After nearly three decades as head of Marburn Academy, Earl B. Oremus officially retired June 30.

After nearly three decades as head of Marburn Academy, Earl B. Oremus officially retired June 30.

That doesn't mean the 72-year-old Gahanna resident is saying goodbye completely to the school for students with learning differences.

Marburn is in the Northland area but has plans in the works for a New Albany campus and a building that could accommodate as many as 350 students.

"The board has done me the great honor of naming me headmaster emeritus," Oremus said.

In that capacity, he said, he will continue to work for and on behalf of Marburn, as well as help the new headmaster, Jamie Williamson, in the transition. Williamson was principal of the Cincinnati-based Springer School and Center, which also helps children with learning difficulties.

"Jamie and I have done a good deal of work already, so we have a nice, collaborative relationship," Oremus said.

His retirement, after 27 years, also does not mean Oremus and his wife, Stuart (her Kentucky father insisted on naming all his offspring after Confederate Civil War generals), are done with their life's work of helping students with dyslexia, ADHD and other conditions that provide impediments to learning in a traditional academic setting.

"We've learned a lot about how to start a school like this, how to make it thrive ... and so I'm looking forward to being able to work with other schools and help them do the same thing we do here," Oremus said.

Oremus earned his undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Kentucky in 1967 and a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 1980.

He leaves behind a lasting legacy, according to colleagues.

"Marburn Academy would not be what it is today without the efforts of Earl Oremus," said Associate Head of School Scott Burton. "Over the past three decades, he has helped our school to become a place of innovative teaching, deep caring for our dyslexic and ADHD students and meaningful outreach to the broader community."

Board Chairman Craig Morrison, chief executive of Hexion Inc., said Oremus "has had a remarkable tenure as Marburn's leader.

"His palpable sense of excitement, optimism and energy will be missed," Morrison said, "but we are confident that his deep understanding of learning differences and reading instruction has permeated our academic community, will live on in the tens of thousands of families that he has impacted, and will continue to resonate in the halls of Marburn Academy."

Looking back on what led him to Marburn Academy, Oremus said, he chose to go into education because he was incredibly frustrated by his own, and he chose private schools because he wanted to be able to more easily bring about changes.

"I didn't find much of my schooling to be very satisfying," he said. "Oceans of it was boring. Much of it was irrelevant. I wasn't a very happy student, although a successful one.

"I wanted to be in an environment where there were fewer obstacles to changing things."

He said all of that came together for him at Marburn, which he has led for all but six of its 33 years of existence.

"I have found it to be endlessly rewarding," he said.

Top contribution

Oremus didn't hesitate to point to what he believes is his most important contribution to education. He was part of a small group of educators who had approached Eric Fingerhut, then chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, which sets degree requirements for colleges in the state.

They showed Fingerhut that none of the requirements for teaching future teachers addressed dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized primarily by difficulty in reading. They convinced the chancellor to change the requirements in accordance with guidelines from the National Dyslexic Association.

That new curriculum was rolled out two years ago at all 55 colleges that train teachers in Ohio.

"That's probably the most helpful thing ever," Oremus said. "Give us a few years and we will no longer have teacher candidates coming out ... without this knowledge.

"Above all, they will have some idea of what kind of teaching works best for them. That has the most promise for changing the world for these kids."

He said it's widely accepted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with many other entities, that about 20 percent of all children have some neurological differences that create learning disabilities. That translates to about 50,000 youngsters in central Ohio.

Of that 20 percent, 35 percent won't finish high school, he said. Of those who do, only 10 percent will apply to college. A mere 2 percent will earn a degree, he said.

All of these young people, Oremus insisted with some passion, are of average intelligence or above, and yet only a fraction of them will have the same opportunity to succeed in life as their peers for whom the regular educational system worked.

"That is a horrible loss to the community, not to mention it's a tragedy for every one of these students," he said.