History of ASB

 

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Changing Attitudes and Steady Progress

Overview
History
Memorable Personalities
Historical Documents

Overview

The history of the Arkansas School for the Blind parallels very closely the history of education for persons who are visually impaired throughout the world. Initially, there were no schools for persons who were visually impaired. The public attitude held that such persons were incapable of learning or becoming productive members of society. This attitude was based on the fact that few persons who were visually impaired lived productive lives. The greatest deterrent to their being able to do so was the fact that prior to 1840, there was no known system which would allow people who did not see to read and write.

As knowledge of the Braille system for reading and writing spread, pioneers struggled to overcome public attitudes and to establish schools for educating individuals with visual impairments. The first schools of this type were often institutions which de-emphasized academics in favor of music, beadwork, broom making, piano tuning and chair caning-pursuits which would provide a marginal living upon completion of the course of study. An indication of the public attitude toward persons with visual impairments is the fact that many of the first schools were known as "asylums for the blind."

Increasing awareness of the needs of visually impaired persons led gradually to the establishment of schools for the blind in most states, and establishment of the American Printing House for the Blind which assumed the responsibility of providing materials in Braille and recorded form. With the availability of reading materials, the curriculum for most schools shifted more towards academics; though vocational education continued to be stressed.

The first schools for the blind were homes where students and staff lived most of the year. Working at a school for the blind was a 24-hour-a-day job with staff serving as parents and teachers. For many years, all students used Braille as their functional reading media, though many students were partially sighted and might have read print had they been permitted to do so. Medical opinion at that time held that attempting to read print by partially sighted students might "strain their eyes" and cause total loss of vision. It was not until 1950, that the medical profession reversed itself on this theory and students who were partially sighted were taught to read print.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the greatest problem facing educators of students with visual impairments was the establishment of a standardized system of reading and writing for those who use the sense of touch to read. The impracticability of raised print was recognized by this time. However two systems, "Braille," and "New York Point," had emerged as viable systems for reading using touch. Both employed dots which could be felt, but the combinations employed to represent letters were completely different. Both systems showed promise and each system had its proponents. For obvious reasons it was necessary to agree on one system for reading and writing. The issue was debated fiercely for nearly 20 years before educators finally selected Braille as the dot system to use. After this decision was reached, debate continued over the issue of developing a standardized code of Braille symbols which would be employed in the embossing of Braille books.

The period between 1940 and 1960 was a time of tremendous changes and improvements in schools for the blind. Colleges and universities began offering courses in methodology for teaching individuals with visual impairments. Courses in Braille, medical aspects of blindness and  orientation and mobility were added to college curricula and many schools of higher learning developed a course of study leading to the certification of teachers of the visually impaired. Graduates of these schools had an immediate impact at the schools which employed them. Curricula at schools for the blind were broadened to include orientation and mobility, and greater efforts were made to teach social skills. The faculties of most schools for the blind were now made up of certified personnel who were steeped in modern instructional techniques. Athletic competition with other schools for the blind began during the next era of change in the education of visually impaired persons occurred as a result of the passage of federal law 94-142 which shifted responsibility for the education of persons who were visually impaired to local school districts and mandated the development of Individual Education Plans to address individual needs. The first change to schools for the blind was a reduction in student enrollment as more students attended public school. With fewer students, teachers at schools for the blind could offer more individualized instruction. Also, schools were able to employ more specialized teachers  to provide more intensive instruction in mobility, Braille, technology and social skills. Finally, more money became available for purchasing the latest in adaptive technology for visually impaired persons. As schools enter the 21st century, the use of technology has increased greatly. Adaptive technology has provided persons who are visually impaired access to the informational highway (the internet) and has made the attainment of a first-rate education a reality.
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A Brief History of The Arkansas School for the Blind

The first organized effort to educate the blind in Arkansas was started at Clarksville in 1850 by Reverend James Chaplain, a blind Methodist minister. However, after a year of tiresome effort with no support and little encouragement from the general public, the school was discontinued.

