December, 1970

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Bert Oliver Praised For Education Work

By Elton Troth, Olympia, Wash.

Helping others who can't always help themselves has been the way of life for E. M. (Bert) Oliver, a native of Pomeroy who was employed in the educational and vocational rehabilitation field over 40 years ago.

Bert Oliver from Pomeroy WA

Bert Oliver

Oliver, born and raised in Garfield county, has retired from his post as director of the State's rehabilitation program after 24 years in that position.

His longing to visit many friends and relatives in the Pomeroy area is in his immediate plans. Among those he plans to see here are his sister, Mrs. Mabel Whittaker, and Mrs. Walter Oliver, a sister-in-law. Oliver, son of the late James Oliver, was one of six children who grew up on a wheat farm in this area.

He has noted the growth of many schools through consolidation as compared to the one-room school he attended in the Falling Springs district. Oliver pointed out that the school which served eight grades had a pot-bellied stove, an old water pump that was hard to prime, and outside facilities—all of which now consist of fond memories.

Oliver recalls vividly high school days in Pomeroy and his participation in major sports, and then going on to Washington State College. He graduated from PHS with the Class of 1923 and from WSU in 1929. He did post graduate work at the University of Washington and at WSU, being awarded his superintendent of schools and principal's credentials at WSU.

Often called "the father of vocational rehabilitation in Washington State", Oliver began working with handicapped people in 1935 to help them develop an educational plan for their life work. He was well-versed in the educational field following a teaching career in Garfield and Wenatchee.

His first job in rehabilitation was in the role of a training officer covering all Eastern Washington, with Spokane his home base. Several promotions later saw him in the job as assistant director of vocational education and state supervisor of vocational rehabilitation.

Later he became assistant state superintendent of public instruction in charge of vocational rehabilitation. When the Community College Act was passed by the state legislature in 1967 and a system of vocational education and vocational rehabilitation was provided through the Coordinating Council For Occupational Education, Oliver was again re-elected to head up the state's rehabilitation program.

Oliver is well known for initiating a statewide system of sheltered workshops and for establishing the joint school-rehabilitation programs which are designed to provide special and meaningful services to the mentally retarded and other severely handicapped.

He also initiated a statewide program in 1955 which was the forerunner of many national programs for the vocationally handicapped. The Coordinating Council, in recently accepting Oliver's resignation, looked for his replacement on a national level because of the difficulty of finding an individual with comprehensive administrative experience for carrying on a statewide rehabilitation program for the handicapped.

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