March is Women’s History Month, where we celebrate female visionaries and trailblazers past and present. This year we’re shining the spotlight on resident Carol Willman for her work as a special education teacher, active volunteer and mission committee member.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Carol got her PhD from the University of Michigan in special education with an emphasis on the multiply handicapped. She taught multiply handicapped children in the special education division of the St. Louis public schools until she was asked to go to London to work on a special project in her field.
“I was asked to work with a team on a year-long project to develop a program with the Cheyenne Walk Spastic Center for cerebral palsy children who had a second handicap – they could also be blind, deaf or get seizures. I had a very good team, and we did some really good work that we were very happy with and so was the Royal Ministry of Education,” said Carol.
When her work in London was complete, Carol came back to St. Louis as a visiting professor and trained students to work with handicapped students in the special education division. After retirement, she was asked to be the director of the Midwest Learning Center in Farmington, which she did in the 1990s until the Farmington School District took it over. She then returned to St. Louis, where she volunteered with the Special Olympics, brailled text books for the blind, and read novels for the blind.
“I kept serving on boards and volunteering,” said Carol.
That includes joining our mission committee in 2001. “The first thing my aunt and I did was put the chapel in … we paid to convert a room into a chapel. And I’ve been working on the board ever since.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Carol moved from St. Louis to our campus. “I was interested in the cottages and when one opened up, I decided to take it. I thoroughly enjoy my life here. We have some really nice people here and we have a wonderful staff. I enjoy the activities – they have a lot to appeal to everybody’s taste, and I do a lot of volunteer work. I work in the gift store and any sit-down volunteer job that’s needed.”
Carol is also a big reader and enjoys needlepoint and getting together with friends she’s had since college.
When asked what advice she would give to other young females forging their own path, Carol shared, “Do what you are interested in and be sure you love what you’re doing or don’t do it. If you don’t really love what you’re doing, you won’t be really good at it.”