by R. Douglas Brackenridge
Karen Waldron’s early life and professional career can be summed up in a few words: “The greatest thing in my life is that I love children and want to make a difference in their lives.” Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised on Long Island, at the age of 7 she started babysitting children. By 12, Waldron and a friend had a day care center in her backyard and developed their own educational curriculum. Initially anticipating becoming a journalist, Waldron was dissuaded by a New York Times reporter who informed her that journalism was not a viable field for women. Instead, he advised her to become a teacher.
That misguided advice led her into a personally fulfilling life of service to others. A pivotal moment in her vocational quest came in 1971 at Syracuse University, where subsequently she received her doctorate. Attending an elective seminar on special education, Waldron was deeply moved by viewing the dignity afforded a young woman in the midst of a seizure. From that moment forward, she dedicated her life to caring for children with special needs.
Waldron came to Trinity in 1977 as a professor and director of special education, a position she held until her retirement in 2005. She loved the diversity of San Antonio and collaborative interactions between the University and regional professionals. Her primary task was to teach graduate and undergraduate classes preparing educators to work with children and teens with special needs or disabilities.
Outside of class, her activities included the founding and development of numerous innovative programs locally, nationally, and internationally to support families and educators of at-risk children, especially from low-income, diverse populations. Waldron traveled to Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Czech Republic to assist educators in their efforts to develop programs for students with special needs. She also appeared regularly on television and radio, engaging media to promote public awareness of special education, especially to break down erroneous preconceptions about student limitations.
Waldron has written five books as well as research articles and handbooks, and she has made numerous presentations at professional meetings. Her most recent book, with Janet Brazil and Laura Labatt, Risk, Courage, and Women: Contemporary Voices in Prose and Poetry, received several national awards.
Retirement, when used in association with Waldron, is an oxymoron. She continues to be actively involved in community service. Currently she is working on a collection of writings dealing with women’s personal journeys throughout their lives. She studies Spanish, consults with families of at-risk children, and is a certified mediator. Traveling remains her passion, with frequent visits to family in Ireland. Upcoming trips include Cuba, Shanghai, and Vietnam, where she plans to visit orphanages and schools for the disabled.
The death of her husband, Mike Kutchins, in 2014 was a great loss, but Waldron enjoys time with her extended family. She frequently cites the words of Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Waldron’s Trinity legacy is her student graduates who love children and want to make a difference.
Karen welcomes e-mail at kwaldron [at] trinity.edu.