Mary Custis Straughn Award

General Information

Purpose of the "Custie" Award

The Mary Custis Straughn ("Custie") Award recognizes major achievements arising from sustained and significant effort that can be shown to have manifestly improved the lives or prospects of one or more classes of Delaware citizens with disabilities or the families of such individuals.  Although meritorious work of any individual is eligible for recognition by a Custie award, the Council expressly desires to find and reward candidates who have disabilities themselves.


Individual winners of the Custie must have contributed to beneficial change in one or more of the following ways related to a specific major achievement:

  • Exemplary service
  • Advocacy
  • Public policy formation
  • Perseverance against significant odds

Custies are given to one or more persons in recognition of a notable achievement.  Individuals may be nominated for and receive a Custie award more than once, because awards recognize specific achievements.

  • A law that provides funding for children ages 3-21 with hearing loss to obtain new hearing aids every three years.  Recipients might include advocates from the community of persons with hearing loss, bill sponsors, and/or the insurance commissioner.
  • A transition program that provides mentored work experience and employment opportunities for teenagers with intellectual disabilities.   Recipients might include teenagers or young adults with intellectual disabilities, advocates from the Developmental Disabilities Council, key administrators from schools and the Department of Education, and leading employers.
  • Retrofitting a major office or government facility with features that accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, especially features that are not required by the building codes.  Recipients might include the building owner, the architectural and construction firm, and persons with disabilities who advocated the facility upgrade.

Frequency of the Award

Awards are given yearly in a communal setting typically during the SCPD annual luncheon.  Between zero and two awards may be presented at each recognition event.


Nominations must be received by August 30 of each year using the Custie Award nomination form (Appendix A).  The form is available on-line at the SCPD web site.  Individuals may also submit nominations mailed to:
Custie Award Nominations
State Council for Persons with Disabilities
Margaret O'Neill Building
410 Federal Street, Suite 1
Dover, DE 19901

Individuals may nominate themselves.  The State Council for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) staff will acknowledge every nomination received in writing.  Small teams may share a single Custie Award when more than one individual was responsible for the achievement being recognized.   Each individual for a group award will receive his/her own plaque.

Because the process requires systematic collection and analysis of data on nominees, it is not possible to accept nominations from the floor during the meeting when Council members vote.

Awards Committee

The Custie Awards Committee consists of three individuals whose purpose is outreach and marketing only.  The committee plays no role in the evaluation of nominations received.


The State Council for Persons with Disabilities staff is responsible for administering the election process.

The election takes place during the September SCPD meeting with the Council voting separately on each achievement.  If a simple majority of the membership votes in favor of recognizing an achievement, that achievement moves forward in the award process. Individuals who contributed to an achievement voted to be recognized will receive a Custie for their achievement.

Depending on the number of nominations received whose achievements are voted to be recognized the Council may have an excessive number of awards in any given year. If there are more than two achievements voted for recognition of a Custie Award the Council will then proceed with second round of voting.   Therefore, if, and only if, more than two achievements receive a simple majority vote in favor, the following second round of voting will occur.   SCPD administrative staff will distribute paper ballots containing a list of all achievements proposed for recognition.  Voting Council members will then mark the ballot by rank ordering the achievements.  The two achievements receiving the highest ranks will win awards.