Remembering Leaders
in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment

Dr. Mary Moore, Professor Emeritus,

University of Pittsburgh | died Sunday March 26, 2006 at the age of 88.

Thoughts by some of her colleagues and past students.

Dr. Jane Erin, Professor, The University of Arizona, Tucson

Dr. Mary Moore was my advisor during both my master's and doctoral programs, and I consider myself fortunate: I am sure I would never have pursued a doctorate if it had not provided the opportunity to continue working with this great and fearless lady. Dr. Moore's passions were  mathematics, technology, and anything else that was innovative in the field. When the research in low vision began to come into its own, she arranged and taught weekend seminars on the topic; I  still have the pages of notes on the visual system and diagrams of lenses that I drew in 1972, and much of it is still quite relevant. She was one of the first and most knowledgeable teachers of the Optacon. I remember my first experiences with this technology as my fellow students and I tried to untangle miles of cords and wires to plug in our Optacons. All the while, Dr. Moore watched patiently and regularly commented, "This is just so much fun. Isn't this great?"  

I was both intimidated and awed by Mary Moore's intelligence, conviction, and well-concealed sense of humor. I especially remember her quick-step abacus lessons, in which anyone who fell behind was left in the dust. Once this happened to me, and I tried to conceal the fact that I had totally lost control of the beads. Dr. Moore walked around behind me and watched as I desperately pretended  to know what I was doing; then she said, "It's you smart ones who always have trouble with this thing. You keep trying to understand what you're doing."  It was a credit to her charisma that  I welcomed this as a compliment.  

When Dr. Moore spoke, people listened. I recall an occasion when a secretary had been unresponsive to my request to find out why my stipend had not been released. I mentioned the problem to Dr. Moore, and she flew  out to the woman's desk and demanded, "Why hasn't this stipend been issued? This is ridiculous!" The secretary changed instantly from a lioness to a kitten, and she willingly took care of my problem. That was the point when I first began to realize that there was a well-defined hierarchy in university communities, and I also realized then that Dr. Moore had learned to work the system in the best interests of her students.  

Mary Moore was truly original. She taught her students that learning and teaching involve the expression of personal beliefs, the enjoyment of  humor, and the expectation of accomplishment. Her students wanted to please her. When she said, "You may not make any Braille errors," we believed that she meant it; and when she said, "You can do it," we believed that as well. She taught us that hard work and accomplishment were important; however, her devotion to her family and satisfaction in her retirement reminded us that life is richer through balance. She was practical, direct, and honest, and she transmitted this clarity of thought to her students. Although her passing is a loss, those of us who were her students have perpetuated her belief in the importance of excellent education and our own ability to advocate for quality.

Linda Dudik, Vision Support Teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Pittsburgh, PA

Dr. Moore was considered a mentor. "I remember going by her office, and when she was there, the door was open. She always had time to listen and gave really nice advice," Ms. Dudik remembers Dr. Moore as a smart and funny academic who didn't tolerate nonsense. "One of the things she expected is that her students do absolutely perfect Braille".

This is so true, Dr. Moore instilled in her students that children who are blind have a right to perfect braille.  She was often heard saying, “Sighted children have a right to correct print materials and blind children have a right to Braille that is correct as well!” 

Dr. Diane P. Wormsley, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Remembering Dr. Moore - There are so many things I remember about Dr. Moore, that it is difficult to know where to begin.  Dr. Moore was one of my instructors in the Masters in TVI program at Pitt, and then when I entered the doctoral program, she ultimately became my advisor and surrogate mother.  In the masters program, I was completely and utterly intimidated by her.  I remember one time when she came to supervise, I had just been asked by my cooperating teacher to improvise a math lesson on the spot for a student who had missed it in his regular classroom.  I was in the process of trying to piece together what the student had learned, teach the missing parts of the lesson that the student hadn't gotten, and create adaptations on the fly, all of this without the actual textbook the student should have been using because he had left it in his locker, when in walked Dr. Moore. She observed the whole fiasco without saying a word, and then her only comment to me was "Next time use the textbook!"  I sat in fear through our Nemeth class which took place later that afternoon, fearing that for sure she would point me out as an example of what not to do in a math lesson.  But she never even mentioned having been out to observe me!  I think she knew that I knew!

