Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Leaders and Legends: Donald Blasch

Donald Blasch
Inducted 2002
Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field

Donald Blasch (1914-1993) was born in Illinois, the seventh in a family of eight children whose parents emigrated from Lithuania. He graduated with a B.E. from Northern Illinois University in 1937 and from the University of Chicago with an M.A. in 1949 and postgraduate work at Ohio State University, University of Chicago and Northwestern University. In 1942 he married Virginia who currently lives outside of Chicago and they had two children.

Dr. William Wiener, Ruth Kaarlela, and Donald Blasch at Ruth Kaarlela's retirement party as chair of the WMU department (1986)

Donald Blasch worked as a psychologist at Illinois State Training School and a counselor at St. Charles School for Boys. He served in the army during World War II in Africa, Sicily and Italy, as a consultant in personnel and was promoted to Lieutenant. Prior to working at Hines he was employed as a child psychologist between 1948 and 1951.

In 1951 Donald Blasch was hired by Russ Williams as a counselor at the Hines V. A. Center. While there he exhibited a wholesome belief in what the blind person could aspire to and a genuine interest in his patients long after they had completed their training. After serving nearly eight years as a counselor, he assumed the position of acting Chief of the Blind Rehabilitation Center at Hines. He was influential in applying the "Hines Blind Center Philosophy" to a civilian program for blind children in Chicago.

In 1961 when Western Michigan University secured a federal grant to begin a training program in Orientation and Mobility, the first of its kind in the country and, indeed, the world, Donald Blasch accepted the challenge to become its director,. The establishment of the M.A. degree in O&M was soon followed by a degree in rehabilitation teaching. These two degrees were the corner stones of the department of blind rehabilitation. Among his accomplishments as Director of the Blind Rehabilitation and Mobility Institute at the university were the development of a low vision clinic, an emphasis on low vision training, and development of an electronic travel aids program. Under his leadership the department grew into one of the largest programs in the country.

After retirement in 1984 Donald Blasch served as President of the Michigan Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Through the Foundation he established an outreach program to introduce individuals to rehabilitation and encourage them to enter a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

Over the years his contributions have been recognized by organizations throughout the blindness field. He was a member of the executive board of AAWB and the recipient of more than a dozen awards including the Lawrence E. Blaha Award in 1977, the Migel Medal from AFB in 1977, the Alfred E. Allen Memorial Award from AAWB in 1979, and the Ambrose Shotwell Award from AAWB in 1981.

Donald Blasch Donald Blasch's Hall of Fame Plaque

Plaque sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Blind Low Vision Studio

About the Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence manifested by the specific individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame and through the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or visually impaired.

These significant professional colleagues of the recent and distant past are a fascinating cross-section of heroes and pioneers who not only shaped our rich history, philosophy, knowledge and skills, but also give us insights into current and future challenges. These giants shared their personal lives and showed us strategies to ensure that services for blind persons remain unique and specialized. Enjoy their lives and contributions and reflect upon your own list of heroes.

Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is a project of the entire field of blindness. It is curated by the American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Visit the virtual Hall of Fame for the inspiring stories of many more heroes of the field of blindness.

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