The saying that a teacher affects eternity and one can never tell where their influence stops is truly a fitting tribute for the recipient of the 2016 Smith-Cotton Distinguished Alumni Award, Dr. Diane Cordry Golden.
Golden has devoted her life’s work to the field of special education and ensuring that individuals with disabilities are assured the same voting rights as all Americans are afforded.
“If the appropriate measure of success is how you give back to the world is your service to others, Diane has done in both small and significant ways,” Dr. Kim Ratcliffe, associate executive director of the Missouri School Board Association Medicaid Consortium, said in her introduction of Golden. The manner in which she has chosen to give back to others has made the lives of others better through her work.
“She has a true passion for people with disabilities and her compassion for those individuals is what stands out,” Ratcliffe added. “When you leave school you decide what you want to do first, then you make other decisions. Diane’s decisions have led her to helping others.”
Golden, who graduated at the top of her class in 1974 from S-C, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a master of science in audiology from the University of Central Missouri, and a doctor of philosophy in special education from MU.
Caroline Hayes, who was one of Golden’s teachers when she attended Smith-Cotton, characterized Golden as an extremely intelligent student.
“Diane was an excellent student who was very knowledgeable,” Hayes said. “She was always very humble in all her accomplishments.
“I remember Diane and her parents when she was just a young girl at church,” Hayes added. “She was always devoted to her (late) father and her mother and to helping others.”
Golden spoke to the audience at the Heckart Center for the Performing Arts at Smith-Cotton High School Thursday morning of the importance of their education, adding that although she did not walk the exact same hallways as they did, their education would be the key to their future.
“Don’t ever think that you are not prepared after graduating from Smith-Cotton because you are,” Golden said to the senior class in her remarks. “With your education from Smith-Cotton and your effort and determination you can accomplish anything.”
Prior to her remarks to the audience, Golden spoke to the Democrat about the message of promise she hoped to instill in the members of the Class of 2017.
“I hope the students understand the importance and value in public service and advocacy work to others,” Golden said. “I want to inspire them to not dismiss it.
“They need to look at all their options and find their own passion and calling,” she added. “Their education will prepare them for whatever they want to do in life.”
Golden commented that she understood the importance of the STEM curriculum that is emphasized in education but that others, including the humanities, were equally important.
“With both my parents being teachers in Sedalia everything was a teachable moment in my household growing up,” Golden told the audience. “I always valued the importance of the educational experiences here at S-C.
“I accessed everything the school had to offer for a girl but you have so many more opportunities to expand your horizons than I did as a student here in the 1970s,” she added. “We weren’t really a math household though and it wasn’t until I started doing stats for the baseball team that I fell in love with math.”
Golden went on to explain that although she did not originally focus on math it is something she uses today in her work, which she describes as having some highly technical aspects.
Golden’s profession career began as a clinical instructor in audiology at MU, according to her profile for the distinguished alumni award.
She serves as the policy coordinator for the Association of Assistive Technology Act programs and is the policy coordinator for the Missouri Council of Administrators of Special Education (MO-CASE.)
“I started my career in the allied health field, a biological science, but that led me someplace else,” Golden said. “That led me somewhere else and now I work with highly technical HTML codes in my work with voting accessibility.
“It’s important that students are exposed to a variety of information so they can find their passion,” she added.
One of Golden’s passions is her work to make independent voting accessible for disabled citizens.
“There is a requirement that states there must be at least one handicapped-accessible voting station per polling place for all Federal elections,” Golden said prior to her remarks. “It’s a requirement for the Federal elections but not for all state and local elections.
“We have the equipment in place so why not make sure it is deployed and in use for all elections,” she added. “I’m hoping that in five years it’s commonplace for the technology to be available for all elections.”
Golden urged all of the students to register to vote and exercise their right to vote.
“I cannot urge you strongly enough to not only register to vote but to become educated voters,” Golden said. “You truly are our future.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.