When I was just about finished with the masters program, I decided that I wanted to go on and get my doctorate.  Dr. Moore was very supportive of this, and asked me if I would consider working with her as her assistant for the Optacon Teacher Training Program that she was developing.  Through working with her on this program, I really came to know her and understand that underneath her stern exterior was a warm hearted soul.  We sat and cried through the first showing of the Optacon Story - just the idea that there was this wonderful piece of technology that would permit blind people to read print.  Our students that summer were as amazed as we were in what the machine could do, and Dr. Moore vowed that she would get it into the hands of each and every child in Pennsylvania and set about getting grants to do just that! 

I took a leave of absence partway through my doctoral program to teach in Australia - the closest I could get to my husband who was doing his doctoral dissertation in anthropology in Papua New Guinea.  While I was there I had a good two plus years to read everything I could get my hands on about braille.  At one point I remember I finally figured out what I wanted to do my dissertation on.  I decided I would call Dr. Moore to tell her about it.  I can still hear her voice on the other end of the phone line.  She kept yelling, "You're calling me from AUSTRALIA!  I don't believe you're CALLING ME FROM AUSTRALIA!"  We finally got a chance to talk about the braille dissertation, but I think it was the long distance phone call that she really remembered. 

I had left for Australia in January of 1975.  I returned to Pitt in August of 1977 to work on completing my Ph. D. degree.  In the meantime PL 94-142 passed and many things changed for special education in the country.  As a graduate assistant I sat in on many faculty meetings.  At the first one I attended upon my return, the mention of IEP's came up.  I kept going through a variety of things the acronym could stand for in my mind, since it seemed to be something incredibly important and well known to all except me.  After the meeting I quietly went to Dr. Moore and asked her what an IEP was.  Her reaction was predictable. She quietly said, "My God girl, here take this and read about it and for God's sake get yourself caught up!"  And handed me a stack of material to read.

It was Dr. Moore who convinced me that there was no way I could do any kind of experimental/control group design with my dissertation.  Instead she gave me a book on time series design and pointed me towards the research department at Pitt. Luckily for me one of the professors who was there at the time was an expert in times-series design and in case study research.  Both Dr. Moore and I were thrilled with the suggestions he made and the conclusions that we could draw from the research. 

When I say that Dr. Moore became my surrogate mother, I am thinking about my own pregnancy which I went through at the same time I did my dissertation.  Dr. Moore was there for my first bout of hormonal tears to explain to me what those were (there were no doctoral students at Pitt who were pregnant so she took it upon herself to explain things to me about what pregnancy does to one's body).  We spent long hours talking about pregnancy, what it does to one, what the results are, and she shared with me stories about her own pregnancies - both those that were successful and those that weren't.  When it turned out that my pregnancy wasn't successful, it was Dr. Moore who reminded me that I had a dissertation to finish and urged me on.   It was at this point in my doctoral career that I finally stopped being intimidated by Dr. Moore.  I could now laugh when she would say things to me like "You HAVE to stop sighing!"  (I hear her say this to this day - as I still sigh!)  Or "You write like a first grade teacher!  Use some bigger words!"  But it didn't matter any longer to me what she said because I knew that she cared. 

One other thing that stands out in my mind about Dr. Moore was that she had a propensity for killing plants. (I think she would be impressed with the word "propensity.")   She used to pour her remaining coffee on the plants, and then complained that they always died on her.  This is why it amazed me that in her retirement she took up growing orchids and did so successfully! 

