2 | January 16, 2020 | 22nd century media Hadley at 100


Celebrating Hadley’s Centennial:

A Message from Julie Tye

We are excited to commemorate

Hadley’s centennial in

2020 and proud to share this

accomplishment with the North

Shore community. We were

born here, in the Hadley family

living room on Oak Street

in Winnetka. And, we grew up

here, nurtured by the vision,

leadership and support of local

residents who have championed

Hadley’s important work for

100 years. Today, Hadley continues

to benefit from the many

local volunteers, staff members

and donors who support our


For those less familiar with

Hadley, we are—and always

have been—a distance learning

organization. This means

our blind and visually impaired

learners do not come to us, we

go to them using the medium

that works best for their individual

needs. This could be

braille, large print, audio or online.

At our headquarters at 700

Elm Street in Winnetka, Hadley

staff researches and develops

our curriculum, produces and

distributes course materials,

engages and helps our learners,

and raises money to support our

programs. In addition to those

who work onsite, we have experts

offsite who are also helping

to create our curriculum and

work with learners.

Much has changed since

William Hadley taught his

first “braille by mail” course

in 1920. However, Hadley remains

strong because we have

continuously innovated and

adapted to ensure we are providing

the greatest assistance to

the blind and visually impaired

people who need our services.

As a result, Hadley is the largest

educator of braille and provider

of distance education for

people who are blind or visually

impaired worldwide. In fiscal

year 2019, we reached more

than 172,000 learners from all

50 states and 65 countries.

Our goals remain constant: to

Julie Tye, Hadley President

empower people who are blind

and visually impaired to thrive

at home, at work, and in their

communities. Following William

Hadley’s lead, we take a

personalized approach to this

mission, so our learners get the

help they need, when they need

it. People who are blind or visually

impaired often feel isolated;

at Hadley they are part of a

community where they can find

assistance from experts and also

have the opportunity to connect

with others, like themselves,

who are living with vision loss.

Hadley also remains fully

committed to maintaining our

100-year history of providing

learning free of charge to blind

and visually impaired people

and their families. Many people

with vision loss are unemployed,

underemployed or living on a

fixed income. Thanks to the generosity

of our donors, cost is not

a barrier to Hadley learners.

2020 is a significant year for

Hadley for many reasons. In addition

to commemorating our

rich history, we are also reimagining

the organization to best

serve the growing population of

older individuals with vision loss.

I hope you will read on to

learn more about Hadley of the

past, present and future.

William Hadley and The Hadley Correspondence School

“When your life’s ambition has failed you, pick up a new thread of endeavor…make

your renewal of effort count for other people.”

~ William A. Hadley

The Making of an

Exceptional Educator

William Allen Hadley was

born in Mooresville, Indiana, in

1860. He graduated from Earlham

College in 1881 earned his

master’s degree at the University

of Minnesota.

Hadley began teaching in Willmar,

MN, where he also served as

the Superintendent of Schools for

a time. He married Jessie Henderson,

a fellow schoolteacher

and worked in Ohio and Peoria

before coming to Chicago’s Lake

View High School.

Along the way, William and

Jessie had two daughters, Margaret

and Emily. Seeking more

space to accommodate their family

of four, the Hadleys moved to

913 Oak Street in Winnetka in


In 1915, Hadley’s life was dramatically

altered when a bout of

influenza caused his retina to detach.

Today this could likely be

fixed surgically, but at that time

it meant loss of vision in this eye.

Because he had lost sight in his

other eye in a childhood archery

accident, William Hadley became

completely blind at the age of 55.

This was a difficult adjustment.

Hadley found great assistance

from his friend and neighbor, Dr.

E.V.L. Brown, a renowned ophthalmologist.

Dr. Brown not only

knew the science of vision loss,

but also the psychology. He recognized

the importance of vision

rehabilitation for recovering selfesteem

and encouraged Hadley to

stay active and learn braille.

However, Hadley was frustrated

to find that there were virtually

no educational opportunities

for blind people. Motivated by

his love of reading and learning,

he taught himself braille with the

help of his wife, Jessie.

While he learned to accept his

vision loss, he lacked a strong

sense of purpose.

In 1919, fate again intervened in

For the first two years, William

Hadley corresponded with his

students from his Winnetka

home at 913 Oak Street.

the form of a Winnetka neighbor.

Hadley had struck up a friendship

with Reverend Plumer, who

was spending the summer in Winnetka

with his daughter’s family.

Plumer suggested Hadley use his

talents to teach his fellow adult

blind by correspondence courses.

The School is Born

Hadley was excited by the

possibilities and enlisted the assistance

of Dr. Brown. Their research

revealed that nothing like

this had ever been done, yet the

need to educate adults with vision

loss was profound. This project

also brought William Hadley

back to life. He was invigorated

by the challenge and got to work

making it a reality.

By 1920, word of his idea was

spreading. A farmer’s wife in

Kansas wrote to him desperate

to learn braille so she could read

again, and “braille by mail” was

born. She mailed her exercises

to Mr. Hadley who corrected and

returned them along with notes

of help and encouragement. This

was the beginning of the close instructor-student

relationships that

is a hallmark of Hadley learning.

After this first success, Mr.

Hadley was ready to take on

more students. He advertised in

a braille periodical and received

over 100 replies from all 48

states, Canada and China. This

reinforced the significant need

for the services he was offering

and provided direction for the

type of courses to offer.

For the first year, Hadley ran

the school out of his living room,

with the help of his wife Jessie, and

the support and encouragement of

Dr. Brown. Using only the modest

means of his teaching pension,

Hadley provided education to more

than 60 students free of charge.

This policy of tuition-free education

that Mr. Hadley established a

century ago continues to underpin

Hadley learning today.

As the years went on, enrollment

and staff grew but Mr. Hadley

continued to develop, braille

and teach many of the courses

himself as well as writing personal

letters to accompany each

lesson he sent to students.

A Life Well Lived

William Hadley remained actively

involved in the School he

created until 1936 when, at the

age of 76, he underwent an operation

that took much of his vigor

and required him to scale back

his teaching.

The year before his death,

Hadley reflected upon his life in

an interview with the Chicago

Tribune, remarking: “I had been

a teacher all my life and my work

was not done. I was idle several

years, adjusting myself, but eventually,

I decided that my ability to

teach had not left with my sight.

Now I know that my most valuable

work has been done in the

last 20 years. I am not sorry that I

was made blind.”

William Hadley passed away at

the age of 81 on October 2, 1941.

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