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Staff member assists a student learning to read Braille. Legacy of Love Realizing that many blind children were being denied the education they needed and deserved, Dr. Jessie Royer-Greaves founded Royer-Greaves School for the Blind in 1921. By Peter Urscheler PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROYER-GREAVES SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND D r. Jessie Royer-Greaves was born on September 9, 1874, in Trappe, Pennsylvania. Her family was fairly well-educated, and although of modest means, they provided a stable and loving environment that would become the foundation of her life’s work. Although she was born at a time when women’s education was often overlooked, a young Royer-Greaves showed keen interest in formal education and continuing her family’s strong legacy of service. As a child, Dr. Royer-Greaves was surrounded by intellectuals and public servants. Her father was a physician and both her grandfathers were in public service—one an Associate Justice of Montgomery County and the other a Comptroller of the Philadelphia Public Schools. With her family’s support, Royer-Greaves continued her formal education at Ursinus College in Collegeville and graduated in 1892. As a fitting tribute to her success, she was selected to give the commencement address, titled “The Higher Education of Women.” After graduating from Ursinus, Dr. Royer-Greaves wanted to pursue public speaking and enrolled in the Emerson College of Oratory in Boston. While there she met Dr. Emerson, one of the school’s founders, who inspired in her an interest in working with and serving the blind. A visit to the Overbrook School for the Blind reinforced her 60 1.800.558.0940, ext. 202 TO ADVERTISE | Phoenixville Area interest and caused Dr. Royer-Greaves to change her career path. After graduating from Emerson in 1901, she began to teach at Overbrook, a position she would hold for 25 years. During her time at Overbrook, Dr. Royer-Greaves taught declama- tion and physical expression. Her classwork focused on helping blind children develop poise, balance, a muscular sense and a sense of direction. Although Dr. Royer-Greaves knew she had found her calling, her time at the school began to distress her. She discovered that many blind children who also had other disabilities were not accepted. To make matters worse, mental testing was introduced in the 1920s, which meant many children who suffered multiple disabilities, including blindness, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy and/or a hearing impairment were not accepted into any state-funded programs. Society labeled these individuals as “untrainable,” and most spent their lives confined to mental institutions. Dr. Royer-Greaves saw firsthand how powerful education and training tailored to an individual’s needs could be. She recognized that the approach for teaching those who were blind was not always best suited for those who had other disabilities in addition to visual impairment. Through these experiences she found her inspiration to