There are so many things she told me that have stuck with me through the years.  She had a true love of learning - always reading - always wanting to try to do something new.  She was passionate about her work and her life and she had such an impact on so many of us.  I will miss her.   

Dr. Kathleen M. Huebner, Professor, Pennsylvania College of Optometry--

Dr. Moore influenced the lives of hundreds of teachers of children who are blind or visually impaired.  She did so through her direct teaching of children and youth who are blind or visually impaired and through preparing personnel to teach them.  Dr. Moore was one of my professors during both my Masters and Doctoral degree studies.  During my doctoral study, she was my major advisor. 

Dr. Moore was a petite force who epitomized energy, ethics, values, best practice founded on evidence-based research and a sincere interest in her students.  She portrayed herself as a strong and determined woman who didn't want her students to know that she was all heart, but we all knew.  She guided her students and minced no words.  She demanded the best and she produced some of today’s best teachers and some leaders in the field of education for children and youth who are blind. 

One of the individuals whom she admired most was Galileo.  She was a scientist at heart. She was ahead of her time in the realization of the importance of technology and applications for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. She secured funding, from what is now known as the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, model demonstration monies to train University Professors in the use of the Optacon, one of the first reading machines that gave individuals who were blind the ability to read their own mail and other print material.

She guided her Masters and Doctoral students through the maze of courses and   internships recognizing their strengths and limitations. Where she saw weaknesses in her students found ways to strengthen them through knowledge, determination and resolve. She had a talent for instilling confidence, passion and professionalism in her students. She was genuine and also had a great sense of humor.  She smoked brown cigarettes and wasn’t shy about having a glass or two of Scotch.  She abhorred cooking after her boys left for college and her husband Jack passed away all you could find in her kitchen was frozen dinners.  She did like her steak and potatoes, and hated elevators and heights. She was great fun and could outlast the youngest of her students when it came to expending energy.  She was often seen in the very late hours in her office at Pitt, reading, correcting braille, and conducting research. Nothing slipped by her scrutinization. Following a class that ended at 9:00 PM, you could expect to still be in her office receiving a critique of your teaching at 11:00 PM.  She didn’t just tell you, you were expected to have a thoughtful dialogue.  She was a worker and she expected the same from all of her students.

She is frequently remembered by her past students and you still hear them quoting her. When someone in the profession says," Dr. Moore would have said......",  ears perk up, memories flash back, and you know you are going to hear a story,  strategy, approach, or principle that has and will continue to guide those who were privileged to have been among her students.  

She will be greatly missed but will continue to be recognized as a leader who paved the way for many leaders of today and the her messages live on through her graduates.  For me personally, I will always cherish my times with Drs. Moore, Spungin and Swallow and the many dinners and social hours we shared together.  They welcomed me into their circle of friendship where I hope to always remain.  I will also cherish the many long evenings spent with Drs. Moore and Wormsley as we struggled through dissertation topics, strategies, proposal writing, reports, and oh yes, the case studies we developed along with Dr. David Alford.  I still use elements of those case studies.   But most of all, I will always remember my first trip abroad which was to Italy and Africa with Dr. Moore and the times she spent with me and my parents.  She will always be behind me, pushing me forward.  I thank her for the influence she has had on my life and I will miss our chats and exchanges. 

Dr. Majorie Ward, Retired Professor from The Ohio State University – in a note to Dr. Huebner, “ As you know, Mary and I did our Masters degrees together at Pitt while we worked together as itinerant teachers for Allegheny County many years  ago.  What good times we enjoyed during those years!  During each night class, we would sit in the back of the classroom and essentially have a staff meeting by passing notes back and forth during the lectures.  Mary taught me braille on Sunday afternoons during our first year together in the Allegheny County program.  She was a perfectionist with a great sense of humor and wit.  We have lost a good friend “

The family suggests contributions to Pleasant Hills Public Library, 302 Old
Clairton Road, Pittsburgh 15236

If other friends, colleagues and students of Dr. Moore would like to have comments posted, please send them to .