The Heroines

Shirley Smith

is honored with a Brick from the WSU Office of Disability Services.

 Shirley  Smith Despite her visual impairment since childhood, Shirley Smith always has been and continues to be a survivor. Seen on the WSU campus with her beloved guide dog, Seal, Shirley worked for the Office of Disability Services (formerly known as Handicapped Services and the Resource Center for Independence) from 1977 to 1996. Hired by Jo Gardenhire, Shirley also worked for past director, Rosa Cortest, and the current director since 1991, Grady Landrum, coordinating the scheduling of note taking, transportation to and from class, and taping textbooks for students with disabilities.

Shirley walked with the assistance of a white cane from 1977 to 1992, at which time she acquired her first guide dog, Martha, from the Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. in New York. Shirley acquired from the same organization her second guide dog, Seal, a yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, six months later, who resided with her until 1997.

From the ages of six to 17, Shirley attended the Kansas School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kansas, where she sang in the senior choir, played the trumpet and cello, was president of the reading and English clubs, and had the lead in plays from the 9th to the 12th grades. Shirley attended WSU from 1947 to 1951, and received a Bachelor's egree Magna Cum Laude in Sociology and Psychology and a minor in Education with a 3.55 GPA, during which time she was also active in the Independent Student Association. Upon completion of her Bachelor's degree, she was awarded a teaching certificate. She earned her Master's degree from WSU in English and history, and throughout her college career utilized the assistance of readers to help achieve her academic goals.

Shirley, who lived independently from 1961 to 1994, was a Braille proofreader certified by the National Library of Congress, and a special needs coordinator form 1980 to 1983 for the Child Care Association's Head Start Program. Since 1959, she has held offices as director, vice president, president, and corresponding, membership, and recording secretary for the Kansas State Association for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, and was a member of the League of Women Voters from 1980 to 1992. Shirley has been a member of the Broadway Christian Church and a choir member for 39 years.

After having been diagnosed with breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy in 1994, Shirley began residing with her mother, Pearl, and underwent rigorous chemotherapy treatment. During this time, Pearl's health faltered and she succumbed to her illness in 1995. After her mother's death, Shirley relocated to a variety of residences, but because of her health moved to the Manor Care Nursing Home in Wichita to receive comprehensive medical care.

Since 1977, Shirley has volunteered her time and energy tutoring children at the Wichita Children's Home and Stanley Elementary School, and has been teaching Braille to children and adults. On April 3, 1998, Shirley was presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award by the Kiwanis Club of Wichita. She continues to be an avid football, basketball, and baseball enthusiast, and enjoys classical, semi-classical, and 60's rock and roll music. Shirley has listed Dr. Pepper, dark chocolate, cake, candy, and pudding as her true addictions.

For those of us who have known and worked with Shirley, we can describe her as fiercely independent, tenacious, determined, and very strong-willed. Her disability did not prevent her from achieving any task she set forth to accomplish. Shirley met her obstacles and challenges with confidence, clearly defining herself as being dedicated, dependable, courageous, and true to her convictions. She has been an example to all individuals with disabilities, demonstrating genuine honesty and concern, never waivering throughout her various personal and physical setbacks. Shirley Smith will always be appreciated for the unselfish contributions she has made, and remembered with deep respect and love.

Submitted by Mary L. Rice, WSU Office of Disability Services

August 31, 1998