40 years: Continuing a legacy of excellence

Sep 27, 2011
excerpt of poster, showing first director Marvin Fifield.

For the last year, some of us have spent a lot of time looking back.

We’ve been working on the CPD History Project, as part of our 40th Anniversary Celebration.  Soon the first evidence of that work will appear in our halls: a series of posters detailing the center’s place in disability history.

It’s helped us recognize some pioneering moments. The CPD (or Exceptional Child Center, as it was known then) was ahead of its time for attaching a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities to a college of education, rather than a college of medicine. It was part of a movement toward de-institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities. It offered education to children with disabilities at a time when some schools turned them away. Later, after federal law required public schools to offer an education to all students, the CPD gradually sent the school-aged children it had been serving back to neighborhood classrooms.

Work by people in the CPD contributed to some significant moments in disability history: policy work that contributed to the Americans with Disabilities Act; standardized hearing tests for infants in Utah; studies that contributed to evidence-based practices in early intervention; a one-step application process that simplified the lives of people applying for services; data that contributed to the founding of Early Head Start; interdisciplinary training that bridges the gap between social, psychological and medical professionals; a better understanding of autism as it relates to immunology.

Work at the CPD even resulted in an Emmy.

We ran into the occasional jewel of a quote, like this one in a 2007 letter from former College of Education Dean Oral Ballam: “I recall when President Glen Taggard chided us that the Center was a miracle patched together with '…scotch tape, paper clips and Elmer’s glue that became one of the premier accomplishments of Utah State University.'”

Or this one, from Vice Provost Richard Swenson, in a letter prefacing the 1983-84 annual report of the Developmental Center for Handicapped Persons (That's what the CPD was called through most of the 80s): “As a former University President once remarked, ‘Few programs have been started and maintained with as many promises, hopes and expectations supported by little more than the commitment of staff, tenaciously held together with baling wire and chewing gum.’”

…Which made us wonder which of the two quotes we should use. Did two different Utah State University presidents make similar statements? Or did the same president make the statements at different times, with slight variations?

We’ve also unearthed photos of familiar people in plaid pants, big hair and bright green overalls. Sadly, we couldn’t use them all, but the photos we did use paint a fascinating and sometimes moving picture of people serving other people.

It’s been a fun ride. Watch for the posters in October: in 70s-era avocado green, 90s-era purple and millennial blue, to name a few.

For a look at the history timeline visit the CPD History Channel blog.

A lady holds a puppet
This file photo harks back to a program that used puppets to help teach social skills.


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