In Memoriam - Nov. 2012

Bloom opened doors for college students with disabilities

by Clarence Schadegg

People who attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis may see students with disabilities hurrying from one class or building to another. It was not always like that. Prior to the 1970s, Augsburg College wasn’t accessible to students with disabilities. Vern Bloom, who died Oct. 20 at age 78, was one of the people who helped open Augsburg to all.

Bloom began teaching at Augsburg College in the 1960s. He taught social work, graduate and undergraduate levels, sociology and a periodic anthropology class. Bloom was also director of the Community Human Resources Program, the Center for the Education of Nontraditional Students and Augsburg’s College of the Third Age.

Bloom saw the value of inclusion of people with disabilities at Augsburg. This diversity enriched the Augsburg College experience for students with and without disabilities. The classes he taught and the programs he directed included people with disabilities. He negotiated with staff members who at the time were less than willing to include in their classes people with disabilities.

In the 1970s, students with disabilities began coming to Augsburg from residential facilities. Until his retirement Bloom recruited people with disabilities to attend classes at Augsburg College. I was one of those students. I was legally blind at the time. Bloom found ways for me to settle into the Augsburg College experience.

Bloom was my supervisor for my University of Minnesota graduate level internship at Augsburg College. That was in 1985. Since then, he and I worked together on many projects on and off of the Augsburg College campus. He often invited me to speak to his Augsburg students on campus as well as in prisons on subjects including blindness, aging and disability.

He also invited me to co-coordinate a daylong conference in 2008 called Open Doors. Open Doors was held at Wesley United Methodist Church, a faith community recognized as progressive and as a change-agent. Open Doors included people who worked with prison inmates as well as people from various faith communities.

My life was made better because of Vern Bloom. I came to know and appreciate Vern as my mentor, teacher and friend. His death left me feeling stunned and saddened. It is a huge understatement that Vern Bloom will be missed. His legacy is that he guided people out of their comfort zones and institutional complacency to ones that became more accessible and inclusive to a variety of people with disabilities.

Good-bye, my friend. Rest in the knowledge that you will not be forgotten. Pioneers like you are never forgotten. Rest my friend in the know that you had walked the talk. You showed people around you the valuable contributions of people with disabilities.Vern Bloom’s memorial gathering is 1-4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11 at Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4343 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis.

Maynard Reynolds changed education

By Access Press

Maynard Reynolds, a pioneer of mainstreaming in education, died Oct. 16. He was 90 and lived in North Oaks. Reynolds was the former chairman of the University of Minnesota Department of Special Education. He was a professor for 38 years. He is considered one of the architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“People were just a little bit horrified,” Sue Rose, coordinator of Special Education Programs at the University of Minnesota and a longtime colleague, told the Star Tribune. “They said, ‘You’re taking these kids who have problems and keeping them in a general education classroom where regular education teachers don’t know how to work with them.’ His premise was ‘let’s do a better job of teaching all kids well across the board.’” Adaptive mainstreaming is now commonplace.

Reynolds grew up in a family that lived with disabilities. His mother taught elementary school, even after she developed glaucoma that left her nearly 100 percent blind. His father lost his hearing.

Reynolds served in World War II in the Solomon Islands with the Army Air Force. He graduated from Moorhead State College and earned his master’s from the University of Minnesota. Reynolds received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and taught there from 1951 until retiring in 1989. He received the J.E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council for Exceptional Children in 1971, and the University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognizes graduates who attain unusual distinction in their profession, in 2004.

He is survived by his wife Donna, a son, two daughters and four grandchildren. Services have been held.

Olson made outdoors accessible

By Access Press

Outdoor enthusiast Paul Olson, who helped Twin Cities residents enjoy the outdoors through a nonprofit he founded, died of pneumonia Oct. 2. He was 69 and was a Chaska native. Olson most recently lived in Hopkins.

He was a Vietnam War veteran and served in the U.S. Army. Olson worked as a boat captain in Florida after military service. He came back to Minnesota and worked in construction several years ago.

Olson was paralyzed in an accident in 1999, after falling off of a roof.

In 2002, Olson and a friend from Courage Center co-founded Freedom in Wheelchairs Inc., a company offering free trips on a wheelchair-accessible pontoon boat up and down the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

The nonprofit offered other free activities. Freedom in Wheelchairs aims to help people have special experiences to make life better, according to the nonprofits’ website. It’s not clear if the organization will continue to operate since Olson has passed away.

Olson loved the outdoors and loved being out on the water, according to friends. He also wanted people with disabilities to enjoy outdoor experiences. At the time of his death he was working on plans for a hydropowered bike that people with disabilities could use.

Olson is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren and two siblings. Services have been held.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.