For the past 40 years, Rosemary Kreston has been Colorado State University’s strongest supporter and advocate for students with disabilities.

When Kreston arrived on campus in 1980 as the director of CSU’s Resources for Disabled Students, approximately 175 students with disabilities were known to be on campus. Fast-forward to today, and Kreston, who is still director of what is now the Student Disability Center, said it’s at more than 3,200 self-identified students, of which more than half have contact with the SDC every semester.

“I’m really proud that I stayed for 40 years,” Kreston said. “It’s not always been an easy job. It’s not always easy to advocate for change. But I’ve been able to grow the office and hire good people.”

After four decades of leading the center, now located in the TILT building on the Oval, and empowering thousands of students and promoting accessibility across campus, Kreston is retiring from the position at the end of the semester.

Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs at CSU, lauded Kreston’s commitment to the University over the years.

“Rose’s ongoing advocacy and passion for improving access for all students at CSU is the hallmark of her long tenure as the director of the Student Disability Center — formerly Resources for Disabled Students,” Hughes said.

The human experience 

Rosemary Kreston in 2010 with CSU President Tony Frank.

In the 1980s, Kreston got involved in teaching a class in the Department of Occupational Therapy called the Disability Experience, a course that she still teaches today.

Kreston said her goal in teaching is to normalize disability as a human experience and to not have any stigma attached to it.

“Having a disability is not a tragedy,” she said. “It’s just a different human experience. If we can normalize having a disability as a human experience, it might help to make society more open to having people with disabilities around.”

Kreston said students with disabilities are sometimes ashamed to visit the Student Disability Center. “I try to tell students we’re not here to help,” she said. “We’re here to support you and to ensure your civil rights to be here.”

Kathy Sisneros, assistant vice president for Student Affairs at CSU, said Kreston’s leadership and advocacy for individuals with disabilities on an individual and institutional level is unquestionable.

“To know that Rose had a role in essentially any and all facets of how CSU has become a more accessible institution is incredible,” she said. “I get tired just thinking about all that she has contributed over these past 40 years. What an amazing career and legacy for her, for our students and for CSU as a whole.”

Amanda Wimmer first met Kreston about 10 years ago as an undergraduate. As a first-generation student with a disability, the SDC was one of the first offices that she connected with and she said that she instantly felt at home.

“As a first-generation student, I already felt like I didn’t belong on campus and then some course materials were just not accessible to me,” she said. “Rose and others in the office provided me resources, skills, and tools to overcome the barriers.”

Looking back

Student Disability Center staff

CSU Student Disability Center Director Rosemary Kreston poses with her staff.

When Kreston looks back at her time at CSU, she is most proud of the programs that she helped to establish. The Autism Symposium she spearheaded in 2011, which examined ways of empowering college students with autism, was a memorable experience, she said.

Kreston attributes her success to the support that she has received from the University over the years.

“We might not have the biggest budget in the world, but they always pay what they need to pay for us,” she said. “That tells me they are committed to students with disabilities. They also trust us to do the right thing, and I think that’s what I’ve appreciated most.”

To celebrate Kreston’s retirement, members of the Student Disability Center are planning a celebration for her down the road.

“It is my hope that we are able to honor her legacy by continuing to move disability rights and accessibility forward for our CSU community,” Sisneros said. “Rose’s retirement is so well deserved that I hope she can sit back and genuinely appreciate what she has been able to contribute in her lifetime.”

As for what’s next, Kreston plans to remain active within the University community and work on her Ph.D. Most importantly, she said she’s looking forward to not having to wake up so early every morning.

“I’m looking forward to the mundane,” she said. “My life has been run by a calendar for so many years. I’m looking forward to a little freedom.”

In her own words

Read Rosemary Kreston’s piece in SOURCE on the Student Disability Center at source.colostate.edu/guest-column-viewing-disability-through-a-different-lens.