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Summer 2007 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

It Takes a Great Man to Adopt a Great State

by Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: Assistant Commissioner Madrigal provides a retrospective on Dr. Hatlen's career serving children who are blind and visually impaired.

Key Words: Dr. Phil Hatlen, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, blindness, visual impairment, Division for Blind Services

Almost everyone who lives in Texas knows at least one or two people who have moved to our great state from California. We certainly do, and among them is a man we consider to be a very good friend and a strong ally.

Raised and educated in California, Dr. Phil Hatlen has made a powerful and lasting impression on our state. He decided to become a Texan in 1990 -- and how very glad we are that he made that decision! As superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, Dr. Hatlen has proven to be a strong and active partner in our efforts to expand and improve quality services to blind Texans.

With Dr. Hatlen's enthusiastic and innovative support, the Division for Blind Services (DBS) and TSBVI were able to successfully partner together to establish a joint program that serves students who have graduated from high school but who still need a little help in learning how to apply their educational skills and daily living skills to real life situations. The Post-Secondary Education Program allows these young adults to live in their own apartment while working to improve the skills they will need to be fully independent adults. In addition to the daily living activities involved in cooking their own meals, cleaning their apartment, and keeping up with the laundry, each of the program participants is responsible for money management tasks such as paying the rent, buying groceries, and balancing a checkbook as well as time management skills such as attending scheduled meetings with their Career Guidance counselor, completing planned activities and/or college-prep coursework, and making decisions about recreational and leisure activities.

Dr. Hatlen has always advocated on behalf of people who are blind, and when the Legislature is in town, you can be sure that he is actively supporting improved educational programs and enhanced rehabilitative services. He has also been instrumental in helping both DBS and TSBVI seize opportunities that opened new avenues of communication with consumer groups and other advocates within the blind community. Over the years, the ensuing discussions and meetings have encouraged the development of mutually cooperative relationships and have ultimately resulted in improved services and higher quality outcomes for many blind Texans.

At the beginning of his distinguished career, Dr. Hatlen worked as one of the first teachers of visually impaired students who were included in regular classrooms. In Texas, he has worked with equal commitment to bring the very best academic curriculum and educational opportunities to TSBVI students. Regardless of the school setting in which the student learns, however, his ultimate goal has always been to achieve a quality education for each and every student. To achieve that goal, he has employed an extensive and diverse array of exceptional talents including preparation, creativity, innovation, and determination.

Blending a passionate interest in quality education with a strong desire to help students be successful seems to come naturally to Dr. Hatlen. He has served on the Council of Schools for the Blind, actively participated in the development of policies that benefit blind and visually impaired persons, and published works on curriculum and education placement for visually impaired students that have earned him recognition at both the state and national levels.

Dr. Hatlen is indeed an extraordinary man. He has a natural ability to share his dreams and optimistic outlook with others that makes him a perfect mentor for both students and professionals. He sees beyond today and envisions the future, and he motivates others to do the same. He also has an innate ability to bring people with diverse perspectives together to create a unified voice that molds and shapes academic, rehabilitative, and social changes for people who are blind.

He was very active in the formation of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) at the national level and, after he was transplanted to Texas, he worked equally hard to help the state chapter known as the Texas AER or TAER. Today, TAER is a strong organization that benefits many professionals in the field of blindness from across our state, including educational and skills-building conferences that improve services to blind and visually impaired Texans of all ages.

TAER also makes annual awards that recognize Texans who have contributed to improved services for people who are blind. Among these prestigious awards, the annual Phil Hatlen award has been established to recognize a Texas administrator or university professor who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and innovative changes in the field of visual impairment. As the nominating form states, the man for whom the award is named is a visionary of change who has been an inspiration to countless professionals during his career as a teacher, university professor in teacher preparation programs, and in his many leadership roles in national and state organizations and committees.

Dr. Hatlen has dedicated his career to the education of students who are blind. In an interview with the Council for Exceptional Children, he once summarized his career by saying perhaps the most beautiful form of creativity is teaching blind students. We wholeheartedly endorse his sentiments, and we know that Dr. Hatlen's choice of careers has been a great asset to teachers and students alike.

Regardless of where he chooses to live or work, Dr. Hatlen's impact on the field of blindness is impressive, and his ongoing enthusiasm and dedication should serve as an inspiration to us all. We are very proud and thankful that he has chosen Texas as his adopted home!