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HWCDSB mourns passing of visionary leader

Retired superintendent Jim Hansen leaves legacy of ‘Each Belongs’

A passionate advocate for children with special learning needs, retired Senior Superintendent of Education James Hansen made his last board appearance in 2009. The occasion marked the 40th anniversary of Each Belongs, an inclusionary model of education that Hansen helped to pioneer.

Special Education, established in 1969, represented a huge departure from the practices of the day, integrating students with special needs into mainstream, neighbourhood schools.

“And why wouldn’t we?” said Hansen at the time. For Hansen, it was simply and always about doing the right thing.

Jim Hansen passed away on Sunday, August 6, 2017, surrounded by Patricia, his wife of 58 years, their sons Anthony, Paul and David, and their families. As the chief architect of the inclusionary model of education known internationally as Each Belongs, Hansen left a legacy of epic proportion.

Acknowledging Hansen’s significant contributions to Catholic education in Hamilton and beyond, Chairperson Patrick Daly indicated that Hansen not only transformed ordinary schools into places where Each Belongs, but firmly established the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board as a world leader in inclusive education and a model of the ‘Each Belongs' philosophy.

“For more than 40 years, Jim’s vision and commitment to ‘Each Belongs’ has helped to shape what our schools are.”

“His understanding that every child is created in the image of God and ensuring as a school system we not only believe that but we actually live it – Jim’s vision and leadership many years ago really pushed the board in that right direction, and altered pre-conceived notions of ability along the way,” said Daly.

“Few individuals have left such a rich legacy as Jim. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Hansen began his career with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board in 1960, serving as classroom teacher, Vice-Principal, and Principal, before being appointed Senior Superintendent of Education in 1968. Believing strongly that all students belonged in neighbourhood schools with their siblings and friends, he helped to advance the ‘Each Belongs’ philosophy that has now been widely adopted throughout the world.

Hansen’s contributions to the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board were recognized at a dedication ceremony in October 2016 to name the auditorium at the Nicholas Mancini Centre in his honour.

At that event, David Hansen, Director of Education for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, read from notes handwritten by his father in a 1969 Special Services Committee Report.

“Each Belongs not because he/she can do something or cannot do something,” read David Hansen. “Each Belongs because he or she is.”

“And that was Dad’s life work.”


Visitation is at P.X. Dermody Funeral Home, 796 Upper Gage on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 and Thursday August 10, 2017, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Prayers will be offered on Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. Funeral Mass will be offered at Annunciation of Our Lord Church on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

HWCDSB mourns passing of visionary leader