DeGreef was first veterans coordinator
The man who started wheelchair parking on the UW-Green Bay campus, and who helped countless veterans as the institution’s first veterans services coordinator, has passed away. Leo Henry DeGreef died last month at age 78.
The class of ’73 graduate was an advocate for wheelchair accessibility after “picking up a little shrapnel in Vietnam in 1968,” his obituary reads.While working toward a business degree at UW-Green Bay, the 20-year Army veteran and former Green Beret started the first wheelchair parking areas on campus.
In 1972, then a student at age 41, he told the Press-Gazette his wheelchair can be a bother, but the word “handicapped” is taboo. “I’m in a wheelchair,” he told the paper, “but don’t use the word handicapped in reference to me. I’m inconvenienced. Handicapped means you are deprived of doing something you want to do. If I don’t do it, it’s because I don’t want to.”
In fall of 1973 he would become Veterans Affairs officer at UW-Green Bay, counseling hundreds of veterans and further advocating wheelchair accessibility throughout his career. In his first year in the position, DeGreef helped more than 100 veterans receive benefit checks so they could attend UW-Green Bay.
In addition to ensuring vets received benefits checks, he also worked with veterans at the Wisconsin State Reformatory in Green Bay who were among inmates taking UW-Green Bay classes taught on the premises, and he visited often with disabled veterans in their homes, according to a 1973 news release.
DeGreef received spinal injuries near Da Nang, Vietnam, and lost the use of his legs. He retired from the Army as a Special Forces captain.
He was a frequent donor to UW-Green Bay, and made contributions until as late as April of this year.
Click here to read his obituary.
Click here to download a PDF file of the 1973 news release announcing DeGreef joing the UW-Green Bay staff as the University’s first veterans coordinator.