In 1858, Reverend Haucke, a Baptist minister who was blind and who was interested in the education of the blind, opened a school at Arkadelphia known as the "Institute for the Education of the Blind". The following year, in 1859, the institute was incorporated and a board of trustees appointed by Governor Conway. The school was supported by private contributions until the legislature of 1861 made an appropriation.

In October of 1859 Otis Patten, who was blind and who had taught at the Kentucky Institute for the Blind for eleven years, became superintendent of the school.

He remained superintendent until March 1885, some 26 years.

By the fall of 1860, there were 10 pupils in the school. Of these, more than half were orphans or half orphans, and only one was able to pay for board or tuition. In addition to literary instruction, the boys were taught to make brooms, brushes, and mattresses, and the girls were taught to do sewing, knitting, and bead work. Some of the pupils were instructed in piano and violin.

Professor Patten made an appeal to the legislature for financial support of the institution so that all blind children in the State, regardless of financial status, could be educated and instructed in a trade, thereby providing for a "life of joyous activity and usefulness." But even though the trustees supported Patten's theory of educating blind children, still they looked upon the institution as a place for the maintenance and care of the blind and especially the blind orphans. This attitude is reflected in the 1860 report of the trustees and superintendent when the trustees asked that the institution be placed under the fostering care of the State. The following is a partial quotation of the trustees' request:

"...We appeal to you, not-for ourselves-not for any advantage which we can possibly derive from your assistance; but for help to those, who, without your help must grope their way in cheerless darkness, until death shall relieve them from an irksome, and dreary existence ......"

The legislature, beginning in 1861, did make a modest appropriation for the support of the institution. However, several years passed before pupils were no longer required to either obtain a certificate of poverty from the County Judge in their area or pay their own way.

In 1863, a young man named Thomas B. Parks, who lost his eyesight from a gunshot wound at the battle of Shiloh in the Civil War, was discharged from the institution after having been instructed in broom making. When later heard from, he was making brooms in Hot Springs County.

In September of 1863, the trustees authorized Professor Patten to close the institution because of the unsettled condition of the country brought about by the Civil War. The pupils were sent home, the rented property was relinquished, and the furniture and equipment were sold to pay the debts of the school. Professor Patten returned to the Kentucky Institute to accept a temporary position in order to provide for his family. Upon the request of the trustees, he did not resign as superintendent and agreed to either resume his labors or aid in the reopening of the institution.

After a restoration of law and order, the school was reopened at Arkadelphia in February 1867 in a house known as the residence of the late Dr. James K. Rogers. This property was purchased by the State and consisted of a large 1-story frame house with 10 rooms and approximately six acres of land situated on a high bluff overlooking the Ouachita River. The property was held until the close of the school year in the spring of 1868 when it was donated to the City of Arkadelphia and the school was moved to Little Rock.

The school opened for the first time in Little Rock In the fall of 1868, at a site known as "Rosewood, " a short distance south of Fort Steel. This 15-acre site was leased from a Mrs. William Savin Fulton as a temporary location for the school until a permanent building could be built on an adjoining 7 acres.

In May of 1869, Major Samuel McCormick contracted to build a 3-story, brick building with dimensions of 40 feet by 50 feet. This new brick building, named for Colonel Gray, and 4 frame buildings were put up as a sort of appendage to a main edifice designed to stand at the head of Center Street.

In March of 1874, Professor Patten learned that the parcel of ground lying between the institute premises and Louisiana Street on the east and extending from 18th street to 19th street had come into market after having been in litigation. He also learned that someone had already bought the lot at the corner of 18th and Louisiana Streets and had plans for a building. Realizing that the grounds of the institution would be greatly injured if this lot fell into the hands of other parties and since the trustees had neither the authority nor the means to purchase this tract, Professor Patten found 5 men willing to purchase the property and hold it until the next meeting of the legislature could bring about an appropriation to secure the property for the institution.

