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A special education pioneer looks back on her life and work

A special education pioneer looks back on her life and work
Ann Korinda's senior portrait from the 1947 "Seal" yearbook.
Ann Korinda’s senior portrait from the 1947 “Seal” yearbook.

“I’ve had a very good life,” Ann (McCormack) Korinda ’47 said more than once while sharing stories of campus life in the 1940s, her experiences as a special education pioneer, and her extensive travels.

The College was a “delightful” place to live and attend classes back in the mid 1940s, she recalls. From the cultural programs held in Kendall Hall, to campus traditions such as the Thanksgiving Priscilla Processions, there was always something going on. On weekends, she and her friends used to walk to local hangouts, and occasionally hitchhiked into Trenton to catch a movie (though she admits, “I never told my mother I hitchhiked”).

Female students greatly outnumbered the males in those days, because of the war, and as a result the girls of Ely House often sang, “They told us that this was co-ed, but now we plainly see, with 15 men for all these girls, there won’t be one for me!”

“But there was one for me,” she continued, suddenly more animated. During her freshman year she met Andrew (Class of 1945), a junior business education major. They started dating that year. Three weeks after she graduated, in February 1947, they were married.

By 1950 Andy had left the service, and the couple had settled in Boonton, NJ, where Ann worked first as a substitute teacher, and later giving bedside instruction, while Andy taught in the high school. In 1954, legislation was passed which mandated that school districts had to educate the developmentally disabled. The Boonton superintendent recommended Ann for the job. Despite no formal training, she began teaching children, ages 8 to 15, whose IQs ranged from 25–50. None of her students had ever attended school; she had no classroom aide; and due to the fact that the art and gym teachers wouldn’t work with her students, she didn’t get any breaks during the school day. It was exhausting work. Still, she says, “I loved it!” She worked in special education for 11 years, during which time she earned a master’s degree in the field.

Ann later taught 4th grade, for 21 years, a curriculum that included New Jersey history. That gave her and Andy, also a history buff, an excuse to traverse the state’s museums and historical sites.

Through the years, their travels extended well beyond the Garden State.

They became involved with Elderhostel, which is now called the Road Scholar Program; it offers educational travel experiences for seniors. Ann and Andy were hooked from the start. “They were just fabulous for stretching the brain,” Ann recalls. “We did that for as long as we could.” By the time they were done, they had traveled to all 50 U.S. states, as well as to Europe and the Caribbean. Ann’s favorite location was the Southwest U.S., she said. “We bought so many souvenirs…that we had to put an extension on our house to fit them all. We call it the ‘Western Room.’”

Andy passed away in May 2010, but Ann still lives in their house in Boonton. She misses traveling, she says, but does plan to be there when her grandson gets married, in Michigan, next fall. She keeps her mind active by reading scripture at church and by taking part in a book group. “My social life is just fine,” she said, chuckling, before reiterating, “I’ve had a very good life.”

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