July 26 is recognized annually in the United States as National Disability Independence Day. The observance commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990. In this feature, we look back at a story previously published by Notre Dame Law School about an alumnus honored for his “contributions to people with disabilities worldwide and his life’s reflection of Notre Dame values.”
John Lancaster ’67, ’74 J.D., a Vietnam War veteran and pioneering advocate for disability rights, was honored this spring with the Notre Dame Law Association’s Father William Lewers Award.
Judge Thomas D. Schroeder ’84 J.D., president of the NDLA Board, presented the award to Lancaster at the board’s spring meeting on March 24 in recognition of his “distinguished service to the United States, his contributions to people with disabilities worldwide, and his life’s reflection of Notre Dame values.”
The citation on the award also included the observation that “Lancaster’s story reminds us that some of our most committed peacemakers are warfighters.”
Lancaster was nominated for the award by two retired Marines, First Sgt. Jim Barnett and Lt. Col. Patrick J. Finneran Jr. ’67, ’09 Ph.D. (Hon.). Lancaster and Finneran both attended the University of Notre Dame on Navy ROTC scholarships and graduated in the same class. Barnett was the assistant Marine officer instructor for the Navy ROTC unit at Notre Dame when he first got to know Lancaster and, a Vietnam combat veteran himself, has stayed in close touch with him ever since.
“John is truly an American hero in war and in peace. His combat injuries led him to becoming a national leader for civil and human rights for people with disabilities,” Finneran said. “His love for Notre Dame, and her values have been a guiding force in his life. He has the admiration and respect of all who know him. It was sincerely a privilege for me and Jim Barnett to recommend John for this wonderful award.”
Originally published by Notre Dame Law School at law.nd.edu on April 27, 2023.