The Maryland School for the Blind is 150 years old!
In 1853, Franklin Pierce had just been elected as the 14th President of the United States, Abe Lincoln was still a young congressman in Illinois, and most people would scoff at the very suggestion that, in the very near future, Americans would turn against Americans in a bloody Civil War. It was also the year that our school, known as the Maryland Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, first opened its doors in downtown Baltimore. Starting with a small group of students, the school had three superintendents in the first 11 years. The first superintendent was David E. Loughery who was a blind graduate of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind. It then settled into a period of tremendous growth under the direction of Fredrick Douglas Morrison, who was superintendent from 1864 to 1904. A national leader in his profession, instrumental in the founding of the American Association of Instructors of the Blind and an early proponent of a then controversial new system called "Braille", Mr. Morrison lead the nation by example. In 1868 he moved the campus to much larger quarters on North Avenue and changed the name to The Maryland School for the Blind. In 1872, when segregation was still the law of the land, he was a founder of The Maryland School for the Colored Blind and Deaf and served as the superintendent of both schools. John Frances Bledsoe became superintendent in 1906. In 1908 Mr. Bledsoe moved the school to its present location in the Northeast corner of Baltimore City. The leadership at The Maryland School for the Blind reads like a Whos Who in Education for the Blind in America. Francis M. Andrews, Herbert Joseph Wolfe, and Richard L. Welsh were all internationally recognized innovators who moved the school forward into the 20th century.
We are now putting plans into effect for the next 150 years under the leadership of Elaine Sveen, MSB's new President & CEO. Children who once would have attended the school at our Baltimore Campus simply because they are blind, are now able to succeed in their local school districts. More than 90% of the children that we serve on campus have multiple disabilities and approximately 50% are classified as severely or profoundly disabled. Many of these kids would not have been served at all 50 years ago because of the severity of their disabilities.
Our campus students stay with us during the week, but if you stand at our gateway on a Friday afternoon you will see school buses from every school district in Maryland coming to take their kids home for the weekend. We provide infant and toddler diagnostic and support services statewide. Our mission has expanded greatly over the years so that we now serve more people with a greater range of disabilities than we have at any time in the past. We serve every county in Maryland while setting an example for excellence that is recognized world wide.