Mourning a great institution builder: Leonard Blackman | Teachers College Columbia University

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Mourning a great institution builder: Leonard Blackman

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Leonard Blackman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology & Education. 

Len, who received TC's Medal for Distinguished Service to Education in 1999, was a brilliant scientist and teacher whose work made a profound, enduring impact on the field of mental health. Through his lifelong focus on how children with intellectual disabilities learn, he helped usher in what we now think of as the movement for inclusive education. And by exploring the role of psychological factors and strategies in dealing with these children, and highlighting ethical and vocational issues in their development -- including whether the death penalty should be considered for people who have intellectual disabilities  -- Len contributed to a more compassionate society. 

Len was also a consummate institution builder at TC. Len joined our faculty in 1962 in what was then the Department of Special Education and taught for 37 years. He secured the federal funding that enabled TC to build Thorndike Hall in 1973, and to establish the nation's first comprehensive Research and Demonstration Center for the Education of Handicapped Children (subsequently the Center for Opportunities & Outcomes for People with Disabilities), of which he was the founding director. Len also served as TC's Acting Dean and, later, as its Ombudsman and Emeriti Committee Chair. In 2000, with his wife, Frances, he endowed the College’s annual Blackman Lecture series, which has brought many leading thinkers and speakers to campus.

Len's commitment to fairness, his respect for others, and his passionate determination to make life better for those who struggled made him a beacon of wisdom and hope for his family, friends, colleagues and all who benefited from his work. We mourn Len's loss, and our hearts go out to Frances, his wife of 66 years; their three children, Julie, Gary and Mark; their grandchildren, Jed, Molly, Emma and Alyssa; their step-granddaughter, Kelly; and Len's brother, Jay.  

A funeral service will take place on Thursday, November 2, at Gutterman Musicant, 402 Park Street, in Hackensack, NJ. (201) 645-3477. The funeral home advises visitors to arrive at 11:30am to allow the offering of condolences to the family.


Susan Fuhrman

Tom James

Published Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017