John W. Student Jr.

Age 91 Machinist foreman started a Boy Scout troop for blind children.

July 21, 2008|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,SUN REPORTER

John William Student Jr., a former machinist foreman for Koppers Co. who started a Boy Scout troop in the 1950s at the Maryland School for the Blind to show his son he could do the same things as people who have sight, died Thursday at Broadmead Retirement Community. He was 91 and had suffered from congestive heart failure.

Mr. Student also co-founded a PTA chapter at the school for the blind in Baltimore. He had several interests, many of which entailed helping others, and worked as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels for 18 years, delivering food to the elderly and disabled, according to his son, John W. Student III of Nottingham.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Student left the ninth grade for an apprenticeship as a machinist. He worked for two decades at Bethlehem Steel, and then became a machinist foreman for Koppers Co., where he worked for 25 years. He was married to his wife, Anne, for 56 years. Mrs. Student died in 1995.

By starting the Boy Scout troop, Mr. Student demonstrated to the blind children that they could participate in events such as the Jamboree, a gathering of thousands of Scouts from across the country, his son said. Some even proved more skilled at activities such as woodworking that can require more touch than sight.

"His main goal was he wanted people to know that blind children could get into the mainstream of things," his son said. "Back then things were different. People were skeptical. People always tell me what I can't do rather than what I can do."

The son, who came home on weekends from school, recalled that his father once built him stilts, on which he became so adept that he could walk up stairs. "I had to figure out a way to make those kids notice me," he said. "I was the king of the neighborhood for a while."

Mr. Student volunteered for Wheels on Meals after he retired and noticed that many of his neighbors were elderly and having trouble getting out for groceries and meals. In snowstorms, his son said, he would put on his spiked golf shoes so that he could walk to deliver meals. When he moved to Broadmead Retirement Community, he continued his public service by helping his neighbors fix broken lamps and radios, his son said.

No funeral is planned, in accordance with Mr. Student's wishes. A celebration of his life will be held at Broadmead at a later date.

Mr. Student had no other immediate survivors.

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