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Fall 2006 Table of Contents
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A Momentous Anniversary Year

By Gloria Bennett, Director of Community Resources, TSBVI

Abstract: The author summarizes recent events celebrating the 150th birthday of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, including the Alumni Reunion held this August.

Keywords: Family, TSBVI Sesquicentennial Celebration, Alumni Reunion, News & Views

The Beginning

One hundred fifty years ago, on August 16, 1856, Governor Elisha Pease signed "An Act to Establish an Institution for the Blind." A sum of ten thousand dollars was appropriated for the establishment of the Institution of the Education of the Blind of Texas, to be located at the city of Austin. Five trustees were designated to administer the funds, rent a building, hire a superintendent and manage said institution.

2006 has been a significant year in the history of Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as we celebrated our origins and our pride in today's mission. To mark this milestone, Governor Rick Perry recognized August 16, 2006 as "Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Day," and issued a message of congratulations:

"Since 1856, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been committed to providing the best education to its students. In addition to a quality education, the school's teachers and staff also instill in the students the idea that, regardless of their challenges, they are able to achieve greatness. With activities ranging from sports to the school newspaper, the school provides its students with an incomparable learning experience that will ensure their future success...I commend past and present instructors, staff and administrators for 150 years of outstanding service. Your work and tireless efforts highlight the best of the Lone Star State."

He concluded his proclamation: "To all the students, remember always that within you lies greatness, and the ability to dare, dream and do. No obstacle is too great for you, as you are Texans. I have no doubt that you all will excel in your future endeavors."

The Celebration

The celebration began in January of 2006, with a glittering evening event in the Goodenough Performance Hall honoring the staff, students, and graduates of the Texas School for the Blind (1856), Texas Blind, Deaf and Orphan School (1887), and Deafblind Annex (1970). Mayor Will Winn, Dr. Phil Hatlen, and 1956 graduate Wilton Harris, among others, spoke to the crowd of current and former TSBVI staff and students, as well as community friends. Former students of TSBVI provided musical entertainment, and a reception followed the program.

We continued the yearlong festivities in April by hosting a regional track meet for students of schools for the blind from New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, as well as our Texas team. In May, the drama department presented five public performances of the musical Into the Woods. On August 16, the United States Post Office provided a special 1-day commemorative cancellation recognizing TSBVI, hand-canceling stamped envelopes at the school. Through the research and hard work of TSBVI's Kristi Sprinkle, we created the Hatlen Museum on our campus <http://www.tsbvi.edu/school/museum/index.htm>. This wonderful repository of TSBVI history was dedicated on November 4, 2006 at our final event of the year, Parent Weekend, with the theme "Happy Birthday TSBVI" and birthday cake for all!

Reunion Weekend

One of the highlights of our Sesquicentennial celebration occurred on August 18-19, 2006, as TSBVI hosted an Alumni Reunion. Over 150 former students and staff of the school attended. The weekend began with a `Meet and Greet' on Friday evening at the Park Plaza Hotel where many out-of-town alumni were staying. Music was provided by Marcus Cardwell's Lime Trio of saxophone, piano, bass and drums. At registration, attendees were given packets containing the weekend program as well as a Reunion Weekend t-shirt, a Sesquicentennial water bottle and material explaining TSBVI's many programs.

Saturday morning activities included tours of the campus, and brunch in the cafeteria. Alumni filled out a questionnaire about age, dates of attendance, family details, travel details and more. From this information we learned that the oldest alumni in attendance was 80 and the youngest 22, a span of more than half a century! We had alumni come from as far away as New Jersey and California, and as near as down the street. We learned that the all-time favorite teachers of those attending were Louise Hancock and Art Cruser. When asked what life lesson should be shared with young people, answers included:

The afternoon began with a choice of activities: visiting the TSBVI museum or the traveling Callahan museums exhibit, "In Touch With Knowledge: the Educational History of Blind People"; recording school memories on videotape; watching old school videos; meeting with classmates in rooms by decade; or attending a technology demonstration. Later that afternoon, a Musical Memories Program took place in the Goodenough Performance Hall, with Principal Miles Fain acting as Master of Ceremonies. Alumnus Aundrea Moore sang the national anthem, and former music teacher Patsy Cruser led the assembly in singing of the school song, which many former students knew well enough to sing along. Many people came up to the microphone to share their memories, including 1967 graduate Anne Foxworth, who told about the ringing of the bell to start and end every activity while she was in school. She even brought a bell to put in the TSBVI museum. Music was provided by former students Marcus Cardwell, Robert Kelley, Steve Johnson, Krisha Hagler, Terutada Simazu, Andrew Venson and Rodney Hyder. Miles Fain told the gathering about the state of the school today and Dr. Hatlen talked extensively about the renovations planned for the campus in the future.

Dinner was served in the gymnasium, transformed by balloons and table flower baskets in school colors of maroon and gold. A delicious dinner was catered by Harvey and Georgina Stavinoha of Phoenix Kafay Katering and served by cheerful wait staff. Art and Patsy Cruser and Matthew Caldwell served as Masters and Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening. They gave out prizes for such accomplishments as "came the farthest," "married the longest," "most children," and "most times married." Time was taken to remember those who had passed away. A very special guest was Mrs. Mable Myers, a beloved teacher from long ago. Mrs. Myers sent a thank-you to the Reunion committee in which she wrote, "I had such a delightful time visiting with you and my former students. The food, the atmosphere and the memories with the former students was just breathtaking. I loved every minute of it!!"

Another comment on the meaning of the Reunion Weekend came from 1975 graduate Rick McCracken:

To The Administration, Faculty, Staff And Volunteers At Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired:

To each of you, thank you so very much for an extraordinary opportunity to gather and celebrate the school's sesquicentennial last weekend. Your care and kindness for each of us was simply stellar.

I went through the school at a time when students lived like brothers and sisters, and when staff and faculty were regarded as family elders. And let me say that the sense of family was greatly evident in the weekend's proceedings, even though I did not meet many of you for more than a moment in passing. To Dr. Hatlen, thank you for opening your campus to us again. As you no doubt surmised during the program, we are deeply rooted in not only the traditions of TSBVI, but the places where those traditions allowed us to blossom into a community. To Mr. Caldwell and Mr. and Mrs. Cruser, my sincere gratitude for the warmest welcome I could imagine. It's good to know your memories are as clear and warm as mine. To Ms. Bennett, and all the staff and volunteers who sacrificed a weekend with their own families, you exemplify the dedication and caring far beyond the call of duty that has always been a hallmark of TSBVI teachers and staff.

I can only speak for myself, but I know there are other former students who understand that your obligation to us ended when we accepted our diplomas and tossed our tassels. This memory weekend did not have to take place, but YOU saw to it that something so central to our development as men and women should be celebrated. And you were right. It is my hope that we as students will be inspired anew to fulfill our obligation to honor the memories of the school, and more importantly, the work that you continue to do by outstretching our hand of aid and friendship to help you further the cause of bringing the light of knowledge to blind and visually impaired children throughout Texas and the world. Even though I am now far away and long removed from my TSBVI family, I stand ready to do whatever is in my power to ensure that the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is no less important for the future than it was during our present, and during this most memorable weekend.

Again, Thank You:

Rickey (Rick) McCracken"

The staff of TSBVI have used the occasion of the 150th Sesquicentennial anniversary to look back and celebrate our history, look inward to assess the job we do, and look forward to the future of serving blind and visually impaired of children at a newly beautified campus and throughout the state with comprehensive programs, short term and summer programs, post secondary programs, curriculum development, accessible website, and outreach services.

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