Alumni Bulletin: 2012

The registration form is at the end of the bulletin.



Letter from President Ted Crum:


Hello to all Alumni members and welcome to your 2012 Spring-Summer Alumni Bulletin.  Although I’m writing to you on a dreary rainy morning in mid-May our next Alumni Convention will be here before you know it.  The convention dates are August 3, 4 and 5.  Once again the Alumni Board is happy to announce the cost for the entire weekend remains the same.  Along with your dues of $6.00 the entire weekend will only cost $56.00.  Registration will be from 3:00-6:00 Friday August 3.  Members please depart no later than 11:00 A.M. Sunday August 5.  Friday evening will be our social, and Robert who was with us last convention providing Karaoke will be with us once again.


Saturday will begin with breakfast at 8:00 with the convention meeting to begin at 9:00.  Lunch will be around noon pending on the length of our meeting.  Dinner will be held at 6:00 p.m.  At the time of this letter our planning committee is busy searching for a guest speaker.  Those having contact with Alumni we don’t have on file please share the bulletin and encourage them to join us for a weekend of reminiscing of our time spent here along with other experiences we’ve encountered throughout our lives.


Sincerely Ted Crum


WPSBC Alumni President




Dear Alumni:


WPSBC Superintendant Todd Reeves along with Jillian Pritts WPSBC Director of Public Relations are requesting members to share their thoughts and memories of time spent receiving education at the school. They request it be brief and concise. Below is an email from Jillian Pritts. Examples to think about may include a favorite class, specific recreational activity or field trips that stood out for you individually. Please share this with other Alumni that do not have the use of email. If interested the school appreciates your input and would like responses sent over the next month or so. Send thoughts and memories to


President Ted Crum





Subject: Thoughts and Thanks for WPSBC

Hi Ellen and Ted!

Wondering if you might be interested in helping me. I’m getting up some new info on the School’s website regarding the 125th anniversary and one of the new sections is called “Thoughts and Thanks” where we want to elicit some well wishes/memories regarding the School.

I need to get it up and running and I’m hoping you might be willing to submit something. Not really looking for anything long or in-depth or extensive, just a personal reflection or perspective.

If yes, would you email it to me?

Ted – wondering if you might be willing to share this with our alumni? You can either just forward this email to the members or you can send me their addresses and I (or Todd) can send something out on behalf of the School? Your call on what might be most effective.

In fact, if there is anyone else you might want to share this opportunity with, please do. Once I get maybe one or two up (hopefully your thoughts and thanks) you can always direct them to our website or give them my email address for more info.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks so much,



We invite you to share your thoughts, thanks or memories of the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children.


If you are interested, please email your submission to:

Thank you!


I couldn’t talk about WPSBC memories without mentioning a few of the teachers. I learned to enjoy reading novels from Miss Durkin. She recommended books and I shared the books I was reading with her. Mrs. Foster was a wonderful woman and the best teacher. She prepared me to get a job shortly after graduation. I couldn’t even begin to list the things I learned from her. And finally, an oldie but goodie! Miss Pascarella was my sixth grade teacher. She was only at the school for a few years, but I liked her and was sorry to see her go. She had a unique teaching method, which always kept things interesting. I’d better cut this short or it will become a novel; there are so many people and events which come to mind. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend WPSBC.

Cindy (Thomas) Handel, Alumnus of the School


My fondest memories include our wrestling team that competed against other private schools. Field trips to both the old Rainbow Gardens and later Kennywood Park. The extensive mobility training enabling me to gain substantial independence along with learning to type which back then meant a manual typewriter then advancing to the electric ones.

Ted Crum, Alumnus of the School – Class of 1979


I was in Mrs. Klineman’s 6th grade class. One day I mentioned that train whistles seem to have a code, like two short blasts and then a long blast. I wondered what the different combinations meant. A day or two later, she handed me a couple of braille pages, on which she had written out all of the whistle codes. I was thrilled and amazed that she would take the time to go to the library and research it and then manually braille out the information for me. She was a wonderful teacher!

Jerry Berrier, Alumnus of the School – Class of 1970


In third grade, the public relations office along with WQED produced a movie, “Only for a Moment” in which two of our classmates played central parts, Terry and Sandra. I vividly remember two interesting aspects of this movie, spending one entire afternoon eating bowl after bowl of rich sherbet and endlessly writing the Braille alphabet with our slates and styluses or very portable writing tools. The producer, John Roberts who was very locally prominent in 1964, had this penchant for telling corny jokes. He was also very kind to the children. I remember that same year breakfasting with Santa Claus at Horne’s department store, while we speculated amongst ourselves whether there really was a Santa Claus. And finally, I remember the huge apple pie we bought at the PTO bake sale, all the while, pondering what we would do with it and exactly how we planned to eat it without utensils.

