exterior shot of west entrance to Huff Hall

McKechnie Family LIFE Home Dedicated

AHS E-News December 2021

Dr. James and Karen McKechnie standing next to photo in LIFE Home

Dr. James and Karen McKechnie donated the lead gift for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home.

On October 7, the College of Applied Health Sciences and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign dedicated a facility that Chancellor Robert J. Jones called “a tremendous physical addition to our university’s research enterprise.” The McKechnie Family LIFE Home will be the site of interdisciplinary efforts to develop and test technologies that support all dimensions of healthy, socially connected, and independent living.

 “The McKechnie Family LIFE Home will change the way we think about aging, as well as the way we age, in significant and fundamental ways,” Dr. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell said. The dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences continued, “It will further improve the lived experiences of people with disabilities…[and] make a difference in the lives of people with small children; people who are caregivers of parents, partners, or others; people who want to connect with loved ones who are far away; people who need or want to access the services of health care providers from the comfort of their own home.”

Directed by Dr. Wendy Rogers, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, the McKechnie Family LIFE Home includes a simulation of a two-bedroom home with garage where research and development will take place, and meeting and office space to support the research activities.

Dr. Rogers brought the idea for the LIFE Home with her when she joined the University of Illinois under the Visioning Future Excellence campus initiative. She had been a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was the director of the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory and co-director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with a Disability. “LIFE,” she explained, stands for Living in Interactive Future Environments, each word holding carefully considered significance.

“Living connotes active engagement,” she said. “Interactive refers to people and technologies working together. Future is forward thinking. And environments is deliberately plural because people live in a lot of different places. Homes come in many shapes and sizes, and we want to think about all of them.”

The facility is named for Dr. James K. and Karen S. McKechnie, who made a significant financial commitment in support of the LIFE Home. Both are Illinois alumni. Dr. McKechnie completed a degree in chemistry and went on to become an orthopedic surgeon. Mrs. McKechnie completed her degree in the College of Physical Education, the forerunner of AHS. Members of both the President’s Council and the Chancellor’s Circle, the McKechnies previously endowed the James K. and Karen S. McKechnie Professorship in Applied Health Sciences and the James K. and Karen S. McKechnie Fellowships in Applied Health Sciences and named the James K. and Karen S. McKechnie Laboratory in the Khan Annex of Huff Hall.

“We're really excited about this home, in particular, providing a platform of collaboration for AHS and the Grainger College of Engineering and the new medical school here at Carle,” Dr. McKechnie said. “We can't imagine the kinds of things that will come together as a result of the people who will come here and use their expertise and their backgrounds to try to make life better for all of us.”

Another supporter of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home, Dr. Arthur “Dan” Fisk, named the Arthur D. Fisk Interview Room in honor of four generations of Arthur D. Fisks—his father Art, himself, his son Danny, and his grandson Daniel. He also established the Rogers Family LIFE Home Research Fund in honor of his wife Dr. Wendy Rogers and her family. Dr. Fisk coordinated and grew the Cognitive Aging and Engineering Psychology program at the Georgia Institute of Technology for more than 20 years.