Irene Leota Moore Wright, a nationally recognized educator and civil rights activist, passed away on January 10, 2019. She was 91 years old.
Throughout her career, Dr. Wright held faculty positions as Atlanta University, Clark College, Spelman College, Tuskegee Institute, Albany State College, and Saint Louis University. She was a published scholar in the areas of speech and hearing problems, teacher programs, and deaf education.
Dr. Wright also served as the dean of students at what is now Albany State University and as vice president of the Albany Civil Rights Movement. She resigned from her position at the college when she discovered that students had been expelled for demonstrating against racial violence and discrimination.
Dr. Wright established seven schools for those with intellectual disabilities in the South; served as a speech pathologist/audiologist, developed programs for children of parents with drug addictions; served on federal review committees, including the National Center for Law and the Handicapped at the University of Notre Dame and the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund; and worked as a consultant to the Commissioner of Education in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Dr. Wright to the first White House Panel on Mental Retardation.
After her husband was transferred to Okinawa as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Wright continued her work in education and mental health. In Okinawa, she established the School of Hope, which taught children with special needs whose families were in the military. The school earned her the highest award presented to a civilian, the Unsung Heroine Award, for her tireless efforts in getting the school approved and supported by the Department of Defense. The School of Hope has been dedicated to her memory.
Dr. Wright held a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, a master’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. in higher education from Saint Louis University.