Patrick Dolan looking over his shoulder and standing in front of a Northwest Center sign.
News | Written By Northwest Center Staff

In Loving Memory Of Patrick Dolan, 1950-2023

Northwest Center honors the memory of Patrick Dolan, the son of founding parents Duane and Katie Dolan. When Patrick was diagnosed with severe autism in 1950, the belief within the medical community and throughout society was that parents—mothers specifically—were solely responsible for the care of children with disabilities; there was no place for them in the “real” world. But that rejection only made Patrick’s parents more determined that he would get an education and acceptance. Katie Dolan helped found Northwest Center so that children like Patrick could access school and employment, and was part of the team who wrote Washington House Bill 90, “Education for All,” the first law in the nation guaranteeing public education to kids with disabilities. 

Black and white photo of a young Patrick Dolan.
Patrick Dolan in his 1970-71 Northwest Center photo.

By the time House Bill 90 passed, Patrick was too old for public school. Instead, he received job and community education at Northwest Center, then joined the Northwest Center workforce as part of the former Assembly & Packaging division, where he worked until his retirement in the late 2010s. Patrick reunited with the Northwest Center community in 2021 when he joined us for the 25th anniversary of the passing of Education for All.

​Patrick’s sister, longtime Northwest Center leader, board member, and supporter Parul Houlahan, remembers him this way: ​

“Some souls take birth to chosen parents who will indeed bring about positive change and establish recognition for the ones society ignores.

Because of Patrick, the WA Protection and Advocacy System was established, now known as Disability Rights Washington (DRW).

Because of Patrick, the first Washington Chapter of National Society of Children with Autism was started by Duane and Katie.

Because of Patrick, Children’s Hospital in Seattle established a clinic for children diagnosed as having developmental disabilities.

Because of Patrick, Katie and others lobbied to include people with disabilities in our state law against discrimination, RCW49.60, making the statute much more comprehensive and clear than the first federal law against discrimination.

Because of Patrick, Katie helped other parent groups form their own nonprofit advocacy groups serving their own communities, including associations for those with Spina Bifida, deafness and hearing impairment, and blindness and sight impairment.

Because of Patrick, millions of children across the U.S. gained access to Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. In fact, Katie Dolan and NWC founder Janet Taggart received their very first grant in order to write a brochure for parents to learn how to access those benefits.

Because of Patrick, the Seattle Housing Authority made it easier to access vouchers for rental assistance—this was critical to help de-institutionalize hundreds of residents of state institutions.

Above all, Patrick helped inspire the establishment of Northwest Center, which is now a leader in inclusion and social enterprise. His birth and existence provided a lot of us with the fuel and impetus to stand up for our loved ones with disabilities.”

A smiling baby Patrick on his father's lap with his mother looking on.
Baby Patrick with parents Katie and Duane Dolan, early 1950s

Poem for Patrick Dolan

We’ll close by sharing a poem that Northwest Center parent Bessie G. Clark dedicated to Patrick Dolan in 1990 during Northwest Center’s 25th anniversary:

There had to be the perfect place
There had to be the perfect time
There had to be the perfect pair
There had to be the perfect clime

For the baby who changed the world

There had to be imperfect science
There had to be imperfect vision
There had to be imperfect order
There had to be imperfect reason

For the baby who changed the world

There was suffering and
there was ignorance
There was injustice and
there was violence

For the baby who changed the world

There was conviction and
there was courage
There was grit and
there was boldness

For the baby who changed the world

Who’s to say who’s done the doing –
he who needs but can’t exclaim
or those who do it
in his name?

– Bessie G. Clark, 7/23/90, for Patrick Dolan