Corbett Laubignat, disability advocate, dies at 40

Laubignat supported countless students as an access consultant at the University's Disability Resource Center.

Courtesy of Ashley Groshek.

Courtesy of Ashley Groshek.

Farrah Mina

The University of Minnesota Disability Resource Center hosted a virtual celebration of life for Corbett Laubignat on Friday, May 1. Laubignat was a senior access consultant who died March 2. She was 40. 

Laubignat died of complications due to heart failure, according to her wife, Ashley Groshek.

The memorial, originally scheduled for March 22, had to be held on Zoom due to the pandemic. Laubignat’s family is still hoping to have an in-person celebration once it is safe to congregate.

Laubignat served as an access consultant at the University for five years, where she supported students seeking accommodations. She co-founded Disabled Employees at the U, the first affinity group for disabled employees at the University.

Laubignat’s family, friends, students and coworkers gathered at the Zoom memorial to share stories and memories about her.

Laubignat’s memorial provided access accommodations, like sign language interpreting, real-time captioning and emotional support services.  The celebration wrapped up with a dance party to some of Laubignat’s favorite songs, like “Good as Hell” by Lizzo and “Little Red Corvette” by Prince.

Laubignat was vocal about disability justice, spoke on panels and hosted equity and inclusion workshops at the University. 

“Corbett made it her personal mission to welcome everyone to the club,” Groshek said.

Chris Luhmann, one of Laubignat’s coworkers at the DRC, said she once asked him why she was behind at work all the time.  

“I straight up told her I think one of the main reasons is because everyone comes to you all the time to talk, whether it be an issue they have, a new idea or something exciting that they just want to share,” he said at Friday’s memorial. “Her response was, ‘Well, if that’s the reason why I’m behind at work, I’m okay with that.’”

Laubignat also served on the board of directors of Helping Paws Minnesota, a nonprofit that places service dogs with veterans, first-responders with PTSD and people who have physical disabilities. 

Prior to working at the University, she was a disability services coordinator at the McNally Smith College of Music. She received her master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2006.

Laubignat’s strong commitment to her advocacy is reflected by a sticker in her office that reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” said her brother, Etienne Laubignat.

“She was a very loving and caring person and always brought a smile to the room. She was very strong-willed,” Etienne Laubignat said.

Corbett Laubignat, nicknamed “Corb” by her friends and family, is remembered for her full-bodied laughter, gleeful squeals, quick-witted humor and hot pink hair.

“Corbett had a personality that just filled a room. You knew she was there because she had the most infectious laugh,” Groshek said. “She loved everything magical. Her office was full of unicorns and mermaids and glitter — and her hair was hot pink. I mean, you just couldn’t miss her.”

On most mornings, Groshek said she would wake up to Corbett Laubignat singing loudly and off-tempo from the bathroom. “If Corbett was singing in the morning, we all knew it was going to be a good day,” she said.

Laubignat and Groshek met in college and were together for 19 years. They had a wedding ceremony in 2011 and were scheduled to be legally married in late March.

“So while we’ve lost a significant part of our world right now, she’s still with us in spirit and really just wants us all to continue moving forward and living our life like she did, just unapologetically herself. Corbett took on the world, hot pink hair, unicorns and all.”

Corbett Laubignat is survived by her wife, mother, brother and service dog, Jerry.