Archie Marion Willard (1930 - 2017)

Founder of VALUEUSA

Unable to read until he was 54 years of age, Archie Willard’s life changed when he learned to read. Not content with simply knowing how to read, Archie took his message of the importance of literacy “to ends of the world”. From sharing the stage with former First Lady Barbara Bush, to writing about literacy for magazines, journals and newsletters, from co-creating videos and documentaries and other media—Mr. Willard was relentless in bringing literacy awareness and its importance to improving both life and lifestyle to all.

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Archie Willard learned to read at the age of 54. Being diagnosed as dyslexic was the breakthrough that helped him embark on the path to acquiring the skills he needed to learn to read. Sharing what he'd learned along the way, and wanting to improve conditions for others who couldn't read, led him to become an advocate for literacy.

Mr. Willard was a Fellow with the National Institute for Literacy, and traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad to learn about and consult with others about their literacy programs. Archie’s research design was on adult learner leadership and he led adult learner leaders and practitioners to found the Voice of Adult Learners United for Education now known as VALUEUSA.

Archie was also an ardent, articulate health literacy advocate. For decades, he has taught about why health literacy matters to those we care for and care about. Archie’s actions include leading health literacy conferences, encouraging patients and providers to work together, participating on patient safety panels, and reviewing patient education materials. 

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The day Archie lost his thirty-one year job as a laborer at a meat packing company, he was forced to confront the secret he had held so closely for most of his life: at the age of fifty-four, he couldn t read. For all his adult life, he'd been able to skirt around the issue. But now, forced to find a new job to support his family, he could no longer hide from the truth.

The Last Reader Standing is the story of Archie's amazing and often painful journey of becoming literate at middle age, struggling with the newfound knowledge of his dyslexia.

From the little boy who was banished to the back of the classroom because the teachers labeled him stupid, Archie emerged to becoming a national figure who continues to enlighten professionals into the world of the learning disabled.

He joined Barbara Bush on stage for her Literacy Foundation's fundraisers where she proudly introduced him as the man who took advantage of a second chance and improved his life.

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