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Physical Therapists for the Future

Allyn Lockner wants to support the discipline that made such a difference for him

From Bell Tower - 2022 
By Angela Lutz

Allyn LocknerIn 1948, Allyn Lockner had his whole life ahead of him. He was excited about his senior year of high school, and he worked hard on his family’s farm in South Dakota. Then everything changed when Lockner was stricken with polio myelitis. During his lengthy recovery he came to realize his future was going to look much different than he had anticipated.

The polio virus infects the motor nerves and can ultimately result in paralysis. In Lockner’s case, the illness left him with almost total paralysis in his legs and weakness in his left arm. During his 20 months in the hospital, he came under the care of a physical therapist named Helen Buchanan, who recognized that if Lockner wanted to earn a living, he would need a college education.

“She said I needed to get an education that uses my mind because my body would not be able to do the physical work that is required on the farm,” Lockner recalled. “There was a lot of back and forth between me and this physical therapist. In the fall of 1950, she loaded me up in her car
and drove me to the local college administration building herself for registration.”

While Lockner was initially hesitant to embrace college life, he grew to love learning. He went on to earn his PhD, and he had a long and varied career in academia and government as an economist, including for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which brought him and his family to Topeka until his retirement in 2001.

Lockner credits Buchanan for his success and insisting that he further his education, so he has a keen interest in seeing that her legacy is carried on and future patients like him may benefit from outstanding physical therapists like her. That’s why he has created the Allyn O. Lockner Endowment Fund: Physical Therapists for the Future at Washburn University, where he and his wife have long enjoyed attending activities and events.

“I established this endowment fund as a way of recognizing what Helen Buchanan did for me,” Lockner said. “I hope physical therapy students use it to further their education and help determine the future of their patients.”

Since 2018, the primary undergraduate degree students at Washburn pursue to launch careers in physical therapy is the bachelor of science in exercise and rehabilitation science offered by the department of kinesiology. As kinesiology professor and chair Roy Wohl noted, Lockner has been a stalwart supporter.

“This is an area that Mr. Lockner is incredibly passionate about – he has joined us at our scholarship awards banquet and personally handed out awards to the students who’d been selected to receive his scholarship. His support has been, and will continue to be, life-changing for these students. And their work, in turn, will be life-changing to all the patients they eventually serve.”

Mark Kohls, Washburn's chair of allied health and director of the physical therapist assistant program wholeheartedly agrees. Many of the students who go
through that associate degree program eventually go on to the exercise and rehabilitation science bachelor of science degree, where they might receive the Lockner scholarship. To his mind, support like Lockner’s is not just an investment in education, but healthcare as well.

“Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants have a huge impact on the health of not only their patients but their entire communities, which is why
there is such a tremendous demand for them,” Kohls said. “Just like Mr. Lockner’s physical therapist positively altered the course of his life, the students he’s supporting now will be doing the same for the next generation of patients who need them.”

Though he is now over 90 years old, Lockner continues to flex his intellect – he has a book coming out next year about regional water security. He has overcome significant challenges in his life, and through his endowment, he hopes to help other people to do the same.

“Don’t think about what you do not have and what you cannot do, but focus on what you do have and what you can do,” Lockner said. “Pursue that aggressively and you will be able to maximize your life and your contribution to society at large.”


Katy Locey

Katy Locey

2022 Allyn O. Lockner Scholar

Class of 2023
Hometown: Tecumseh, Kansas
Major: Exercise and Rehabilitation Science
On her interest in physical therapy: When I was younger, I used to get hurt a lot and didn’t know why. Following a particularly bad soccer injury when I was 16, I went to a physical therapist who managed to correctly diagnose me with a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Thanks to that diagnosis, and a lot of PT work, I was able to relearn how to live in my body. From that experience, I knew that helping people in that way was something I wanted to do myself. I am now preparing to graduate Washburn and pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy.

On Allyn Lockner: Myself and the two other Lockner scholars had the opportunity to meet Mr. Lockner at the kinesiology department’s end-of-semester
get-together last year. It was a complete surprise, but we had a chance to hear his story…which was so much like mine. Just like him, I owe the whole course of my life to a great physical therapist, and it was so inspiring to hear how he has chosen to pay that forward by helping students like me. Washburn has an amazing program, and I feel so fortunate to be here. I could not thank Mr. Lockner enough for helping me realize my dreams.

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