In 1877, by act of the legislature, the name of the school was changed to "The Arkansas School for the Blind".

The foundation was laid for the school building at the head of Center Street In 1885. The corner stone -was placed with appropriate Masonic ceremonies, with The Honorable W. H. H. Clayton officiating as Grand Master. C. W. Clark was Building Contractor, and Ben J. Bartlett was Architect.

Music was an important component of the curriculum from the very beginning and its importance to the overall program was cemented when Professor Emile Trebing, a graduate of the Kentucky School for the Blind, was elected principal music teacher in 1888. The curriculum he offered in the Music Department at the school enabled his students to receive training equivalent to that usually offered at the college level. With the exception of the 2 years that he studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory, he was Director of the Music Department until his death in the summer of 1940.

Professor Trebing is described by students and co-workers as kind, patient, jolly and energetic.  He was loved by students for his friendly and even-tempered disposition and for his dedication. He taught advanced students to play piano, organ, violin, brass and woodwind instruments. Advanced students were instructed in music theory as well. Professor Trebing was a brilliant musician, who excelled in playing piano, organ and all the other instruments which he taught students to play. He accompanied the choir and composed music for his students to perform at concerts which were held frequently for the public. Two of his compositions for choral groups which have endured are "The Christmas Round" and "National Airs" which have been performed by students of the school over the years.

After his marriage to Annie Harvey, who was a fine musician in her own right, He and his wife were very active in the community. He was organist at First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock for many years. The Trebings secured funding to build the "Trebing Home," a residence for blind women,-a facility which served to meet a need which was acute at that time. They were also instrumental in the forming of the Arkansas State Association of the Blind which was a support group for ASB graduates. Later the name was changed to the Arkansas School for the Blind Alumni Association. The association functions today as an ASB support group and meets annually in early June.

In 1904, a pipe organ was installed in the chapel of the school at a cost of $4,000. When installing this organ, it was necessary to reinforce the stage in order for it to bear the weight. At first the organ was powered by water, then by air pressure, and later by electricity. It made the journey to the West Markham Street site in 1939 and then was moved to the Woolly Fine Arts Center on campus in 1978 and completely rebuilt at a cost of $36,000. In 1914, a 9-foot concert grand piano was purchased for the stage in the auditorium. This piano is on the stage in the Woolly Fine Arts Center also.

The Arkansas State Association for the Blind was organized in June 1919, and Miss Amanda Moore was elected President. The purposes of this organization were to promote in every feasible way, the educational, vocational, social, and general welfare of the blind and to create a loan fund to assist the worthy and capable blind in their various pursuits. This organization is now functioning under the name "Arkansas School for the Blind Alumni Association" and is the oldest organization of the blind in Arkansas.

In 1939, the Association loaned Earley Busby $100 to open a vending stand in the Arkansas Printing & Lithographic Building located at 10th and Center Streets. This vending facility was the first location in Arkansas to come into the organized Vending Stand Program.

In the 1930's, plans were formulated to build a new school for the blind on West Markham Street. Apparently, the reasons for building the new school were that state officials were interested in acquiring the land at the current location on Center Street; land owned by the state was available on the Markham Street site immediately adjacent to the Arkansas School for the Deaf; and additional classroom space could be provided at the new location.

At 2:00 p.m. on October 9, 1939, the cornerstone was placed at the new Arkansas School for the Blind plant on West Markham Street by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, F. & A. M., with Acting Grand Master C. Eugene Smith, Jr., directing the Masonic ceremony. A teacher from the Arkansas School for the Deaf interpreted the ceremony in sign language. Immediately following this ceremony was the formal dedication held in the school auditorium. The dedication ceremony began with a number rendered on the pipe organ by Professor Emile Trebing followed by an address by State Commissioner of Education T. H. Alfred. Governor Bailey then introduced the principle speaker, Miss Helen Keller, an internationally known blind educator who, being both deaf and blind, told of her discovery of the world into which she was born. Miss Keller was accompanied by her constant companion and secretary, Miss Polly Thompson. The day's activities ended with an open house. The formal name of what is commonly referred to as the "Main Building" is the "Helen Keller Memorial Building". This building and the ones directly behind it were built as a WPA project.

