Tribute to “Doc” Nash

Bob Nash, a long time member of the International Dyslexia Association and founder the Project Success program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh died at his home in Poy Sippi, Wisconsin in April of this year.  As a child, Bob attended the Seattle public schools and struggled with reading, spelling and written expression.   Through hard work and determination, he managed his high school diploma.  After a term in the service, he returned home to earn a degree in chemistry from Seattle University, but again, it took great persistence for him to graduate.  After graduation, he took a job as an instructor in a prison in Montana.  He was struck by the number of inmates who struggled to read, and it inspired him to earn his masters in education at the University of Wyoming and later a doctorate at Utah State University.  In 1972, he began teaching at UW Oshkosh in the special education department.  Throughout his schooling, Bob struggled with reading and spelling, but he had never realized that he was dyslexic until he attended a meeting of the Upper Midwest Branch of the Orton Dyslexia Society at Mayo Clinic in 1976 and heard the speaker, Alice Kuntz, describe the characteristics of the unremediated adult with dyslexia.  Suddenly the light bulb came on and he began his lifelong quest to remediate his own dyslexia.  In doing so, he got training from Paula Rome and Jean Osman in their multisensory reading program and could immediately see the benefits it brought him in his life.  He credited them with teaching him…“ for the first time in 51 years, that the letters of the alphabet have sounds!”

Because of these experiences, Bob convinced then UW Oshkosh Chancellor Ed Penson to provide him with funding to begin a small program focused on reading remediation for students with dyslexia attending UW Oshkosh.  The program started in 1979 with six students but quickly grew to over 20 by the following fall. From there, the program continued to grow, and with the support of the UW Oshkosh administration grew to over 200 students when he retired from UW Oshkosh in 1999.  After his retirement from UW Oshkosh, he worked as a consultant and trainer for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and later took a position as a teacher in the education unit of the Red Granite Correctional Institution.

After his life changing experiences of learning he was dyslexic and receiving training in multisensory instruction, Bob became a zealot for the cause of dyslexia and its remediation.  His work at UW Oshkosh was pioneering and it opened up the door for a university education for numerous students who never dreamt that they could succeed at the postsecondary level.  He gave them the tools and the confidence to do well in their classes. Students from the early days of the program regularly credit him as a person who changed their lives.  Project Success now has over 300 students who receive services.  It continues to help people with dyslexia do well in college and graduate.  Even today, every Project Success student who graduates from UW Oshkosh owes a debt of gratitude to “Doc” Nash whose hard work and determination were instrumental in starting and nurturing the program.