Hulsey remembered by coworkers, friends, students as ‘inspiration’ to all

Victoria Hulsey 1952-2015

A leader, cohort and friend of many at UNA has died, but her legacy lives on.

Special Education professor Victoria Hulsey died Friday morning, Feb. 13 at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. She was the chair of the elementary education department.

“We’re deeply saddened about Vicky’s passing,” said Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Catherine White. “She was a great asset to the university and a great instructor.”

She said Hulsey had a unique ability for teaching special needs children and people in general.

Alumni Samantha Farr said Hulsey’s graciousness will forever be remembered.

“My father passed away during the summer when I took one of her classes,” she said. “I sent an email saying how I would be missing a couple of classes and Dr. Hulsey immediately responded by saying, ‘Samantha, you need to grieve. We will be here when you get back.’”

Farr said Hulsey was a strong proponent of education, which she respected.

“I’m trying to get a job in education and I attended a board meeting at the local school board, thinking that would help me get my foot in the door,” she said. “There was a speaker on stage praising education, and Dr. Hulsey was there in the front of the crowd with her hand in the air saying, ‘Right on.’”

Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences Donna Lefort said Hulsey was a beloved person by all who knew her.

“She was an inspiration to everyone, particularly those who were fortunate enough to work with her,” she said. “Her determination, love for life and teaching were admirable. The passions she always shared were her passion for teaching and her passion for her family.”

Students may have seen Hulsey around campus and not been aware — she was restricted to a wheelchair.

She was born in 1952 in Searcy, Arkansas. Later in life, Hulsey was married with children when a drunk driver struck the vehicle she and her family were traveling in, leaving her permanently paralyzed. She had been in a wheelchair most of her adult life.

Hulsey never used her disability as an excuse, though. She was a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of person, Lefort said.

“If you were having a bad day and you looked at Dr. Hulsey, you realized we all have things to be thankful for,” she said.

Lefort said one of Hulsey’s passions in life was her association with Camp Courage, an intensive, three-day program designed for hearing and visually-impaired children between the ages of 7 and 14, held at the birthplace of Helen Keller — Ivy Green in Tuscumbia.

Senior Abby Moon said she had the pleasure of working with Hulsey during her first Camp Courage experience.

“We had to be interviewed for the chance to join the Camp Courage crew, she said. “During the first 10 minutes of the interview Dr. Hulsey said, ‘Oh, yeah. You can do this.’”

Moon said Hulsey taught them how to be a mentor for children with disabilities, while also being their mentor.

“We saw aspects of her we wanted to see in ourselves,” she said. “She wanted our students to have their own ‘Anne Sullivan experience’, so she coordinated for our students to work at those camps.”

Hulsey specifically asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Camp Courage —

Along with the rest of the UNA special education faculty, Hulsey spearheaded a $15,000 grant to improve special education teacher content preparation.

She developed an undergraduate preparation program in special education and the curriculum, as it exists today, Lefort said.

Lefort said Hulsey was also an advocate for university American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and strived to make campus accessible for all.

“With her insights and differing set of abilities, she was able to pinpoint areas that maybe were not as accessible as we thought,” she said.

Board of trustees member Will Trapp said he first met “Vicky” two years ago while attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Florence.

“Vicky was very involved in our church and she will be greatly missed,” he said. “She had a lot of joy in her life.”

From being involved in the women’s ministry to hosting a book club for young women to giving rides for children in her wheelchair after church, Trapp said Hulsey was full of life and extremely active in the church.

“One Friday a month we would partner with Faith Church for Respite Care, where families with special needs children would drop off their children for a break, and Vicky was always involved with that” he said. “Even with her disability, she was not disabled.”

Hulsey is survived by one daughter, Autumn Schlagenhauf of Decatur; two sons, Paul Ebert of Mountain Brook, Nick Hulsey of California; her father, Robbie D. Wood, Sr. of Morris, Alabama; her mother, Bonnie Capps of Searcy, Arkansas; two brothers, Stan Wood of Cullman, and Robbie D. Wood, Jr. of Pleasant Grove; one sister, Jana Wood White of Hoover; eight grandchildren, Abbey, Warren, Xander, Samuel, Elijah, Joseph, Noah, and Jackson; a host of nephews and nieces; and her caregiver, Brooke Allard.