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Special Education Pioneer
Frances Elmer Dies in Arkansas

A family funeral service is scheduled Monday in Little Rock, Ark., for Frances Elmer, retired professor of education at Sam Houston State University, who died Sunday in a Springdale, Ark., nursing home. She was 86.

Elmer came to Sam Houston State in 1965, directed the university's first teacher-training kindergarten and special education program, and worked closely with school districts throughout Southeast Texas as an adviser in special education. After her retirement in 1983, she opened the Frances Elmer Learning Center (now Bluebonnet Children's Academy).

Jack Staggs, professor emeritus of education and former director of the SHSU teacher-training program, said that Elmer was also a pioneer in the area of providing early childhood education, studying at schools throughout the nation and bringing her knowledge back to the Southwest.

She worked closely with the Mexia State School, and many large school districts including Aldine, Bryan, Kathy, and Spring Branch.

"She was a tireless, enthusiastic worker and was the most sought-after educator in her field in East and Southeast Texas," said Staggs. "She would agree to help any school system regardless of distance and commitment required."

As director of the Department of Education and Psychology, Staggs found himself filtering requests for her services, explaining to school administrators why she could not do all that she had agreed to do.

Elmer earned her bachelor's degree from Arkansas State Teachers College, and her master's and doctorate from the University of Arkansas. She taught 16 years at the third and fourth grade level, six years of remedial reading at the junior high level, three years in special education at the junior high level, and five years as a special education teacher and psychologist at the Arkansas Children's Colony.

She was active in Delta Kappa Gamma, the Wesleyans Group of First Methodist Church, and numerous professional organizations.

She established the Frances Elmer Scholarship for special education students at Sam Houston State University in 1979. Her nephew requested that donations be made to that scholarship in lieu of other remembrances.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
May 19, 1999
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