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Spring 2005 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Editor’s note: The months since the last edition of SEE/HEAR have been marked by the passing of two long time leaders in the field of education for students with visual impairments. Alan Koenig and Sally Mangold will be missed by the many people who knew them or were touched by their work. Dr. Phil Hatlen uses his regular “News & Views” column to share his thought on these leaders who meant so much to so many.

OF ALAN KOENIG

By Phil Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: A memorial tribute to Alan Koenig by Phil Hatlen

Key Words: Alan Koenig, Phil Hatlen, blind, visually impaired, low vision, Braille literacy, memorial

Alan and Us

Who among us in this profession has not been influenced by Alan Koenig? His very presence at a conference or meeting always brought a feeling that all is well in our profession, because we have colleagues like Alan who are doing research, writing magnificent articles and books, and developing new teachers. With his dear friend Cay, Alan gave us research and direction in Braille reading and writing instruction, a body of knowledge we have needed for a long time. With another friend, Anne, he expanded our knowledge of services for children with low vision.

But more than anything else, he was always there. There to support us, to encourage us, to be our confidante, to remind us that we are in a very special profession.

We got used to his quiet, friendly demeanor, we became his cheerleader as he and Cay opened up an entire new body of knowledge on Braille reading and writing. We were in awe of his ability to write, and those contributions will be Alan’s legacy for many generations. Whether he agreed with us or not, he honored us with his respect for our positions and our shared passion for our profession.

Alan and Children

How can we think of Alan without sharing a deep and lasting appreciation for what he did for children? How many children are receiving Braille reading and writing instruction because of the research of Alan and Cay? Children are learning today because Alan cared so much that he devoted much of his life to assuring opportunities for literacy for all blind children. Mothers and fathers of school-age visually impaired children, this man gave of his heart and mind to assure that your children will receive an education that includes literacy in the media best suited for your child. What a gift to parents, professionals, and, most of all, to blind and visually impaired children!

Alan and Me

I can’t recall when I first met Alan Koenig, but I had heard about him many years earlier. He was described to me as a quiet, thoughtful, bright, and very interesting person who was, early in his career, already contributing to the knowledge we have about educating blind children. Then I moved to Texas. I had no idea the tremendous impact this young, gentle, kind man would have on me over a 14-year period.

Alan was part of a dynamic team at Texas Tech University, brought together and nurtured by Virginia Sowell. He and I would talk by phone from time to time and, in the early years, we would meet several times a year. There were three personnel preparation programs in Texas, and they were all very active in preparing teachers and promoting quality education for blind and visually impaired students.

I will never forget Alan’s way of communicating and of being a friend. When he and I were together, I never wondered whether he was listening when I talked—I knew it by his actions. I wish I could do what Alan did so well—I wish I could give everyone my undivided attention when we are together. Do you remember, as I do, the times when you’ve talked with Alan, and suddenly realized that he was so interested in what you were saying that you had his complete attention? I wish I could always emulate that.

I was captivated by Alan. He was everything I wanted to be—non-judgmental, always encouraging, a good listener, never confrontational, always true to his ethics and beliefs. What more can be said about my relationship to this special man? Thank you, Alan, for the ways in which you have allowed me to grow.


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Last Revision: September 1, 2010