Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award

The Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award is named in honor of Murray O. Batten, former Director of Special Education in the Michigan Department of Education.  Nominations of deserving candidates are solicited and received by the ISD/ESA Board of Directors representative. A review committee is selected to critique the nominations with emphasis on the characteristics exemplified by Mr. Batten; Leadership, Honesty, Integrity and Dedication. This prestigious award is presented annually at the December MAASE meeting. The Batten Award was first presented in 1984.

An Amazing Career. . .

Following graduation from Wayne State University, Mr. Batten began his career serving as a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. He then became a social worker in the psychological clinic and from there a teacher of emotionally disturbed children, all in the Detroit Public Schools.

He then moved to Lansing in 1960 where he joined the Michigan Department of Education as a consultant in special education. He was promoted to supervisor of federal assistance programs for persons with disabilities in 1971. In 1973, he became state director of special education, a position he held until 1981. Throughout his career, Mr. Batten was an outstanding leader in many state and national professional organizations. He was a recipient of the Marvin E. Beekman Award in 1982.

In His Honor. . .

Murray Batten had a reputation for being a kind, compassionate listener, who always sought the positive in those with whom he came in contact. After his untimely death in 1983, MAISEA decided to sponsor the Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award.

The Award. . .

This award is given to practicing ISD/ESA special education administrators who emulate the qualities of honesty, integrity, trust, and compassion that were exemplified by Murray Batten throughout his lifetime.

This special award is dedicated at a special time of the year, which is most reflective of the ideals of this compassionate and caring man. The award will be presented at the MAASE meeting scheduled closest to Christmas.

The recipients of the Murray O. Batten Award will receive a specially designed, solid gold, commemorative ring. The ring was chosen as a lasting reminder of the commitment to excellence exemplified by Murray Batten and the award recipients.


Nominations for the Murray O. Batten Award are considered by the MAASE Murray O. Batten Award Committee.  This committee is formed annually and is chaired by the ISD/ESA MAASE Executive Board Representative.  It includes the previous year’s award recipient, a member of the Batten family (if possible), and three additional MAASE members.

The nomination should include:

  1. A nomination letter which specifically addresses the following four characteristics:
    • Leadership
    • Personal and Professional Ethics
    • Humanism and Caring
    • Accomplishments
  2. Up to three letters of support attached to your letter of nomination. No additional letters of support will be considered.
  3. A current resume or vita of the nominee.

For the Batten brochure, click here.

2018 Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award Winner
Donna Jones
Position: Special Education Director
District: Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle ESD
6065 Learning Lane
Indian River, MI 49749

Following is an excerpt of the presentation by Rebecca McIntyre, Board of Directors ISD/ESA Representative:


I have been given the honor and pleasure of introducing the 2018-19 Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award winner.  

The Batten Award started in 1984 in honor of Murray “Bud” Batten, a former State Director of Special Education, who devoted his entire professional career to serving students with disabilities.

Murray Batten had a reputation for being a kind, compassionate listener, who always sought the positive in those with whom he came in contact.  His heart demonstrated the qualities of HONESTY, INTEGRITY, TRUST and COMPASSION.  Those qualities that recognize “who we are” as people, not simply “what we do.”  The notion that the Batten Award is linked to our qualities not just our accomplishments is particularly relevant because the award is given during the holiday season, which is reflective of the ideals of this compassionate and caring man.

Let’s start this presentation with the following information about the personal characteristics of our winner:  Our winner has over 40 years of experience in the world of education, has contributed to the improvement of education systems from the local to the state level and has been responsible for the advancement of a number of leaders in the field of special education.  HE or SHE is compassionate and has opened HER or HIS home to underprivileged and needy students, integrating them into HIS or HER family, helping to provide a safe and secure environment while also teaching HIS or HER own children the importance of treating ALL individuals with dignity and respect.  Our winner has been described as impartial, truthful and trustworthy. HIS or HER morals and ethics are distinguished and it was reported that it is important to our winner to lead staff from the trenches and never from a distance.

Let’s learn a little bit about our winner’s background and involvements:  Our winner first worked as a Teacher of students with cognitive impairments, autism, physical, visual and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and emotional impairments, before stepping into a leadership role, first as a lead teacher, then as Special Education Supervisor for a brief period of time, and then into HER or HIS current role as Director of Special Education.    This person has been involved and has led a number of professional organizations, communities of practice, and initiatives including but not limited to, SLIP, MiBLISi, MAASE, CASE, Michigan CEC, MAASE Legislative Action Committee, trauma informed classrooms and MAASE Autism CoP. It is evident by our winner’s contributions and dedications to these organizations and initiatives that she holds the highest regards to the organizations, initiatives and herself.

Let’s learn a little bit about our winner’s leadership style:  It has been said that our winner has a calm and steady presence and is quietly fierce and relentless with HIS or HER skillful leadership to facilitate understanding and implementation of innovative projects.  Our winner facilitates cognition about improving existing systems in special education that would result in making public education a more equitable place for all students. One such project our winner is leading from the trenches involves community partnerships, staff training, and resource development to create healthy learning environments and opportunities for students who have experienced trauma.  This person has steadfastly supported staff as they dealt with secondary traumatic stress from the emotional impact of serving traumatized children and families. This person projects HIS or HER values of sincerity and virtuosity when helping all students and staff. 

Our nominators definitely demonstrated that our winner has the characteristics of honesty, integrity, trust and compassion.  But who is this elusive person?

Let’s try something new….Having not blatantly given away who our winner is yet, I would like to engage our audience today in a new activity.  I wonder if our AWARD WINNER learned some of their dynamic leadership skills while attending multiple universities across the state of Michigan, like GVSU (go Lakers!!!).  Anybody who has ever attended GVSU, please stand.  Our winner also attended Michigan State University.  Those of you standing, please have a seat if you did not attend both GVSU and MSU.  Okay, we have a smaller pool of possibilities.  Well, our winner also attended the University of Michigan, Central Michigan University, and Spring Arbor University.    


Past Murray O. Batten Humanitarian Award Winners
Year Award Winner
2018 Donna Jones
2017 Beth Alberti
2016 John Bretschneider
2015 Cherie Wager
2014 Eric Hoppstock
2013 Dawn Bentley
2012 Ann Walton
2011 Laurie Jefsen
2010 Janis Weckstein
2009 Randy Schantz
2008 Sharon Melko
2007 Pamela Zandt
2006 Diane Heinzelman
2005 Greg LaMore
2004 Laurie VanderPloeg
2003 Scott Hubble
2002 Wayne Buletza
2001 Mike Contat
1999 Ruggero Dozzi
1998 Jeff Siegel
1995 George Barnes
1994 Fred Chappell
1993 Jay Leach
1992 Harry Grether
1991 Marge Joslin
1990 Tom Howard
1989 Jerry Reimann
1988 Ed Birch
1987 Gene Thurber
1986 Annlee Decent
1985 Richard Baldwin
1984 John Mader