Portrait of the artist as a philanthropist

by Terry McGuire

P. Buckley Moss has two true passions: her art and her nationwide effort to shed understanding on children with learning disabilities. For Moss, the two are inextricably linked.

Moss has been using her talents as an internationally renowned artist in recent years to support educational programs addressing learning differences. One is the learning disabilities master's degree program in Virginia Tech's College of Human Resources and Education.

Moss, whose own dyslexia was not diagnosed until her son was tested for the condition, will donate a portion of the sales of her recently completed watercolor of Burruss Hall to endow the P. Buckley Moss Learning Disabilities Degree Scholarship that will be awarded to first-year graduate students planning to teach learning disabled students. The painting will be reproduced in a limited edition of 14,000 prints, including 12,000 regular edition prints for $150 each and 2,000 deluxe prints at $300 each. Moss' business enterprise, the Moss Portfolio, will promote the print at the more than 350 galleries and frame shops representing her throughout the country. The prints are also available at Virginia Tech's Volume II bookstore.

In a phone interview from Washington, D.C., where she was being honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution for her philanthropic work, Moss emphasized that an early awareness of children's learning differences is key to dealing with those differences.

"Parents and teachers need to understand that children learn in different ways," she said. "We need to recognize it's not a learning 'disability' but rather a learning 'difference' that may make a very intelligent child appear to be lazy. So, it's important that we develop and nurture early on those areas at which a child excels."

From her travels and her talks on the subject, Moss is discovering that many adults now realize that a learning difference could be the root cause of their early struggles in the classroom and their on-going lack of self esteem.

"I've had a number of adults come up to me after talks and say 'I knew I wasn't stupid and lazy. I'm going to have myself tested.' For many, it's difficult to discard the stubbornness and resistance they have used for years to hide a learning difference," she pointed out.

Moss' scholarship support in the field of learning differences extends to six other institutions, including James Madison University and Radford University in Virginia. During the past three years, the sale of Moss' works have provided monies to begin funding seven endowed scholarships at these institutions. Moss has also established the P. Buckley Moss Society to help educate the public about learning differences and the P. Buckley Moss Foundation, which annually presents a $10,000 award to a teacher who employs the arts to help children with learning differences.

In the final analysis, P. Buckley Moss sees her dedication and generosity not as obligations but as something quite different. "I believe working for children is a privilege," she says.

Terry McGuire is development communications manager for Virginia Tech.

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