A Texas pioneer in education
Robbin Parish, a pioneer in educating Houston children with learning difficulties, died Saturday at Methodist Hospital of heart disease. She was 66.
Parish opened The Parish School in west Houston in 1983 as a haven for students whose language, learning or communication differences inhibited their ability to be successful in a mainstream academic setting and needed a more individualized place to learn. The private non-profit school for children ages 18 months to 12 years (fifth grade) now has more than 1,000 alumni.
A native Houstonian, Parish attended the Kinkaid School and graduated from Lamar High School in 1961. She attended Sullins College and the University of Texas and received her master's degree in speech pathology from Our Lady of the Lake College. She developed a community-based hearing and speech center in Corpus Christi and headed the undergraduate academic and clinical program in speech language pathology at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio before returning to Houston in 1972 to co-found Memorial City Speech, Hearing and Language Center — one of the first such private practices in the state of Texas.
As her private practice grew, she saw the need for services in a private school setting and founded The Parish School. It was the first school in Texas to combine early childhood education, speech language pathology, and learning disabilities into an integrated program. The school was located on a small piece of property at 11059 Timberline; in 2005 it relocated to a 17-acre campus at 11001 Hammerly. Parish recently announced her retirement from the school and a party was planned next week.
Parish served on the ethical practices board of the American Speech Language Hearing Association, which awarded her its highest national honor by making her a fellow for her outstanding contributions. She was past president of the Council of State Association Presidents, the Texas Speech Language Hearing Association and Houston Area Association for Communication Disorders and served on the boards of The Orton Society, the Presbyterian School and the State Board for Schools Attuned. She was a member of the Junior League of Houston and St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where she served as a lay minister with the Community of Hope.
She is survived by her mother, Marion Alexander; her sister, the author and former Houston Post society columnist Elizabeth "Betsy" Parish: and brothers Hugh and Ford Alexander.