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Och, Mary Starkey (1908-2002)

Submitted by Linda Morton Cowin, Leavittsburg Heritage Assocation

Learning center founder and community advocate

Mary who was born November 15, 1908, was well-known as founder and operator of Mary F. Och Learning Center in Leavittsburg.

Mary earned a master’s degree in nursing from University of Pittsburgh and came to Trumbull County in 1932 to work at Trumbull Hospital.

In 1945, she became school nurse for Leavittsburg Schools, where she set up an educational nursing program beyond traditional first-aid service, encompassing counseling and “life education” programs for students. She involved community members and students in a service organization that provided clothes, food, money, dental and health care to disadvantaged students and their families, and she actively campaigned to improve living conditions in the community.

She became aware that many bright children were having trouble in the family living and health classes she taught and that others were failing audio and visual screenings without reason. With encouragement from the district’s superintendent, A.L. Bascom, she began a search to discover the causes. She visited universities in the realms of speech therapy and hearing and visual perception. Mary then earned a master’s in education from Kent (Ohio) State University.

She was certified as a developmental specialist in the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. She began teaching developmental classes, based on exercise and coordination in the school system. It was her strong belief that in order to learn, a child must progress in stages that include eye-to-hand coordination, eye muscle control, knowing right from left and other coordinations.

In 1976, she opened the Mary F. Och Learning Center.  She ran the center for 20 years helping an estimated 9,000 children. Mrs. Och passed away on November 16, 2002 at the age of 94.