Daily Archive for July 21st, 2016

S. A. Kirk, 1904-1996

Sam Kirk

Twenty years ago I posted a message to a mailing list named “SpedTalk” that Samuel A. Kirk had died. Along with William Cruickshank (and a few others), Professor Kirk was instrumental in helping a group of parents establish what we now call “the field” of learning disabilities. I preserved a copy of the content of that message on a Web site I was managing at the time, so you can read it in its entirety if you wish.

Samuel Alexander Kirk, one of the most influential figures in the history of special education, died 21 July 1996. He is survived by his wife and long-time collaborator Winifred D. Kirk, his son Jerry, daughter Lorraine, and sister Hannah.

Kirk, who was born in Rugby, ND, in 1904, obtained bachelors and masters degrees in psychology from the University of Chicago and a PhD in physiological and clinical pscyhology from the University of Michigan. He began his career in 1929 with children with disabilities through employment at the Oaks School in Chicago, working with boys who were delinquent and had mental retardation. During this time, he recalled, “I arranged to tutor [a] boy at nine o’clock in the evening, after the boys were supposed to be asleep. This boy, who was eager to learn, sneaked quietly out of bed at the appointed time each night and met me in a small space between the two dromintory rooms and, actually, in the doorway of the boy’s toilet….I often state that my first experience in tutoring a case of reading disability was not in a school, was not in a clinic, was not in an experimental laboratory, but in a boy’s lavatory” (1976, pp. 242-243).

Link for the copy of that message.