Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D.
2012 Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award Honoree
Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D., an award-winning speaker, writer and peace advocate, is the author of the NY Times Bestseller, Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs. Jeni's inspirational messages about disability, grief, parenting, education, healthcare, collaboration, hope, peace, and spirituality have been carried by all media outlets. Her youngest son, Mattie, was a poet and peace advocate who created poetry and essays from the age of 3, and ultimately penned seven bestselling books that inspired millions. Mattie passed away in 2004 at age 13 as a result of complications related to neuromuscular disease. Jeni also has a rare neuromuscular disease, and relies on a ventilator and wheelchair for breathing and mobility. She earned her doctoral degree in Early Childhood Special Education, specializing in anticipatory grief and family support. She is the Executive Director of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, and a Research Associate at the University of Maryland. She also serves as a Governor for the We Are Family Foundation and a National Vice President for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.