Ellen Goldfon, Alumnus of the School


In seventh grade woodshop, I was faced with an adversity that has now become one of my fondest memories. Upon finishing a project, Mr. Mac, my woodshop teacher, asked if I had given any thought as to my next project. I replied that I was considering making a fruit bowl as I was interested in learning more about the lathe. Mr. Mac said “OK, follow me” and took me back to the supply room that was severely depleted at that time. I remember Mr. Mac saying “Well, let’s see what we can do!” He then put down a few boards at the floor level and exposed several rough blocks of wood used as props. He then slid two of the rough props toward me. Thinking Mr. Mac was joking; I laughed and asked “Do you want me to throw these away?” In a very serious tone of voice, Mr. Mac said that they were oak, and if planed true and being careful with the direction of the grain they could be glued and clamped resulting in good raw material for the bowl. At that moment I was so frustrated and disappointed I considered abandoning that project. After taking a deep breath and giving it another moment of thought I decided to take his challenge and show him that I could do it. At the end of this project Mr. Mac sat down with me and expressed how proud he was that my determination and hard work resulted in a fine finished product. Mr. Mac then insisted that I loan this bowl to the school for display. Some 50 years later, I sometimes look back and reflect on various challenges placed upon me by some of the instructors at WPSBC and realize that circumstances such as this are what gave me the determination and will to succeed in life. Thanks to all who touched my life in the 1960’s at WPSBC. Congratulations on your 125th anniversary!

Judge Roderick Frisk, Alumnus of the School
I went to WPSBC from the mid 1970s till the mid 1980s. I had some wonderful teachers there but, two of my favorite teachers I had still work there, their names are Kathie Nelson and Lynn Shallenburger who I had in 1985-1988. Kathie Nelson to me was the kind of teacher that had a lot of faith in her students and was very helpful. There was lots of times I got sick Kathie stuck by my side just like a mother would stick by her child’s side. Lynn Shallenburger always helped me out as well she would give me good advice when I needed it. Kathie Nelson taught me I can do anything I want as long as I put my mind to it. I would like to thank Kathie Nelson and Lynn Shallenburger for all the wonderful years I had at WPSBC. For those who have Kathie Nelson and Lynn Shallenburger now just know you got a wonderful teacher you’re very lucky to have them. Thank you Kathie and Lynn it was a great honor to have you as a teacher.

Nita Stewart, Alumnus of the School


As a third-grader, lying in bed on the 2nd floor of the main building, it was so comforting to hear the grandfather clock striking down in the front hall where the double staircase is. Also, as a young child, we could hear the orchestra practicing in the evening. They practiced in the chapel which is now the gym on the 2nd floor. Another thing that we could hear lying in bed at night was the crowd cheering from Forbes Field when something excited happened. The lights from the old Duquesne Gardens could be seen when they’d be advertising shows as well as while they were going on. The sound of the organ throughout the whole building because of the pipes which went up to the 3rd floor.

Joe Wasserman, Alumnus of the School


While a student at WPSBC, I received training that gave me tools that have served me throughout my life. Braille gave me means of communication; typing gave me means of liveliness as I was able to find employment as a clerk typist for the state of Pennsylvania; and mobility training with the use of a white cane allowed me to be independent in traveling.

Helen Spaid Flanigan, Alumnus of the School – Class of 1954


Out of all my classes I enjoyed Horticulture and the teaching of Tom Greaser the most. He spent a lot of time explaining to us importance of growing healthy plants. I’ll always remember the fun field trip on the Gateway Clipper Joe Wassermann took my class on in 1976 and he surprised me by inviting my mother. The school trips in the spring to Confluence where we fished and had the chance to ride boats. Finally, I looked forward to the trips in the fall that we had to the Extine farm where we were able to experience horseback riding and the hayrides they provided. Because I started my education at another school I appreciated my time at WPSBC so much more. Happy 125th to my school WPSBC!


Larry Mahoney, Alumnus of the School – Class of 1980


For those of you who receive this on CD, Cassette or LP and want o share your thoughts you can call me at the school 412-621-0100, or write the School at the 201 N. Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, or have someone email tem to the school.



2012 Necrology


Joseph Sofranko, class of 1950, died in August 2010.

Homer Schauer, class of 1945, died in August 2010.

Eugene Love, class of 1962, died in October 2010.

Deborah Troutman, class of 1970, died in November 2010.

Patricia Nickel, class of 1973, lost her mother in December 2010.

James Maley, class of 1967, lost his son in January 2011.

Becky Fuller Barns a former student lost her husband in February 2011.

Helen Wagus Callahan, class 1948, died in February 2011.

Patricia Funk, class of 1970, lost her mother in March 2011.

