We honor here members, friends and supporters of the American Council of the Blind who have impacted our lives in many wonderful ways. If you would like to submit a notice for this column, please include as much of the following information as possible.
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Deaths that occurred more than six months ago cannot be reported in this column.
Dr. Philip Hatlen
Sept. 4, 1934-Jan. 14, 2016
Phil Hatlen was born Sept. 4, 1934, to Lillie and Julius Hatlen, in a coastal town just outside Santa Barbara, Calif. He was raised on an apricot farm. After watching his father work several jobs to make ends meet while operating the farm, Phil knew that agricultural work was not for him. In a 2013 interview, he said, “When I left for college, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back to the farm.” Dr. Hatlen attended San Francisco State College (now known as San Francisco State University), and he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1957 and a master’s degree in special education in 1960. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975, with a doctorate in education.
While completing his coursework, he talked of meeting “his first blind persons in 1954”: students attending a mainstream elementary school under the tutelage of resource teacher Bob Bowers, who Dr. Hatlen credits as being his first mentor.
He began his professional career in 1957 as a resource teacher at the California School for the Blind in Berkeley. He later became the school’s principal in 1962, a position he held until 1966. While working at the school, he returned to San Francisco State University (SFSU) as an instructor, and later received an appointment as professor of special education. He coordinated the SFSU Program in Visual Impairments for the preparation of teachers of students who are visually impaired until he retired from the university in 1990. He went on to work as superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin. For 17 years, until his retirement from the school in 2007, he worked to develop partnerships between TSBVI, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Texas Tech University to support the education of teachers.
While he was the TSBVI superintendent, he realized the need to enhance the opportunity for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists to provide Expanded Core Curriculum activities to their local district students. To fill that gap, he created All Blind Children of Texas (ABCTX), a nonprofit that funds these activities by teacher request. He continued to serve on the board of ABCTX until his death.
Considered a visionary of change, Hatlen was an inspiration to countless professionals during his career as a teacher, university professor in teacher preparation programs, and in his many leadership roles in national and state organizations and committees. From the very first moment Phil Hatlen ventured into a classroom of blind kids, his curiosity about how they learned generated a lifetime of dedicated interest and fascination, leading to changes in the way the world educates blind children.
In 1997, he received the Migel Medal from AFB, the highest honor in the blindness field; in 2000, he was given the Mary K. Bauman Award, AER’s highest award for an educator; in 2009, he received the Wings of Freedom Award from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH); and, in 2012, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field, which is housed at APH.
His hand in the creation of the Expanded Core Curriculum and the development of a national agenda to provide guidelines on teaching beyond the basics has been a lifetime achievement and formed Phil’s 50-plus-year career as a world leader and game-changer in his profession.
His broad, sweeping changes at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will be remembered throughout our history’s greatest chapters: changes from expanding our orientation and mobility resources to pushing out curriculum that expresses the need to go beyond the regular curriculum in classrooms across the globe by expanding our outreach department.
Hatlen is survived by three sons, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
To share your memories, visit www.tsbvi.edu/share-your-memories-of-dr-phil-hatlen.
Donations in memory of Phil Hatlen may be sent to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired or All Blind Children of Texas, 1100 W. 45th St, Austin, TX 78756.