June E. Downing, Ph.D., was a national leader in the field of special education who focused her expertise, time, and energy researching best practices and advocating for individuals with severe and multiple disabilities, all the while making the case for inclusion, without exception. As a steadfast promoter of inclusive education, June viewed access to the general education program and peers without disabilities as a best practice, as well as an issue of social equality and civil rights. For those of us who had the privilege to be her colleagues, students, and friends, June helped us to raise our own expectations as her strength and leadership pulled us along with her to advocate for, and do what is right for all students and people with disabilities.
June was an exceptional scholar who published numerous articles, chapters, monographs, and textbooks focusing on the education and inclusion of students with severe and multiple disabilities. Her publications are used by educators and parents to learn how to provide quality education in inclusive classrooms to students with severe and multiple disabilities. She was known for her practical, invigorating, and humorous presentations and workshops. June’s career in the field of special education began as a teacher of students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities including deaf-blindness. She was Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She directed or co-directed several federally funded personnel preparation, research-to-practice, and technical assistance projects and was committed to preparing exceptional, highly qualified teachers, whose role she saw as change agents for the future. Through her teaching and hands-on guidance, her students developed a passion for teaching and a strong commitment to supporting quality lives for students with disabilities and their families. While at CSUN, June contributed to the development of the CHIME Institute’s Charter School and was instrumental in its high-quality inclusive educational practices. She served on the National TASH Board of Directors and was Past President of Cal-TASH and AZ-TASH (the California and Arizona state chapters of TASH), and served as an associate editor of Research and Practices for Persons with Severe Disabilities. Her indomitable spirit, passion, and determination have been a driving force in our field, and her work continues to inspire and create positive and successful learning outcomes for students.