LONGMEADOW — Willie Ross School for the Deaf (WRSD) announced that George Balsley, a longtime member of the school’s board of trustees, has been appointed chair of the board. This marks the first time a deaf individual has served as the chair of the board of trustees in the school’s 55-year history.
Balsley has served on the board for several years. He previously served on the board of the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt., when Bert Carter was president of that school. When Carter became president and CEO of Willie Ross, Balsley followed and joined the WRSD board.
Balsley is a native of Washington, D.C. and attended Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton. He spent his career as a registered architect, beginning at Boston architectural companies, and in 1987 joined Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst. During his career, he became involved in architecture for the deaf. In 2010, he joined Steffian Bradley Architects of Boston and Enfield and worked on hospital projects for Baystate Health. He retired in 2015.
Balsley recalls his own experience growing up deaf. “When I was born while Truman was president, hospitals didn’t have hearing tests. We were living in Hawaii, where my dad, a naval officer, was working at Pearl Harbor when my mother suspected that I was deaf at 15 months. She took me to John Hopkins Hospital, where it was confirmed that I was deaf. Of course, like many hearing parents, mine were very shocked and saddened and were resolved to find a school that would teach me speech and lip reading and hopefully to learn how to hear. The doctors at John Hopkins recommended that my parents try Clarke School in Northampton.”
Carter added that “this is an exciting and historic time for Willie Ross, to have the first deaf chair of the board of trustees in our school’s 55-year history. We welcome George into this new position, and he serves as an inspiration to our students and the entire Willie Ross community.”