Chester “Spikie” Avery grew up on Shaw Street in Sanford.  Life changed dramatically for this young Sanford High School student when in the span of less than two years, he developed a severe vision problem leaving him completely blind.   Chet bravely did the best thing for himself, which was to leave his home to attend a Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Massachusetts where he learned skills such as Braille, typing and using a cane.  Despite being warned that public schools were no place for blind students, Chet defied the doubters and returned to Sanford High School, graduating with highest honors and earning a scholarship to Harvard.  He then earned a Master’s Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Wanting to become a teacher, he was not allowed an internship in public schools like other graduate students because state laws prohibited blind persons from working as teachers and counselors in public high schools.  This was just one example of discrimination Chet would face throughout his life. 

After Chet taught several years at a private school in Connecticut, the former Dean at Harvard arranged an interview for him with the U.S. Office of Education.  Jack Hughes, who later established the Title 1 Program, hired Chet and called it one of the best decisions he ever made at the agency.

Mr. Avery and his family moved to Washington D.C. where he rose the career ladder in a variety of executive positions.  Among them, he was a Planning Specialist in the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, and served in the Bureau of Higher Education.  While he was Director of the State Student Incentive Grant Program, Mr. Avery expanded the number of State Scholarship Agencies to include one in every state. 

In the 1970s, the U.S. Commissioner of Education appointed Mr. Avery Director of Handicapped/Disability Concerns.  He ended his career as the Director, Division of Blind and Visually Impaired where he provided guidance and direction to State Rehabilitation Programs for blind persons throughout the United States, provided guidance and management support for 3,600 businesses operated by blind persons in Federal buildings and other facilities, and was the Federal Program manager for the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf Blind Youth and Adults.

Mr. Avery has, and continues to serve on many, federal, state and local boards and commissions and has been honored and recognized numerous times at all of these levels.

Positions

Teacher

Pomfret School, Connecticut

Research Assistant

U.S. Office Office of Education

Planning Strategist

Bureau of Education for the Handicapped

Acting Deputy Director

National Center for Research and Development

Task Force

Bureau of Education

Director

State Student Incentive Grant Program, U.S. Bureau of Education

Chief

Office of Student Financial Assistance - Dissemination Branch, U.S. Bureau of Education

Director

Handicapped/Disability Concerns, U.S. Department of Education

Director

Division of Blind and Visually Impaired, U.S. Department of Education

Federal Program Manager

Helen Keller National Center for Deaf Blind Youth and Adults

Commissions & Boards

Awards & Honors (partial list)

 

 

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