Sunday, December 22, 2013
According to friends and colleagues gathered for a retirement reception Thursday afternoon, Missouri School for the Deaf is losing a pillar and its guiding light as Superintendent Barbara Garrison leaves after 12 years at the helm.
“She has been a pillar in the MSD community and Fulton — or perhaps I should say a lighthouse,” Tony Nitka, Missouri School for the Deaf Board of Directors president, wrote in a letter read during the reception. “She cared for and about every individual in this school. It will be a much emptier place without her.
“Thank you for being our guiding light. May you continue to serve as a beacon to others in your retirement.”
Garrison, who happily opened an envelope full of L.L. Bean gift cards from her colleagues — “Ya’ll know me well!” — told those gathered for the reception Thursday, “you are my life, and my love.”
“Through the good times, bad times, thick, thin, when we had money, when we didn’t have money … MSD is my family,” Garrison said. “I love you, I thank you, and you’ll be hearing from me.”
Garrison, who is returning to her native South Carolina, said family is one of the reasons she chose to step down from her position.
“I called my brother, who is deaf and blind and will be living about an hour from me, and said, ‘How about I pick you up Dec. 23rd, and you spend Christmas with me on the beach?’” Garrison said. “He has called me four or five times a day since then to say, ‘Really?’ That’s why I’m retiring — it’s time to have family time.”
Her other reason, Garrison said, is because MSD is at a point where it needs to look ahead, and she felt it was a good time to bring in new leadership for that task.
“The school is getting ready to go through a wonderful new phase: strategic planning,” Garrison said. “I think a new superintendent needs to come in and be part of that.”
In her 44 years as a deaf educator — including work as a teacher, vocational rehab counselor, interpreter, interpreter instructor and director of outreach programs at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind — Garrison said what she has enjoyed the most is the many opportunities to “provide equal access to communications to a very silent minority of people.”
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