Brenda Mueller, class of 1975, lost her mother in April 2011.

David Popoleo, class of 1974, lost his mother in April 2011.

Olive Wells a former student, died in May 2011.

William Bailey, class of 1980,  lost his mother in May 2011.

Jim Leri, class of 1945, died  in June 2011.

Charlie Mustake, class of 1956, died June 2011.

Carmen Masteic Deems, class 1966 lost a brother in July 2011 and another brother in October 2011.

Jamed Norhold Class, 1958, lost his sister in July 2011.

Gerald Sullivan, a former student, lost his wife in August 2011.

Robert Longmore, a former student, died in August 2011.

Donna Rice Lewis, class of 1986, lost her father in September 2011.

Joan Peters, a former student, lost her mother in October 2011.

Sherrie Martz Crum, class of 1978, lost her mother in October 2011.
Eileen Greenlee Davis, class of 1973 and R. Jeffery Greelee, class of 1975 and their brother William, a former student, lost their mother in November 2011.

James Nornhold, class of 1958, lost a brother in November 2011.

Tyrone Bellini, a former student, lost his mother in March 2012.

David Pauch, class of 1970, lost his mother in April 2012.

Ronald Karnbauer, a former student, lost his wife in April 2012.

Ed Schellhammer, class of 1950, lost his wife in February 2010.


Thanks to Louise Flannigan for putting this all together – remember the information is only want Louise receives.




School Celebrates 125th Anniversary


On January 8, 2012 the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children marks its 125th anniversary.


From those very first days the School operated, inspired faculty and staff have been driven to afford each student the opportunity to become as self-reliant as possible. This edition of Insights celebrates the past, present and future of our one-of-a-kind School. As you will notice, many things have changed throughout the course of our history. But one constant has remained the same: our dedication to provide the very best in educational opportunities for students with visual impairment. This seminal commitment is unwavering.


The theme of our anniversary, “Envisioning New Pathways to Success,” extends our long-standing commitment and corresponds with the cornerstone project of the anniversary, the construction of an Urban Trail on our Oakland campus. This engaging pathway will serve as an instructional component for students learning how to navigate outdoors using either a white cane or wheelchair. I hope you will consider making a special gift to the School for the Urban Trail, to not only commemorate our 125th anniversary but to smooth the future paths of our current pupils and generations of students to come.




Todd S. Reeves


Envisioning New Pathways to Success for 125 Years


It all began thanks to the foresight of a few. On January 8, 1887, the Courts of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania granted a charter to a group of gentlemen interested in organizing “The Western Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind” for the instruction of young blind pupils in the area. Now 125 years later, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children continues to thrive as a leading organization for the education of students with visual impairment.


1887: The Western Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind is officially chartered on January 8, 1887.


1890: The School opens temporary quarters on 42nd Street in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, offering academic as well as commercial and industrial training to its students.


1894: The School moves to its permanent home in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, a thriving commercial and residential district and the cultural and educational center of the city. Built on five and one-tenth acres, the land is donated by Mrs. Mary Schenley, a nineteenth century Pittsburgh philanthropist.


1968: The School receives federal funding to improve programming for students who were deaf-blind and multiply disabled.


1981: The School begins early intervention services to aid infants and toddlers with visual impairments.


1986: After intense study and discussion, the School transitions to a facility fully dedicated to educating students who, in addition to blindness, evidence severe multiple disabilities.


1987: The School’s campus is reconfigured in 1987-88 to support the inclusion of students with concomitant physical disabilities.


1993: The innovative Hilda M. Willis Creative Arts Series is established. This one-of-a-kind program brings fine, applied and performing arts to our students while challenging performers to adapt their work to be more interactive for students with severe and multiple disabilities.


2001: The School is named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence – the first school for the visually impaired to receive the country’s highest educational honor.


2003: The School opens its new Early Childhood Center and Children’s Garden, a unique facility for working with young people with visual impairments.


2008: The School establishes Outreach services and programs for school aged students with visual impairment currently being served in their local school district.


2011: The School partners with Community College of Allegheny County to pilot an adult day program for individuals age 21-25 with visual impairment and additional disabilities.


2012: The School celebrates its 125th anniversary on January 8, 2012.




Our 125th Anniversary Cornerstone Project: The Urban Trail


As the cornerstone project in celebration of the 125th anniversary, the School is constructing an Urban Trail on its Oakland campus that will provide a safe, supported and stimulating environment for our students to learn and practice important life skills.


Our Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) conceived of the Urban Trail to maximize on-campus instruction before embarking on the less-protected realm of O&M instruction on Pittsburgh’s streets and sidewalks.


Outdoor mobility training for an otherwise typically developing blind child is complex in and of itself: the instructional challenges and safety considerations for our student population who face additional physical and mental challenges are considerably greater.


