Marianne Riggio’s dedication to deafblind education has literally taken her around the globe.
Riggio has worked in 38 countries over the course of her 35-year career at Perkins School for the Blind. As one of Perkins International’s first employees, she has coordinated programs across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean and played an integral role in Perkins’ growth as a worldwide leader in the education of children and young adults with multiple disabilities.
On Dec. 2, Riggio was honored with the Anne Sullivan Macy Medal for her service to the deafblind community. The medal is the highest honor awarded by Perkins.
“Marianne is a renaissance woman who has leveraged her knowledge and dedication to tens of thousands of students throughout the world,” said Perkins International Executive Director Michael Delaney. “She has made a global impact with grace, love and the spirit of service and is truly deserving of this great honor.”
Riggio has served as the director of the Educational Leadership Program (ELP) and international campus-related training since 2012. The ELP offers nine months of advanced training to teachers of the visually impaired and other professionals from developing nations.
“Marianne has taught and mentored teachers, parents and leaders throughout the world,” said Delaney. “If that were not enough, under Marianne’s leadership the Educational Leadership Program is the jewel of Perkins International.”
Riggio earned a master’s degree in multi-handicapped and deafblind education from Boston College in 1976 before starting her career in New Hampshire.
She joined Perkins in 1981. As an educational consultant for the New England Center for Deafblind Services – a federal grant program run by Perkins – Riggio coordinated services for children who are deafblind throughout the region in the 1980s.
Riggio was one of the first Perkins employees to work for the Hilton/Perkins Program, which launched in 1989 and was later renamed Perkins International.
In this role, Riggio developed services for children with deafblindness in inner-city Los Angeles, Appalachia, the Navajo Nation and around the world.
Riggio has also written or contributed to over a dozen published works, including a textbook on deafblind communication.
Riggio joins an impressive group of past medal-winners that includes former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, first lady Barbara Bush and U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
The medal has been awarded since 1966 to individuals and groups around the world who have worked to break down barriers facing people who are deafblind.
At an award reception at Perkins’ Watertown campus, Riggio thanked her colleagues and reflected on a fulfilling career in support of students with deafblindness.
“Philosophies, governments and the priorities in our field all change,” said Riggio. “The important thing is to stay grounded in what you believe in.”