UPDATED: Family To Establish Karen Foran Dempsey Memorial Scholarship

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FRAMINGHAM – A scholarship will be created to honor former District 2 School Committee member and co-founder of the Framingham Disability Commission Karen Foran Dempsey, who died on December 24, 2020, said her husband Mark.

Dempsey said the scholarship will go a Framingham resident, who has a disability, who is seeking to go to college or trade school.

“The scholarship will be open to anyone who wants to achieve their goals in life, be it cooking school or college,” said Dempsey. “I don’t want to limit it to just college, so if someone wants to go to a trade school or culinary school, and has a disability, they would be eligible to apply.”

“Karen’s life mission was breaking down barriers for equal access for those with disabilities,” said Janet Leombruno, Karen’s sister. “This scholarship continues this mission by helping a Framingham student with a disability. I am proud that my sister’s fighting spirit lives on with the Karen Foran Dempsey scholarship.”

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a child, Karen Foran Dempsey used a motorized scooter to get around the community, and was a passionate champion for those with disabilities.

In 2002, she co-founded the Framingham Disability Commission, and served on it until her passing.

Dempsey graduated from Marian High School and Regis College. She was elected to the School Committee in November 2019.

District 1 School Committee member Beverly Hugo is sponsoring the family’s request with the Framingham School Committee. It is on the agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting.

“In light of the tragic loss that we are all suffering, I think that it is entirely appropriate that the Framingham School Committee establish a scholarship in Karen’s name as a tribute to a tireless advocate for the rights of the disabled. Although details would need to be worked out with her family, the intention would be to establish an annual scholarship that would be awarded to a deserving student with a disability who plans to attend a college or university. With Karen’s constantly optimistic and cheerful nature, determination, and desire  to improve the lives of all those that she advocated for, I am sure that she would be humbled and proud of having a scholarship endowed in her name. While she will be sorely missed by all in Framingham, it will be comforting to all of us to know that Karen’s name will be honored and associated with her cause in perpetuity,” said Hugo.

School Committee policy calls for the elected Committee to approve any new scholarships, before students are allowed to apply.

Dempsey said his goal is to give the first scholarship in 2021, but the family is just starting the process, with Karen’s death 10 days ago.

“Our family is absolutely humbled by the outpouring of support from the community,” said Dempsey on Sunday. A Meal Train has been set up to help the family. Karen left twin middle school boys William & Joseph, along her her husband Mark, and extended family.

Dempsey said the family still needs to set up parameters for the scholarship, open a bank account, and decide how the scholarship would be awarded.

“Setting up a scholarship for students with disabilities to have an opportunity to go to college is a great way and opportunity to honor Karen’s legacy to help others,” said Chair of the Framingham Disability Commission Ricky Finlay, whose family is very close to the Dempsey Family.

“The scholarship would be a testament to Karen’s legacy. She had this never quit attitude and she never gave up anything in life,” said Finlay.

“Karen helped break down barriers throughout her life,” said her husband Mark. “People with disabilities can do anything these days, and this scholarship will allow someone to achieve their dream, and continue to break down barriers like she did.”

“My hope is that someone who receives this scholarship will carry on her legacy, and put their imprint on our community like Karen did,” said Mark.

Updated on January 6, with wording from the School Committee packet (below):

About the Karen Foran Dempsey Memorial Scholarship

Born and raised in Framingham, Karen Foran Dempsey spent her entire life advocating for equality for those with disabilities. She experienced a challenging physical disability from her early years and never let it impede her living life to the fullest, as she used her experience to advocate vigorously for all people to have equal access and equal opportunity.

This scholarship continues Karen’s mission by helping a deserving Framingham High School student with a physical disability with financial support for post-secondary education. This could include but is not limited to college, trade school, and/or culinary school.

Karen’s life mission was breaking down barriers for equal access for people with disabilities and was a tireless advocate for the rights of the disabled. The family encourages students who dream of breaking down their own barriers by moving forward with higher education advancement to apply, so they can seek to carry on her legacy, and put their imprint on Framingham like Karen did.

The selected student shall be a Framingham High School student with a physical disability who seeks to continue their education after graduation

Photo of Karen Foran Dempsey, at the first-ever adaptive skating program, the Disability Commission helped bring to the City of Framingham.
It was her first time ever on the Loring Arena ice.

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