May 08, 2023 | Lynn Bolt Rosendale

As a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, Corrine Kass was widely recognized as a leader in the field of special education.  She served two tenures at Calvin: first in the education department and later as the dean of academic administration and dean of graduate studies. Kass died on April 23; she was 96. 

Kass graduated from Calvin in 1950 and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of Illinois.

Her initial tenure as a professor at Calvin was in the mid-1960s, just as special education was beginning to garner national attention and support. Kass taught the first course at Calvin about exceptional children before leaving for posts at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. and in the special education department at the University of Arizona.

Numerous accolades

During these years, Kass was recognized for her numerous contributions, including honors from the Association for Children with Disabilities for her distinguished government service, the International Federation of Learning Disabilities for her international leadership, and the Arizona Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children as Special Education Teacher of the Year.

She was also honored with Distinguished Alumni Awards from both the University of Michigan and Calvin University.

She returned to Calvin in 1980 to direct Calvin’s new graduate program in learning disabilities.

“Calvin was fortunate to have her back on the faculty at the apex of her career,” said former colleague Tom Hoeksema. “We considered it a coup.”

An influential teacher

Her impact was far reaching, he said. “Corrine’s critical stage theory about learning disabilities influenced the future professors she trained who multiplied her influence to countless classroom teachers and their future students.”

Kass had an effective no-nonsense approach to teaching, Hoeksema said.

“Direct, possessing strong opinions, and action-focused, Corrine was a catalyst in the teacher education program and as director of graduate studies,” he continued. “Behind her ‘don’t mess with me’ exterior was a brilliant mind devoted to misunderstood children and their well-being. Throughout her career, she shaped teachers and learners in substantial ways.”

A dedicated volunteer

She retired from Calvin in 1992, but she volunteered generously, tutoring scores of at-risk children in a program hosted by her church. 

Throughout her retirement, she maintained her ties with her alma mater through the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), both as a learner and leader. 

She served on the board for six years, including three years as vice president and president, helping to grow the program to more than 2,000 members.

“Her wise and thoughtful leadership was a large contributor to the success of this lifelong learning program, and she was immensely respected,” said CALL director Sonja De Jong.

Her love of learning was demonstrated by her participation in more than 65 CALL classes and events over the years.

Kass will be lovingly remembered by her numerous nieces and nephews to whom she served as a mentor and friend. 

A memorial service and celebration of life was held on May 7, 2023, at Calvin Christian Reformed Church. Memorial gifts may be directed to the Corrine E. Kass Graduate Studies Scholarship at Calvin University.

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