I would like to pay tribute to Ross Wilson, our BLENNZ Board Chairperson, who as you know, died unexpectedly last Sunday. I’m sure that for all who were present at the speech Ross gave at the recent opening of the Homai Campus, news of his death will have come as a great shock. Those of us who have worked closely with Ross over the last 10 years are especially feeling the loss of this wise but humble person who was above all a really nice man.
Ross had a long and distinguished career in special education. He established the Special Education Service and led those services for the Ministry of Education for many years.
As a highly respected leader in special education, Ross became directly involved in the education of learners who are blind and low vision in 2002 when he was appointed as Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) to work with the board of the Homai Vision Education Centre to develop a strategic direction for blindness education services.
In this role he worked with great commitment in the crucial years leading up to the formation of BLENNZ in 2005. His firm grounding in special education policy and processes and his longstanding relationships within the Ministry were vital in our gaining key support. Ross worked tirelessly over these years supporting the working groups which developed the new model of service provision that became BLENNZ. He then, with the late Gwen Nagel as the recently appointed principal of the new organisation, oversaw the process which resulted in all teachers nationally outside the Homai Campus resigning from their positions and applying for positions in the new organisation, which was named BLENNZ later in that year.
Once BLENNZ was established Ross worked alongside the principal on the many areas needing resolution, always a calm, reasoned and steady influence in any discussion. When his tenure as the LSM came to an end the Board coopted him as a trustee so as not to lose his expertise. He then went on to be elected as the BLENNZ Board of Trustees Chairperson and most abley led the Board over recent years.
In my role as Principal I have greatly valued Ross’s support, advice and guidance. He led the Board with great skill and we all valued his ability to draw on a depth of knowledge which came from very many years of experience in special education. He was a person of courage and integrity who gave a great deal personally to ensure that BLENNZ was established and that its many issues were resolved, always with a focus on the learners and their families.
The opening of the new school buildings was for Ross the culmination of 10 years work and I know he took great delight in what had been achieved. It is a comfort to reflect that he was able to enjoy the opening ceremony in the company of so many from our community.
We will miss him greatly.