Jane Blumenfeld

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  • "We have lost a giant in education in New Mexico. But she..."
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Jane Ann Blumenfeld

Jane Ann Blumenfeld, 95, passed away with great ease on September 19th in Madison, Wisconsin. Jane was born in Detroit, Michigan to Katherine Doolittle Gridley and Edgar Holger Cahill. She is survived by her daughter, Willow Harth, grandson, Ben Diller and five great -grandchildren, and many friends in New Mexico and Madison. Her husband, Arthur & 2sons, Daniel and Cameron, predeceased her. Together Art and Jane's innumerable contributions to the community in the arts, nature, education & city finance gave them (to many) the moniker "Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque."

When Jane with her young daughter Willow moved to NM from NY in 1948, she launched significant transformations for NM special education that continue today. From teaching in the Navajo Nation in Newcomb to moving to Albuquerque in 1952, she contributed at every level. Jane started the first special education class in Albuquerque Public Schools in 1955, taught university courses in special education at UNM, arranged the hiring of the first UNM faculty member to prepare teachers how to teach students with severe disabilities, helped launch the first school services to students with severe disabilities, and worked tirelessly for all students with disabilities to be served in schools. In 1971, Jane co-authored "Help Them Grow," a pictorial handbook for parents of students with disabilities. In 1974 she earned a PhD in Special Education, culminating in her dissertation, "The Role of the Language Sample and Short-Term Interventions in the Differential Diagnosis of Mental Retardation." From 1970 to 1987 Jane served as Coordinator of Special Education for the APS North Area, and helped lead the development of modern special education services throughout the system. Many of the present special education leaders in New Mexico count Jane as an important mentor and visionary. In 2005 Jane received the UNM College of Education's highest honor, recognizing her lifetime of achievements enhancing the lives of children with disabilities and their parents. In the 1950s she pressed the APS superintendent of schools to start a special education program, he denied "we don't have any children like that." Dr. Blumenfeld responded, "If we are a community, we have to care for the entire community. We are responsible to these children and their families to help them be all that they can be." Her mantra of "keep your eye on the kid" helped educators discover and develop each child's potential. For Jane every child and adult regardless of ethnicity, language, culture or intellectual ability, deserved a fulfilled and happy life. Her own life was a testament to these ideals.

Contributions to the or to the Jane Blumenfeld Endowment in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Special Education Diagnosis and Assessment, c/o the UNM Foundation, Two Woodward Center, 700 Lomas Blvd NE Ste 108, Albuquerque 87102-9916.

Published in Albuquerque Journal on Oct. 1, 2017
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