June 20, 2008

Pioneer of Education Retires

By Staff Report

When G. William "Willie" Gayle started teaching adapted physical education at Wright State University in 1977, new civil rights legislation for children with disabilities had just passed and more than 4 million disabled children moved into public schools to get an education alongside able-bodied children.

"No one knew how to work with these kids and bring out their abilities," said Gayle, whose interest in students with disabilities started in Venezuela, where he taught phys ed at a Catholic mission school for disabled children. "I saw their abilities and learned how to give them skills to be active adults for the rest of their lives. I was part of a wave of the first professionals who would teach millions of these kids to lead normal lives and learn," he said.

Gayle, professor of health, physical education and recreation, is retiring this week after 30 years of coaching adapted athletics and watching the field of adapted physical education grow. More than 6 million children get regular special needs education in U.S. schools.

Students with disabilities from Fairborn City Schools, along with former WSU adapted athletics graduates, gave Gayle their own retirement send-off at an ice cream social in the Ervin J. Nutter Center on June 6. Thanks to a program Gayle started with Fairborn schools six years ago, dozens of Fairborn students with disabilities have visited Wright State during the winter months to learn swimming and aquatic exercise.

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