In Memoriam – August 2020

Callaghan led special education group Frances Callaghan was not only part of a pioneer Minnesota family; she was also a […]

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Callaghan led special education group

Frances Callaghan was not only part of a pioneer Minnesota family; she was also a pioneer in special education. Callaghan died in July. She was 91 and was a longtime resident of the Orono area. 

Frances Callaghan

Callaghan returned to school after raising her four children. She graduated from St. Cloud State University, then taught special education in the Wayzata Public Schools for 20 years. Special education was a new degree program when she attended SCSU, which was launched by Professor Stanley Knox. With his mentorship she became a leader in the Minnesota Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (MACLD). 

MACLD was founded as a group driven by parents of children with learning disabilities. Callaghan joined founders, including Gwen Martinson and DeeDee Slettehaugh, and under their tutelage became one of the core volunteer parents at the center of the organization. 

MACLD had a longtime presence at the Minnesota Legislature. One of the laws members worked on is Minnesota Statute 120.17 Subdivision 3, which requires all Minnesota school districts “to insure that all children who are disabled and require specialized instruction to be provided the special education appropriate to their needs according to an Individual Education Plan.” 

MACLD members then turned their work to the federal level, including work on the Children with Specific Learning Disabilities Act of 1969. MACLD had a long history of involvement with special education at the federal level. On November 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law what is now known as the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)”. Today IDEA governs how all states’ public agencies provide special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible children with learning disabilities. 

Callaghan was the great-great-granddaughter of Lydia and William Ferguson, who were among the first to settle on Lake Minnetonka’s south shore in 1854. Their homesteaded property stretched from Excelsior to Ferguson Point (today known as Gluek’s Point). She was proud of her family heritage. 

She is remembered for her gift of patience, compassion and strong desire to help children to realize their full potential, which was apparent to anyone with whom she came in contact with inside or outside her classroom. 

Callaghan is survived by a son and daughter and their families, including eight great-grandchildren. Memorials preferred to Kindred Hospice, 8000 W 78th St #210, Edina, MN 55439.  

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