"We cannot be a whole people, we cannot be a thriving people if we aren't a reading people." Charles Drake, Interview with NBC, 1985
Charles Drake, Ed.D., a Harvard-trained educator with severe dyslexia himself, knew firsthand the struggles of children with learning disabilities. While working on his degree at Harvard, he taught, lectured, and advocated on behalf of students with learning disabilities and on the need to pass appropriate educational legislation for them. In 1971, he and his wife Marjorie founded the Landmark School to address the needs of students with language-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
As the school grew, it added a college-preparatory component to its curriculum. Based on that success, Drake and other Trustees began to explore the possibility of starting a college specifically designed for students with learning disabilities. Other colleges at that time did have some programming geared towards such students, but it was considered to be limited in nature. Drake and his colleagues saw a need for a college that would work exclusively with such students—something that had never been done before. To fund this new venture, Drake and the Trustees would have to take an incredible gamble and mortgage the properties in Massachusetts.
Drake found the property on the site of the former campus of Windham College, beautifully situated on 125 acres in Putney, Vermont. Windham had been forced to close in 1978 due to bankruptcy, and the Town of Putney had been struggling to find a new use for the campus. At one point, the federal government had even put forth the idea of a minimum-security prison, but this measure failed to pass and the Town once again was looking for a solution. Through the persistence of John Bagge, then town manager (and later faculty member), as well as the generosity of a number of local individuals, who acted as intermediaries in purchasing the land from an out-of-town owner, both the buildings and the land were finally secured. Landmark College was legally established in November 1983, and after much repair and renovation, it opened in September 1985 with 77 students.
(Originally published in 2005 in Landmark Links, Landmark College's newsletter from 1991 – 2011.)