Stern Center founder celebrated upon retirement

On Sunday, roughly 200 people celebrated the accomplishments of the Stern Center for Language and Learning’s founder Blanche Podhajski in a virtual retirement party. Podhajski retired after a 50-year career in the field of education and 38 years at the helm of the Williston-based nonprofit.

“Thank you all so much to all who spoke so eloquently reminiscing about the past 38 years,” she said. “You truly are the most extraordinary group of people. I shall cherish your friendship always as I follow your fabulous future.”

Podhajski came to Vermont after college to attend graduate school at UVM. The next year, she accepted her first job at the Center for Disorders of Communication (CDC) at the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont. Within three years, she was named director of the CDC and a faculty member in the Department of Neurology at UVM’s College of Medicine. She then completed her doctoral work at Northwestern University and returned to Vermont in 1981.

Podhajski applied to the Bernice and Milton Stern Foundation to establish a center where students, their families and teachers could benefit from scientifically proven best practices in addressing learning differences for future success. With a $50,000 grant, the Center for Language and Cerebral Function was born in 1983. It would later become the Stern Center for Language and Learning.

The center has a threefold mission: direct services through evaluations and instruction, professional learning and research. It is an educational resource for Vermont and beyond.

Gov. Phil Scott wrote of Podhajski’s accomplishments, “Under your leadership the Stern Center has thrived into a nationally recognized leader in literacy and learning. You have made a tremendous impact in the lives of many students and educators. I appreciate the impact your work has had, especially here in Vermont. You have made the Stern Center a great asset to our state.”

Laurie Quinn has been chosen as incoming president to succeed Podhajski in leading the organization.