Dyslexia Group Honors FDU Professor Mary Farrell

Teaneck, NJ (October 28, 2008)—Mary Lupiani Farrell, a Fairleigh Dickinson University professor in the Peter Sammartino School of Education and learning disabilities expert, has received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the New Jersey branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

“It is Mary’s leadership that has been outstanding—and that leadership has provided many opportunities for teachers and students to achieve,” said Georgette Dickman, IDA regional chair, in presenting the award.

Dr. Farrell is the director of FDU’s Center for Dyslexia Studies, through which she developed and directs the university’s Dyslexia Specialist Certificate Program. The nationally accredited certificate program, one of the first of its kind in the nation, trains teachers in multisensory reading instruction. She also developed and is university director of FDU’s Regional Center for College Students with Learning Disabilities, which provides comprehensive academic support to about 150 undergraduates at FDU’s two New Jersey campuses. The Regional Center, which is partially funded by a state grant, provides instructional support, personal and career counseling and academic advisement to undergraduates with learning disabilities.

The award was presented at the IDA New Jersey branch’s annual dinner on October 16. Farrell was honored in part for her role in developing six Scottish Rite Masonic Learning Centers in New Jersey that provide tutoring to children from kindergarten through high school who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. Georgette Dickman, who presented the award to Farrell, is director of the Tenafly Learning Center.

“Mary has worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of children in her role on and off campus,” said Vincent Varrassi, who is Metropolitan campus director of the Regional Center. He noted that her work with the Masons also led to a scholarship program for teachers learning the Orton-Gillingham teaching approach through the Dyslexia Specialist Certificate Program.

“These scholarships have allowed many career educators to learn and pass on the knowledge of this successful method of teaching students with dyslexia,” Varrassi said.  Because an important part of the teacher training program is supervised clinical practice, about 160 children are currently receiving reading instruction at no cost to their families.  Other teachers are in Orton-Gillingham training on campus as well as in five New Jersey school districts.

The Orton-Gillingham method, developed in the 1920s, uses a multisensory, phonetic approach to help struggling readers learn to read and spell. Farrell is a leading expert on the method.

Verdon Skipper, a Scottish Rite leader who helped develop the state’s Masonic Learning Centers, praised Farrell and FDU.

“This learning program is all about giving children with dyslexia an equal opportunity in life, and Fairleigh Dickinson University, through Farrell, has been the driving force in giving these children such an opportunity,” Skipper said.

In New Jersey, the Masonic Learning Centers for Children are located in Burlington, Hasbrouck Heights, Newark, Northfield, Scotch Plains and Tenafly. Farrell is a member of the Professional Advisory Committee for the centers, which the Masons have opened in 15 states.

Farrell received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She and her husband, Gregory, a consulting biomedical engineer, have lived in Ridgewood, NJ, for more than 20 years.

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