Dr. J. M. Woolly came to the school as principal and math teacher in the fall of 1939 and was appointed superintendent in 1947. He was effective in transforming The Arkansas School for the Blind into one of the leading schools of its kind in the nation. He broadened the curriculum, worked with colleges and universities to establish courses for teacher certification. He employed certified teachers, secured funding for a building program to modernize facilities and worked long hours micro-managing the total program to bring about his vision of a modern, progressive school.

The two decades between 1940 and 1960 saw the development of an athletic program and the beginning of athletic competition with other schools for the blind.  ASB students competed in wrestling and track.  Athletic teams first adopted the name of "Bronco Busters." They became the "Tornados" around 1952.  Wishing to adopt a name that was indigenous to Arkansas, a committee of students and faculty  selected the Titan Missile as the team name in 1963.  ASB athletes were Titans until the Titan Missile became obsolete in the 1980's.  The lion is now the official ASB mascot.

Training in orientation and mobility was begun, and a greater emphasis was placed on the use of research to improve instruction.  ASB was at the forefront in experimenting with new theories to better meet the needs of its students.

Students at ASB used Braille exclusively during the first hundred years of the school’s existence. Operating under the accepted medical opinion that reading print by partially-sighted students might result in total loss of vision, teachers took necessary steps to prevent students with vision from reading print or looking at Braille dots. Aprons were used to cover students hands on the Braille book, and blindfolds were sometimes employed. In the 1950's, large print textbooks in 18-point type became available on all grade levels, and those with vision were instructed in print.

For the most part, those who read print and those who used Braille were grouped together. Teachers taught both media in the same classroom. If a student required more intensive instruction in print or in Braille, he would spend a period or more a week with a resource teacher.

In 1949, Ved Mehta, a student in India who was visually impaired and anxious to further his education, applied for admission to many of the leading schools for the blind in the United States. His desire for an education was achieved when Mr. Woolly received special permission from government officials to accept his application. Ved graduated from ASB in 1952. After graduation, he attended college and later wrote a book entitled "Face to Face" which described his experiences at the Arkansas School for the Blind. Today Ved is a successful writer who has published numerous articles on a variety of subjects.

The decade of the 1970's was a time of reorganization at the school, and new buildings were constructed at a cost of approximately $4,000,000. A vocational program was implemented in 1971 to offer better opportunities for vocational choice and training.

Federal Act 94-142 became law in 1975. This law assigned responsibility for the education of students with visual impairments to the local school districts. As a result, more students with visual impairments enrolled in the public school system. In 1978 ASB began to provide area visual services to children attending Arkansas' public schools who were blind or visually impaired .

As the student enrollment decreased in the late 80's and 90's, the emphasis at the Arkansas School for the Blind continued to focus on developing comprehensive individual education plans (IEP’s) to identify specific needs of students and address those needs with more intensive instruction. Small pupil-teacher ratios resulted in more individualized instruction and more specialization by staff members. As the school enters the 21st century, greater emphasis on technology is having a positive effect on the educational program as students are provided access to a wealth of information heretofore unavailable to them. The Arkansas School for the Blind has completed almost a century and a half of service to the visually impaired children of Arkansas. Continued reliance on research and support on the part of Arkansas governmental officials insures that the school will continue to provide a quality education and opportunities for its students which they might otherwise miss.

