mentored during her tenure at MSU. “Janet believed that everyone belongs, and she has shown tremendous care for people.”

Scholarships played an important role for Wessel to attain her own education. Among her philanthropic gifts, she has funded teaching assistantships for MSU students connected with the Sports Skills Program, which continues to provide instruction for athletes of all ages with various disabilities. Her endowed planned gift to MSU, the Janet A. Wessel Endowed Fund for Research of Physical Activity, Health and Fitness for Girls and Women, honors her original commitment to better understand the impact of exercise for women, including some of the country’s first research on the aerobic capacity of older women.

She received numerous awards including the Julian Stein Award, the highest honor of the national Adapted Physical Activity Council.

A memorial service will be held from 2-4 p.m. on July 16, 2016 at the First Congregational Church, 51 E. Third Street in Shelby, Mich.

Contributions can also be made to her endowed fund at MSU. Click here to make a gift online.