HOOPES AWARD RECIPIENT
Upon learning that she would receive the 2019 Janet L. Hoopes Award, Mrs. Julia Sadtler opened our saying, “But there are so many more deserving people,” and closed with, “I wish I could have done more.” At PBIDA, we know that Julia is a truly deserving recipient of this award that “honors an individual or individuals in Pennsylvania or Delaware who have made significant contributions to those living with learning disabilities.”
Julia’s humility may be why her work in the field of dyslexia might not be well known to many of you, but it is also a hallmark of the generous support and guidance she has provided to so many of us. For over forty years, Julia has been a respected colleague, and with quiet determination and persistence, she has had an immeasurable impact on our International Dyslexia Association (IDA) branch and on the lives of students with learning disabilities.
Julia began her work as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the mid 1970’s, at a time when few even recognized the word dyslexia. She worked with Dr. Thomas Atkins, our 1997 Hoopes honoree for his work on dyslexia. There she began a lifelong friendship with eventual PBIDA board members Tom Jennings and Cynthia Solot. Julia recalls that our 1998 Hoopes honoree, the late Dr. Katherine (Kit) Gordon-Clark, from the Bryn Mawr Child Study Institute, used to call the four of them, “our in town [dyslexia] mafia.”
After almost two decades at CHOP, and a brief stint in a private practice, Julia became the Admissions Director at the Crossroads School, from 1994 until 2010. There she was a life-changing first point of contact for hundreds of children with language-based learning disabilities and their parents. During these years, Julia served several terms as a PBIDA Board member, and she became an Orton Oak, “longstanding IDA members who have been important supporters of the organization for a minimum of 25 years.” Julia, and then PBIDA President Marianne Cook, undertook a monumental challenge in 2004 as the Local Arrangements Chairs for the National IDA Conference in Philadelphia. Attended by over 3700 attendees, it was by far the largest national IDA conference at that time.
From 2012 to 2015 Julia served two terms as President of PBIDA. During her tenure, Diane Reott founded the Pennsylvania Dyslexia Literacy Coalition (PA DLC). With Julia’s friendship and leadership, PA DLC became a standing committee of PBIDA in 2014, and Diane went on to become PBIDA’s first Executive Director in 2018. PA DLC’s efforts, including the work of Diane, Julia, Daphne Uliana, former PBIDA Presidents Eugenie Flaherty and Monica McHale-Small, and countless others, culminated in the Pennsylvania legislature passing “Act 69 of 2014, the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program. [This] requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to establish a dyslexia and early literacy intervention pilot program to provide evidence-based early screening and multitier support systems, using evidence-based intervention services for students with potential risk factors for early reading deficiencies and dyslexia….” This Pilot Project is groundbreaking in Pennsylvania and a model for national legislation.
Julia shared that her grandfather had hoped to attend MIT but could not gain admission because he could not read. Her grandfather went on to build a hydroelectric power system on his rural New Jersey farm, but he never knew why he couldn’t read. When her mother would walk home from school on dark winter evenings, their home was the only one with lights. We are sure that her mother and grandfather would share our pride in Julia’s selfless commitment to a lifetime of work shining a light on dyslexia and helping to provide a path – until everyone can read.
Julia has been married for 52 years to her husband Sandy. She is the mother of 2 daughters and has 4 grandchildren. In addition to a retirement filled with participating in the PA Master Naturalist Program, foal-sitting at the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and spending as much time as possible with her family, Julia always answers our call at PBIDA and is a valued mentor and friend.
Interview by Lisa Goldstein