The decade of the 90's and the early 21st century has seen numerous new programs started under the guidance of Superintendent Jim Hill. These programs include the start of the Birth to Three-year-old infant educational program. ASB is proud to serve infants and toddlers throughout the state of Arkansas. This program grew rapidly and now serves students throughout the state. Also during this time the enrollment stabilized and is now showing a gradual increase.

Numerous technology enhancements occurred with the support of Mr. Hill allowing ASB to offer state of the art programming to their students. With the addition of Distance Learning options, ASB began to offer a multitude of courses to its students that previously could not be offered. A state of the art wireless network now allows the students access to important information at their desktop through the use of laptop computers. As we continue on, ASB will continue to seek out new technologies that will enhance the educational experience of the students.


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Memorable Personalities 

Many significant people have made contributions to the development of the Arkansas School for the Blind into one of the best schools of its type in the nation. Below is a list of some individuals who were prominent in the history of ASB:

Otis Patten:

Otis Patten was the first superintendent at ASB. he worked tirelessly to overcome public apathy and to secure funding and land for the first school for the blind in Arkansas.

 

Professor Emile Trebing:
Professor Trebing was a highly-gifted, partially sighted instructor of music who taught piano, organ, strings woodwinds and music theory at ASB for 52 years. He was a talented musician who could play many instruments with great skill. Students describe "Professor" as a big, jolly, lovable teddy bear.  He possessed an extraordinary ear for music. Those who knew him well say that he could play a piece of music immediately after hearing it played for the first time or after the music was read to him.

He and his wife were very active in the community. Professor Trebing was the organist at First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock for many years. Mr. and Ms. Trebing secured funding for a residence for blind women (The Trebing Home) at a time when the need for such a facility was acute. They were also largely responsible for the founding of the Association for the Blind which became the ASB Alumni Association.

James Max Woolly:

Mr. J. M. Woolly came to ASB in 1939 as principal and was appointed to the position of superintendent in 1947. Under his guidance, the school was transformed in to one of the leading schools for the blind in the nation. During his 44-year tenure, the curriculum was modified to place greater emphasis on academics and development of social skills. J. M. Woolly was able to secure funding for several new buildings which were constructed on the ASB campus. These included Shults House, Prewitt Hall, The Smith Vocational Building, The Hartman Gymnasium, The Learning Center, the superintendent's residence and the Woolly Fine Arts Building.

Mr. Woolly accomplished these dramatic improvements by working 16-hour days and by recruiting and employing a highly-qualified work force which shared his enthusiasm and dedication and whole-heartedly responded to his leadership.

Mr. Woolly was directly involved in every aspect of the program at ASB. He drove the school bus, officiated at athletic events, oversaw curriculum development and supervised the teaching, home life and maintenance staffs. It was not unusual to observe him performing a maintenance task or picking up trash around the buildings.

J. M. Woolly was active in national organizations which worked towards improving education for visually impaired persons. In 1978, Dr. Woolly was awarded the Migel Medal by the American Foundation for the Blind for his outstanding contributions in the field of education. The contributions made by Mr. Woolly in the field of education of the visually impaired have made a vast difference in the lives of generations of students who attended ASB, and he is loved and respected by those who worked under his supervision or benefited from his work.

John Ed Chiles:

John Ed Chiles graduated from ASB in 1943, earned a degree in history and political science from Hendrix College, and completed graduate studies at Vanderbilt University before returning to ASB as secondary social studies teacher. During his thirty-seven years at the school, John Ed impacted the lives of hundreds of boys and girls. In his classroom social studies came alive and became meaningful to students who, heretofore, had given little serious thought to geography or history and who cared little for world affairs. Mr. Chiles commanded the respect of students and was able to motivate students to achieve at a higher level than they thought possible.

John Ed served a highly-successful stint as principal from 1956 until 1963, performing a duel role as he continued teaching some social studies classes. He demonstrated superior organizational skills and was respected by teachers and students for his fairness, his objectivity and his willingness to listen. However, his great love was teaching; and in 1963 he was permitted to return to the classroom full time.