Highlights of the trail include:

•   Simulated crosswalk with traffic signal for students to learn how to safely navigate

•   Varying ground surfaces common to Pittsburgh

•   Outdoor pavilion for classrooms to conduct activities in a natural setting

•   Kinetic Sculpture Walk

•   Adapted swing set that can accommodate students in wheelchairs

•   Texture walk

•   Print and braille signage

•   Outdoor sound station to encourage sensory awareness

•   Sensory garden and water feature

•   Environmentally friendly stormwater management system


Construction of the trail is slated to begin in March of 2012, with a completion date scheduled for the following August.




Please Support the Urban Trail & Create Pathways to Learning


For our students, the Urban Trail will be an exploratory classroom to learn vital life skills, a source of sensory stimulation and place to enjoy the outdoors.

In honor of our 125th anniversary and to support the Urban Trail campaign, the School has established the 125th Legacy Council for donors.

Donate $125 or more during the Urban Trail campaign from January 1 – December 31, 2012 and receive the following member benefits:

•   Recognition on the School’s website:

•   Recognition in the 2011/12 School Annual Report

•   Receive the School newsletter and other publications

•   Private tour of the campus and the Urban Trail

•   Special email communications with provided email address


You can make your gift using the enclosed envelope, by visiting our website:, or by contacting the Office of Institutional Advancement at 412.621.0100 or


Help Students Find Their Way: Orientation and Mobility


Orientation and Mobility Instruction, commonly referred to as “O&M,” provides individuals who are blind or visually impaired with the skills to safely travel through their environment. O&M methods originated after World War II, to enhance the rehabilitation of blinded veterans. The highly successful efforts spurred interest in providing O&M to all individuals with visual impairments. Following suit, the School for Blind Children began offering O&M instruction to its high school aged students in 1951. By 1968, the parents and administrators at the School realized our students needed mobility lessons initiated much sooner, so an experimental program was begun, that introduced elementary students to the basics of independent travel. Today our students, who confront multiple challenges in addition to their visual impairment, are taught O&M skills in a variety of ways including using a white cane or power mobility wheelchairs and the School remains at the forefront of mobility training.



Blazing New Trails: School Debuts Adult Program and Day Care Initiative


The beginning of the 2011/12 school year saw monumental changes as the School embarked on two new programs to serve individuals with visual impairments both younger and older than ever before.


As part of the School for Blind Children’s current strategic plan, the organization began piloting a post-school adaptive living skill service and vocational training day program for graduates ages 21-25 in September 2011. In response to parental concerns regarding the lack of appropriate adult programming, funding and placement opportunities for medically fragile adults with significant disabilities in our area, the School has partnered with Community College of Allegheny County to offer comprehensive services including instruction in life skills, socialization and self-care.


The program, called “LAVI: Learning Adventures for the Visually Impaired,” operates on the School’s Oakland campus Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. Staff includes the School’s Transitional Department Director Rachelle Rectenwald, and a full-time instructor, registered nurse and aide.


The program serves seven adults who are not only visually impaired but also confront other complex physical and cognitive disabilities and who are all recent June 2011 graduates of the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children.


“The Adult Program continues the excellence that we’ve come to expect from the School for Blind Children. It’s reassuring for us parents. My daughter has a place she can belong and flourish,” said parent Roseanne Lyskava.


In addition, the School initiated a child care program called “Little Learners” that will blend young children with visual impairments with sighted typically developing peers. The program is located in our Early Childhood Center and currently has 30 kids enrolled. The roll-out of the blended programming for children from birth to three years of age is scheduled to debut later in 2012.


Well folks I see that our time is about up that will bring us to the end of this Spring/Summer Bulletin.  Once remember the Convention is August 3-August 5, if you have any questions , you are welcome to call me at the school 412-621-0100 or Joanna Berkovic at 412-683-1798.  Thanks again and have a good summer.


President, Ted Crum





2012 Alumni Convention Form










Graduated/Left school in 19


Preferred format of bulletin:





I plan to stay at the school during the reunion


I am bringing a guest


I will be accompanied by a guide dog


I would like to room with


Fees per person (guests do not have to pay dues):


Membership dues only $6.00


Entire Weekend room, meals and activities $50.00


Friday night only $10.00


Breakfast/Lunch Saturday per meal $5.00


Saturday Night Banquet $20.00


Total Check or money order enclosed

(please add $6.00 to whatever events you are attending for dues.)


Please make checks or money orders payable to WPSBC Alumni and send back in the enclosed self addressed envelope by July 15th to Joanna Berkovich.  Any questions call Joanna at (412) 683-1798. Those responding by email can send their check or money order to Joanna at 375 North Craig Street, Apt. 210,  Pittsburgh, PA  15213.