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Therapist’s Love Knows No Bounds

Margaret Akingbade ’73 sees only ability in disability.

For 42 years, pediatric physical therapist Margaret Akingbade ’73 has been working to improve the lives of exceptional children in Guildford County Schools in North Carolina. Her charges have the most significant cognitive and physical disabilities. In March, her contributions to the field earned Akingbade a Distinguished Service Award from the state’s Department of Public Instruction.

“I see my function as really being there for students, making life as comfortable for them as possible, and helping them reach as much of their potential as possible,” says Akingbade. “That is really the joy for me.”

In February, colleagues, students, and others celebrated Akingbade and her impact in their own way: a surprise 70th birthday party at Haynes-Inman Education Center in Jamestown, NC, where she is based. The scene was a sea of purple, her favorite color.

In a letter nominating Akingbade for the state honor, colleague Vicki Simmons wrote, “Margaret has made a difference in the improved mobility of thousands of Guilford County students,” and noted that she is a vocal advocate “speaking the truth in love.”

“They don’t have many advocates. And technology means more and more of these students are surviving and need care.” —Pediatric physical therapist Margaret Akingbade ’73

Akingbade moved to Boston from Nigeria in 1969 to enroll in Simmons on the advice of her brother, who was doing a residency at Children’s Hospital.

“I had a great PT training and learned a lot about a more liberal education that proved valuable,” says Akingbade. She began her career in Washington, D.C., before moving to North Carolina.

Akingbade says she hopes the next generation of physical therapists sees the value of the population she works with. “They don’t have many advocates. And medical technology means more and more of these students are surviving and need care.”

Photograph: Andrew Krech/News & Record