John Ed sponsored many class parties, called square dances for the square dance club and organized the ASB Student Council in the early 1950's. He served as student council sponsor until his retirement in 1985.

Mr. "C.," as he was affectionately known, was a symbol of academic excellence at ASB for 37 years. He was a teacher and a friend to many students. Their great respect for Mr. Chiles served to insure that students remembered who was teacher and who was student. He was generous with his time, spending many hours after school and on weekends with his students whose company he sincerely enjoyed. It was a common sight to see John Ed with a group of students on a Saturday morning discussing world affairs or yesterday’s world series game, listening to classical music or the latest rock and roll hit as he shared his large record collection or playing horse in the swimming pool. Students found it refreshing and unusual to find a friend among the faculty who could enjoy with equal fervor a Beethoven symphony and the latest hit by the Dave Clark five.

After graduation, many students remained friends with Mr. Chiles and continued to call him or correspond with him for advice or encouragement. Mr. Chiles served as a model to generations of students- a reminder as to what could be achieved by a person with a visual impairment who was determined and applied himself. John Ed Chiles did not promote such a role for himself. He was delegated that role by the students who loved and respected him and who were buoyed by his encouragement and friendship.

Eula Shults:

Eula Shults taught home economics to girls in grades 7-12 from 1940 until her retirement in 1970. Ms. Shults possessed enormous patience, sincerity, great kindness and a tireless work ethic. Eula Shults served as the "Emily Post" of ASB. It was she who defined what was correct in social behavior and table etiquette; and in instances where there might be disagreement among faculty members, she cast the deciding vote. Ms. Shults was highly respected by boys and girls alike; who (in the words of Mark Twain) "never needed to be reminded to mind their manners when she was around." She was not as popular as some faculty members among students. That fact was of no concern to Eula Shults. She did not seek popularity. Her one goal, which she pursued constantly and with vigor, was that girls become independent home makers, and that all students learn proper etiquette and learn to behave as ladies and gentlemen in order to assume responsible social positions upon graduation from ASB. Ms Shults designed Shults House which stands in front of the Administration Building. The building was completed in 1970 and dedicated in her honor just prior to her death.

Oliver Wendell Holmes:
O. W. Holmes arrived at ASB in 1958 and functioned in the duel role of industrial arts instructor and senior-high boys houseparent, and for 22 years defined the male role for countless boys who were often from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. From this kind, sensitive, caring, gentle, soft-spoken man, boys learned that boastfulness, vulgarity, violence and boorish behavior did not make a person a man-that it was manly to be courteous, quiet and respectful of others.

O. W. Holmes patiently stressed cleanliness to boys who had received little instruction or encouragement in practicing good hygiene. In his industrial arts classes, he stressed safety and conscientiously observed students working until they demonstrated to his satisfaction that they understood and would practice rules of safety. There was never an incident of a student’s being injured while Mr. Holmes taught at ASB.

Wendell Holmes exhibited the highest respect for his students. His methods were unique and rare. He seldom laid down rules or told students what they could or could not do. His dialog with students included phrases such as: "you might want to," "You probably will want to," or "I don't think you would want to" . . . Mr. Holmes operated under the theory that people inherently want to do the right thing. His task, as he saw it, was to convey to students in a respectful and non-threatening manner what was proper and desirable. Though he encouraged students to better themselves, he never made comments which were belittling or which would cast dispersions on students' families.

He was wily and subtle in his approach and could state an opinion without students being aware that he was doing so. Implicit in Mr. Holmes' lessons was this message: "This is something which any decent, well-bred, intelligent, responsible person would do. Since you are obviously decent, well-bred, intelligent and responsible, I'm sure that you will want to do it too." His approach was successful because his respect for others was genuine.

