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Tribute to an Early Champion of Universal Design for Learning

Friday, June 24, 2022

Photo of Dr. Tom Hehir

Professor Thomas Hehir testifying at a hearing about H.R. 4330, the All Students Achieving through Reform Act of 2009, on February 24, 2010.

© 2017 President and Fellows of Harvard College

With deep heartache, we grieve the loss of our longtime friend, mentor, and collaborator Dr. Tom Hehir. Throughout his remarkable career, Tom worked tirelessly as an advocate for students with disabilities and their families. His commitment to inclusive education and to disrupting ableist practices and beliefs have made indelible impacts on the lives of countless students, families, and educators. Tom’s legacy as a teacher, researcher, district leader, and policymaker has shaped–and will continue to shape–fields and communities dedicated to building more inclusive and equitable futures for all students.

CAST is deeply honored to have been one of the many organizations inspired and impacted by Tom’s work. Tom was an early champion of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). He encouraged educators to implement UDL and modeled the application of UDL in the design of his own graduate courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Tom was the heart of the Harvard Summer Institutes. He brought vitality, credibility, and depth to every part of their success, from imagining and planning their scope and sequence, to delivering authoritative lectures or schmoozing intimately with star-struck participants. It was a joy and honor for Grace and me—and the whole CAST team—to learn with him every summer.

David Rose, CAST Co-Founder & Chief Education Officer, Emeritus

Tom collaborated with CAST founding partners David Rose and Grace Meo to launch an annual summer UDL Institute in partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This institute ran for more than a decade and played an influential role in developing the flourishing UDL community that exists today. Many UDL practitioners and advocates trace the beginnings of their UDL journeys back to those summer learning sessions with Tom, Grace, and David. 

Tom’s brilliance, humility, kindness, and humor will be deeply missed. At CAST we look forward to celebrating his storied legacy and carrying on his fervent commitment to creating inclusive, equitable learning environments.

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