Grassroots Beginnings and an Unwavering Focus

The IDA Upper Midwest Branch was the fifth branch to form in the nation; the only branch between the East and West Coasts. The national files state that “a preliminary meeting to form the Upper Midwest Branch of the Orton Society was held during the National Orton Society meeting in October of 1968.”

An informal gathering of interested individuals met in Rochester, Minnesota in April 1969, but the first, official meeting of the branch brought 130 educators, parents and physicians together on September 26 in 1969. Organizers Paula Rome and Jean Osman, co-founders of The Reading Center in Rochester, were assisted by Arlene Sonday, Marcia Henry and Roberta Stroebel. The group invited Margaret Rawson, Past President of The Orton Society, Dr. Manuel Gomez, Mayo Clinic neurologist, Dr. Fredrick Darly, Head of the Speech Pathology Department at the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Mary Lee Enfield, Project Read, to keynote the event.

The first officers elected to the branch were:

  • Paula Rome, President
  • Jean Osman, Vice President
  • Dorothy Ley, Secretary
  • Julie Steinke, Treasurer
  • Isabel Matterson, Membership Chair

The original areas served included Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. As was envisioned by the early founders, the branch has been instrumental in assisting other states to develop their own branches. Subsequently, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin organized and broke off from the Upper Midwest Branch over the years.

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