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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee has received a $300,000 gift for scholarships to students preparing to teach handicapped children in Tennessee.

The gift comes from the estate of the late Ethel S. Piper, a longtime Knoxville educator who spent decades helping children with special education needs.

Dr. Ilsa Schwarz, professor and head of audiology and speech pathology at UT, said an endowment would be established in the department’s Speech and Hearing Center to fund scholarships.

Schwarz said the scholarships would go to students interested in

Dr. Ilsa Schwarz

teaching children with developmental disabilities and staying in Tennessee after graduating. The first three scholarships will be awarded this fall, she said.

“Without gifts like this, we simply cannot bring in the best and brightest students because they are offered tuition-free graduate programs in other states,” Schwarz said. “Many of these students have heard of our programs and want to attend UT but cannot afford to come here.

“This wonderful gift will help bring the best students to Tennessee to teach our children.”

Piper, born in 1904 in Bay City, Mich., moved with her family to Knoxville as a teenager. She earned the bachelor’s degree from

Ethel Piper

Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and the master’s degree in elementary education and special education from UT.

After graduate studies at Peabody University in Nashville, she began a lifelong career helping children with physical and mental disabilities, working in Ohio and Mississippi before becoming supervisor of special education for the Knoxville City and Knox County school systems.

Piper also served on the board of advisors for UT’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, the National Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Association for Children with Disabilities.

Dr. Frank Bowyer, a retired Knoxville dentist, helped found the Speech and Hearing Center in the late 1950s and served on its board of directors with Piper.

“Ethel was a teacher who was quite interested in special education for handicapped children of various types, including those with hearing and speech problems,” Bowyer said. “She was a natural choice to serve on our board.

“She was a fine board member who participated extremely well. She never missed an opportunity to do anything she could for the children.

“She was one of our most ardent, enthusiastic, and capable board members. It was obviously her love of the children, the development of the UT Hearing and Speech Center and the work it has done that motivated her to leave this great gift.”

Piper, who died in December of 2000, also left significant gifts to programs at Lincoln Memorial University, Chilhowee Baptist Academy, Maryville College and Asbury Health Care Retirement Center.