Mr. Holmes' devotion to his family did not prevent him from spending countless hours with ASB students watching football games, reading to them from the newspaper and discussing world affairs. He enjoyed explaining football plays and formations to students, and was an avid Razorback fan. He was a mentor, a friend and a father figure for many boys who are grateful and fortunate that he touched their lives.

Runyan Eugene Hartman:

R. E. Hartman: was employed at ASB from 1945 until his death in 1973. Mr. Hartman was something of a renaissance man. He served as physical education instructor for elementary and secondary students, coached wrestling and track and taught piano tuning and repair to secondary students. Though partially sighted, Coach Hartman was a gifted amateur photographer who developed pictures in his dark room at home. He played classical guitar and possessed a beautiful singing voice.

R. E. Hartman established wrestling and track as viable sports for students with visual impairments and promoted them in other schools for the blind. He stressed physical fitness and set an example for his students to follow. Coach Hartman's athletic teams achieved many successes over the years. In 1956, ASB wrestlers finished first among thirteen competitive teams in a tournament of schools for the blind.

However, it was as a physical education teacher that Mr. Hartman demonstrated his true brilliance. His well-rounded curriculum featured physical fitness, gymnastics, swimming and games specially designed to teach cooperation, sportsmanship and full participation by all students. Coach Hartman possessed an uncanny ability to judge how well each student could see and to understand the unique characteristics of each students' particular eye condition. He was able to design games which would force students to make maximum use of their vision. Mr. Hartman's games were so ingeniously designed that students with varying degrees of vision loss could compete on an equal footing. His games always included special rules which assured that students who were totally blind would play a meaningful part in the game. The result was that Hartman's games were fair and demanding, and students responded with enthusiasm and fierce competitiveness. Students with some vision learned to use that vision more effectively. Students who were totally blind learned to rely on hearing. All students under Mr. Hartman's tutelage learned sportsmanship and cooperation; and experienced the joy and pride which comes from being physically fit and competent.

Myrtis Jones:

 
Myrtis Jones was energetic, determined, plain-spoken and strong-willed. She arrived at ASB in 1959 and needed these traits to complete her many accomplishments. Though her tenure at the school was relatively brief, (fifteen years) she impacted the educational program and the lives of students as much as any person who ever graced the campus. She was the first certified librarian to be employed at the Arkansas School for the Blind.

Upon her arrival, she found a large, disorganized collection of books shelved in no particular order and according to no logical system. Scattered throughout the clutter were books written in raised print and in "New York Point" formats. These were reading systems for visually impaired persons which had long ago been discontinued in favor of Braille. Ms. Jones understood clearly what had to be done, and she worked long hours, often late into the night to set things right. She established the Dewey Decimal System and organized the book collection. She labeled shelves in large print and Braille, and discarded those books which were of no use to teachers or students. Though she was told repeatedly that it couldn't be done, Myrtis Jones created the first duel-media card catalog with over-sized index cards containing information in Braille on one side and information in large print on the opposite side.

To accomplish these tasks she enlisted the help of students who performed for Ms. Jones without any understanding as to why the work was necessary. Some of the tasks were immensely enjoyable for students. Throwing discarded books out the window, for example, was an activity which had never been sanctioned by an adult. Brailling and filing cards for the card catalog was a tedious task not relished by students.

Ms. Jones had a keen appreciation for history. She discarded that which had no value and saved those things which were significant in the history of education for the visually impaired or to the history of ASB. she created special displays which exhibited these items.

When she arrived, Myrtis Jones could not read Braille, though she soon learned the Braille code. She had never taught visually impaired students. However, Ms. Jones was one of a very few people who sincerely believed that individuals who were visually impaired could do anything which they wanted to do; and she manifested this attitude with such assurance that students were compelled to accept her convictions. Students in the Library Club, which she established immediately upon her arrival, always assumed leadership roles at local and state library conventions, campaigning for office, serving on committees, providing entertainment and serving as facilitators. In the early 1960's students in the ASB Library Club organized and hosted the state convention, with Myrtis Jones hovering in the background as was her custom. When one of her protégées achieved success, Ms. Jones did not respond with praise. Her words were more often, "Of course, why not? If others can do it, you can also."

