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A Society in Honor of Elizabeth E. Farrell

Image of Elizabeth Farrell with text "Elizabeth Farrell Society" above the CEC logo

“History balances the frustration of how far we have to go with the satisfaction of how far we have come. It teaches tolerance for the human shortcomings and imperfections, which are not uniquely of our generation, but of all time.”  

-Lewis F. Powell, Jr, former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Between 1860 and 1920, over 11 million immigrants arrived in the United States of America. Elizabeth E. Farrell was born into this time as a child of Irish immigrants.  After beginning her teaching career in a bucolic town in upstate New York, she was drawn to New York City where life was teeming with every life complexity one could imagine. Was it her Irish immigrant DNA that compelled her to the city?  Was it her education with the Sisters of Charity, a religion order dedicated to nursing and helping the needy? Or was it her education at the Oswego Normal and Training School (now the State University of New York at Oswego)?  Whatever it was, Elizabeth wrote (1908) “that it is not regular work that stops the development of so many poor children but the turmoil and irregularity of their lives, the privations they endure, the excesses they indulge in when opportunity offer.” 

Elizabeth eventually formed the first ungraded classroom, deeming no child too atypical to be neglected.  Classes modeled on Farrell’s design spread throughout New York City, and in 1906 she was appointed the Inspector of Ungraded Classes for the entire city. Farrell believed that special classes, not special schools, were the right approach to educating children with exceptional needs…the goal, returning children to regular classes. She believed that schools should not exclude children, and that schools, hospitals, immigration services, and the criminal justice system should work together to identify and help the special needs of all children.

Farrell would go on to lecture at Teachers College, Columbia University and at New York University.  She founded and edited the journal Ungraded.  And in 1922, with a group of educators attending a summer session at Teachers College, with 12 members, she founded the Council for Exceptional Children. Elizabeth E. Farrell served as CEC’s first President from 1922-1926.

And today, The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the success of children and youth with exceptionalities and/or gifts and talents.

In honor of our founder, Elizabeth E. Farrell, CEC has created the Elizabeth E. Farrell Society.  The Society is one significant way to honor CEC’s founder and to follow North Star that still shines today, a vision of “high- quality education that is inclusive and equitable for individuals with disabilities.” Elizabeth Farrell would expect no less from the organization founded on principles that are the bedrock of CEC today. 

One way you may support our vision is by joining the Elizabeth E. Farrell Society.  What better way to publicly profess your commitment to CEC, to its core values, principles, and vision, personally serving as a role, mentor, and support for others who tirelessly work each and every day to improve the lives of children and youth with exceptionalities.  You will be joining an amazing group of leaders who have already joined the Society…Christy Chambers Burke, Mary Ruth Coleman, Marilyn Friend, Susan Fowler, Thomas Hardman (deceased), Kurt Hulett, Danielle and Mike Kovach, Jennifer Lesh, Chad Rummel, Kareem Thompson, Mitchell Yell, and Bill Bogdan.  

For more information about the Society, please consider this invitation by visiting CEC’s Giving page and consider joining.

"If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.”

-Maya Angelou

Watch a full interview with Dr. Bill Bogdan CEC Past President and Chair of the CEC Development and Fundraising Committee from the 2023 CEC Convention & Expo  

Posted:  16 March, 2023
Dr. William K Bogdan
Author: Dr. William "Bill" K. Bogdan

Dr. Bogdan, CEC Past President (1999-2000), has spent several decades in the field of special education and received multiple awards for his work. He is passionate about empowering special educators...

Read more from Dr. William "Bill" K. Bogdan

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