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Former Director Perkins School For the Blind Inducted into Hall of Fame
Dr. Edward Ellis Allen, director of Perkins School for the Blind from 1907 to 1931 and a pioneer in improving education and encouraging physical fitness for students who are blind, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field on Friday, Oct. 14. Allen was the third director of what was then called the Perkins Institution for the Blind. In addition to his educational innovations, he oversaw the design and construction of Perkins’ campus in Watertown, which was completed in 1912. “Dr. Allen was an extraordinary thinker,” said Perkins President Steven M. Rothstein. “He was able to transcend the conventions of his time and initiate educational and skill-development methods we still use today in the classroom and the gym. We are honored that Dr. Allen is being recognized for his important contributions to the field of education for people who are visually impaired.” The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is housed at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky. It honors individuals who made outstanding contributions to people who are blind or visually impaired in North America. Allen is perhaps best known for helping to modernize education for students who are blind and visually impaired. In 1920, working with Harvard College, he created the first training program for teachers of students who were blind. That pioneering effort eventually led to today’s specialized educational programs for Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI). Under Allen’s leadership in the 1920s, psychologist Samuel P. Hayes created tests and measurements that definitively disproved the then-popular notion that people who were blind were less intelligent than the general population. Allen introduced speech and physical therapy into schools for the blind, pioneered the concept of early intervention for infants with visual impairments and played a major role in encouraging the adoption of the braille system of reading and writing now used throughout the world. Allen was also a strong advocate of exercise for students who are blind. When the Perkins Watertown campus was built, its school buildings included fully equipped gymnasiums and a swimming pool. In the 1922 Perkins Annual Report, Allen wrote that physical exercises are [B][U]“tonic in the best sense, for they nourish enthusiasm, capacity and loyalty.”[/U][/B] Born in West Newton in 1861, Allen served as director at Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia before coming to Perkins. He died in 1950. Allen’s spirit of innovation continues today in Perkins’ education programs and state-of-the-art facilities. Other members of the Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field include Perkins student Helen Keller (inducted in 2002), Perkins’ first director, Samuel Gridley Howe (2002), and Perkins alumna Anne Sullivan Macy (2006).
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