On one occasion, when key personnel from some schools failed to show up at a state convention, ASB students salvaged the convention, facilitating meetings, providing the keynote speaker and the entertainment. Ms. Jones sat smugly among the librarians in attendance, as was her custom,  with just a trace of a smile concealing her pride as best she could. The pride she felt was not in the fact that her students could function thus, she had known that from the beginning; rather, it came from the realization that after years of encouraging, pushing and nagging, her students possessed this knowledge as well.

Miss Rose Mary Fussell

Miss Rose Fussell attended ASB in the decade between 1910 and 1920 where she studied music under Professor Trebing.  She was an excellent pianist and could play most any song which she heard by ear. However, there were few opportunities for persons who were blind to work at that time; so after graduating in 1920, Miss Rose returned to Cotton Plant, Arkansas where she had grown up and lived for a time with her brother. 

 In 1929, she secured a position as “office girl” at ASB, but a year later when a new superintendent was employed, she learned that her position was being eliminated, and she went back to Cotton Plant to her brother’s home.  Miss Rose played piano for a time at the local theater.  She persuaded the principal at the local high school to allow her to direct the student choral group, and succeeded in winning a state competition.  The group performed “National Airs” at the competition, a composition written by her high school music teacher, Professor Trebing. 

 In 1939, Miss Rose was employed by the new Superintendent to serve as a houseparent for girls and to teach music to Kindergarten and primary students.  Miss Rose loved the children and she loved teaching.  She taught her rhythm band students five days a week for 28 years.  No one can remember Miss Rose’s missing a day of work.  She composed little songs for her students to perform and taught them the basics of rhythm and meter.  Later she began teaching her students to play flute-a-phones,  and her students performed annually in Christmas programs for proud and incredulous parents. 

 In addition to her rhythm band instruction, Miss Rose taught beginning piano students and was responsible for teaching all Braille users to read Braille music.  Generations of talented music students owed their success in large measure to Miss Rose, who provided them with a sound music foundation.  She had a big heart, often spending a portion of her meager earnings to help needy students. Her gifts to students were given anonymously.  The beneficiaries of her generosity were never made aware from whence the money came; and  Miss Rose never received the expressions of gratitude which would have certainly been forth coming.   

Miss Rose was a hardy, determined pioneer at a time when opportunities for persons who were blind were very few.  She was a cheerful, loving, proud, determined and independent person who asked for little and made the best of opportunities which were available.  Those young people whose lives she touched were grateful and fortunate for having known Miss Rose Fussell
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Historical Documents

ASB Alma Mater

As revised in 1973
Words by Other Brown and Ken Bruton
Music by Raymond Sykes

Hail to thee oh ASB,
Our heads bow down before you;
Great numbers shall thy glory see,
For those you've known adore you.
Though we attain life's highest goal,
As one we all agree: 
We'll be as in the days of old,
Thy students ASB.

School Song

From the 1930'S
(Sung to the music of "Washington and Lee Swing"

For dear old ASB we'll fall in line;
We're gonna strut our stuff another time; 
We're gonna Yelll Yell! Yell! Yell! Yell! Yell! Yell!
For dear old ASB we'll yell -- we're gonna yell.
Our colors, purple and gold, mean victory,
And our good name will live in history;
We're gonna boost ASB to the top  on the square;
Rah! Rah! Rah!

School Song

From the 1970's
(Sung to the music of "California, here I come")

Oklahoma (opponent) here we come.
Arkansas is where we're from.
We'll pin you; we'll beat you; We'll win the Match.
We'll romp you; We'll stomp you; We will make you wish you'd never met a Titan team this strong,
As we sing our victory song.
We'll use your heads to beat our drums!
Oklahoma, here we come!

8-19-2015