in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment
Some Thoughts from Dr. Kathleen Mary Huebner,
as read at Alan Keonig's Memorial Service at St. Mary's Church in Mount Carmel, Illinois.
For Alan's parents, family, colleagues and friends.
It was in the late 1970’s when I met Alan for the first time. He was a resource room teacher in Kankakee, Illinois and I was a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. My research took me to see some of the “more progressive” teachers of children who are blind and visually impaired in Florida, California, Wisconsin, and Illinois. I remember very clearly three of those teachers, and two of the three were Cay Holbrook and Alan Koenig. I have always thought it was a bit of magic that these two outstanding teachers came together and worked so closely in partnership for so many years. I only learned this morning, when Dr. Sam Ashcroft asked Cay, when she and Alan first met, that they met at a conference in Disney World, Florida. How fitting I thought, "They met in the Magic Kingdom!" They had a magical friendship and professional relationship. Magical in the sense that they found each other and produced materials and work that finds the way into so many lives of teachers and families of children with visual impairments.
But, back to my first meeting with Alan. It was winter, there was a lot of snow, and I got lost coming from DeKalb, Illinois to Kankakee, so of course I was late, but Alan was there. He had waited for me, long after his students were on their way home from school. He was in his resource room classroom. His classroom looked like what every classroom should look like. It was immaculate, colorful, tasteful, and looked like a wonderful place for children to be.
Alan was reserved, committed and dedicated to his students and the ideals of teaching children who are blind and visually impaired. He was a new teacher, and there was something very special about him. You could see his love of the field of blindness and the commitment to his students and profession were self-evident. There are some people in this world who have a permanent impression on you when you first meet them and Alan was among these for me. I can still remember what he wore, and for me he never aged.
Alan brought to our field more than we can imagine. His work directly affects children who are blind and visually impaired on a daily basis and throughout the world, and will continue to do so for decades. Parents of blind children have called since learning of his passing and have said, “You have no idea the impact he has had on my child’s life". Several follow-up with the question, "I wonder if he had any idea?" Knowing Alan, he never gave it a thought. He was far too humble to even consider his international impact.
His and Cay’s Learning Media Assessment has been used countless times, to not only assure appropriate media are used in children’s learning, but it has been used in courts cases to be sure children are in the most appropriate learning situations and receiving needed services. Their publications will live long after all of us are gone as the strategies, skills, and ideals they represent are applied to children’s lives throughout the world, from remote villages in Thailand to the most urban centers in Europe.
Alan was the model professional. His integrity and quiet demeanor were among his most powerful tools. When he spoke, we listened and we learned. We, his colleagues are among the ones who admire him and emulate him. He has and will continue to teach us. He will be missed but most assuredly, not forgotten.
Kathleen Mary Huebner, Ph. D.
Professor and Associate Dean
Pennsylvania College of Optometry