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Western Oregon University: Celebrating 150 years
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   Selected Emeritus Alumni/Faculty writings from events and memories that occurred at Western Oregon University

The Development of Special Education Programs
From the 1960s to the 1990s
by Don Duncan

The Special Education programs at (OCE) Western Oregon University actually started in the 1950s when OCE became the home for a State Department of Education Speech program under the direction of Dr. Robert Mulder. He treated children in the six counties of northwestern Oregon. Another program, Remedial Reading, was developed by Emma Henkle and continued into the latter half of the century as a part of the Learning Disabilities program.

During the 1960s through the 1980s a strong team of excellent faculty developed their respective disciplines. These thirty to forty colleagues cooperated in writing and implementing numerous grants and projects that were very successful. We attracted many outstanding students who now teach and implement Special Education classes and programs in Oregon, the nation and parts of the world.

The 1960s ushered in a new focus under the able leadership of President Leonard Rice and Dr. Walter Snyder who were strong supporters of developing Special Education programs. The Education Evaluation Clinic program under the leadership of Dr. Tom Rowland was created in 1962 through the forward vision of Dr. Joy Hills Gubser in the Oregon State Department of Education and Dr. Walter Snyder, Dean of Instruction at OCE. This program created an evaluation center to assess and prescribe treatment for children and youth in Oregon who had unique learning problems. It utilized the best of knowledge and skills of the talented Special Education staff by developing the guidelines on how to identify learning problems in children and how to remediate them.

The new Education Building, which opened January 1966, brought together a variety of educators. The building housed Elementary and Secondary Education, Psychology and Special Education faculties as well as Speech and Hearing and Education Evaluation Clinics. All of these became the Department of Education and Psychology in 1969. Also in the new overcrowded building were the Placement Office, the Dean of Students staff and the growing Teaching Research program. This amazing team of excellent and creative minds helped to provide the impetus for the next twenty to thirty years. These faculty members truly worked as a team in each of their disciplines.

The Special Education faculty were ready and eager to pursue the new federal and state mandates and funding that were provided to prepare teachers and specialists to help the handicapped become mainstreamed and productive citizens in society. What a lofty ideal! Besides the earlier noted Remedial Reading and Speech and Hearing programs and the two clinics, we added new programs over time as follows:

  • Teaching the Deaf (now Teacher Preparation: Deaf Education) was transferred to OCE in 1961 from the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem to take advantage of the more academic focus of the College. Under Drs. Josephine Carr and Betty Holdt this program flourished. It became the base for the new program in Rehabilitation Counseling of the Dear in the 1970s under Dr. Dick Walker and John Freeburg. Later the B.A. degree in American Sign Language was added.
  • The Speech and Hearing program and the supporting clinic provided a strong complementary service to the various programs that overlapped with each other. It also offered an on-campus setting and service for children and adults who had speech and hearing problems. The clinic facilities on the first floor were exemplary in that era and were utilized by most of the Special Education programs.
  • The Present Special Educator program evolved out of the very successful programs in Mental Retardation, Mildly Handicapped and Severely Handicapped. They were developed by Drs. Bonnie Young, Dennis Fahey, Beverly Herzog, Bonnie Staebler and Art McElroy. Another complementary program is the Early Intervention/Special Educator program developed by Drs. Beverly Herzog and Michelle Pardew.

During the 1970s and 1980s the Rotary International Scholarship program provided complete funding for thirty-two teachers from many foreign countries to study in our Special Education Masters Degree programs. Rotary recognized the high quality of our programs and was very pleased with how well the Rotary Scholars implemented mainstreaming concepts when they returned home.

In summary, we are very proud of our legacy that evolved through our team efforts. It provides a sturdy foundation upon which new programs can be built.