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March 30, 2000

OBITUARY: June Bonner Mullins

Pitt special education professor June Bonner Mullins was a strong advocate for the disabled, but she also believed that people have the right to die with dignity.

That's why her family and friends were not surprised when Mullins, after being diagnosed with cancer and given a poor prognosis, chose to live out her days at the Longwood at Oakmont hospice in Plum.

"During this time, June characteristically made everyone feel as good as possible about her choice of a peaceful hospice death. She made us feel that she was physically comfortable and completely tranquil with her decision," her husband, William Mullins, said in a written tribute to his wife, who died on March 16, 2000.

Mullins, 72, was a faculty member at Pitt from 1968 until her retirement 20 years later.

Frieda Hammermeister, who taught with Mullins in the special education department, said: "June was so very intense in all that she did, whether it was teaching or pursuing her interests in the arts, literature, politics and travel. But most of all, she was an advocate for disabled people and, in general, individuals who were disadvantaged."

Mullins always kept her office door open for students, Hammermeister said. "Every time I would walk by, I would see her meeting with someone, often foreign students and students with disabilities."

A Chicago native, Mullins received an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Chicago and her doctorate from Pitt.

During World War II, she worked part-time at the Orthogenic School in Chicago, primarily with autistic children. "This began her life-long commitment to disadvantaged children," said William Mullins, who is now a retired Carnegie Mellon University professor of materials science.

The couple, who met in the 7th grade, married in 1948. After they moved to Pittsburgh, June worked part-time at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and later at the Home for Crippled Children (now the Rehabilitation Institute) before joining the Pitt faculty.

She served on the board of United Cerebral Palsy and wrote numerous research papers and four books, including "Accept Me As I Am," which she co-authored with Joan Friedberg and Adelaide Sukiennik. The American Librarians Association named the book as an outstanding reference work of 1985.

Sukiennik, a retired Pitt faculty librarian, said: "June was a source of energy and inspiration. She got me interested in writing, which was something I had always wanted to do but had never gotten around to doing. She did that with everyone, encouraging them to be their best."

In addition to her husband, Mullins is survived by sons William C. Mullins of Potomac, Md., Oliver C. Mullins of Ridgefield, Conn., Timothy B. Mullins of Squirrel Hill and Garrick R. Mullins of Bethesda, Md.; a brother, Gordon Bonner of Hilton Head, S.C., and nine grandchildren.

Mullins's ashes were buried in the Garden of Memories at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside, where she and her husband had been active since the 1960s.

Memorial contributions may be made to the June and William Mullins Endowment, c/o Pitt's Institutional Advancement office, 500 Craig Hall.

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