Longtime City of Falls Church resident Susan (Sue) Ferguson, died unexpectedly in her sleep at her home on February 6. She was 67 years old.
The daughter of William and Alice Couch, Sue was born in Washington, D.C. but grew up in New Canaan, Conn. After graduating from New Canaan High School in 1961 she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Syracuse University and a Master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Cincinnati. At 27, she returned to the D.C. area, where she began her career as a teacher of children with emotional and behavioral disorders at the School for Contemporary Education (SCE). At SCE she subsequently rose to the position of curriculum supervisor and then program director.
After becoming the mother of a daughter with severe intellectual disabilities (Angelman Syndrome) in 1983, Sue became a leader and advocate for her and others like her. She was a founding member of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, the organization established in 1991 by parents of children diagnosed with this rare genetic disorder. She later served on the Board of Directors of the Arc of Northern Virginia and played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Falls Church City Public Schools’ landmark inclusive education program. At that time she also worked as an information specialist and outreach coordinator at the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.
In 1994, Sue became chair of the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE) and continued in this position until her death. Founded in 1981, NCPIE is composed of more than 80 national education, parent, community, and advocacy organizations that champion local partnerships to enhance the education of all young people, and especially those from low-income and culturally diverse neighborhoods. NCPIE holds monthly meetings that serve as an information clearinghouse for its members and others with an interest in children and families. Under her leadership a list serve and website were developed, membership was expanded, and NPCIE became a founding member of the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education – an initiative of President Clinton’s Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, that recruited businesses, family and school organizations, and religious and community groups to bring the importance of family involvement in children’s learning to the national forefront.
Sue lived in Falls Church for 36 years, the last 33 of which were spent at her beloved, century-old home on East Columbia Street. She raised her two children there and saw them both flourish in the City’s outstanding public school system. She is survived by her husband of 28 years, Harold (Hal) Lippman, her daughter, Danna Lippman, and her son, Mouncey Ferguson III, of Los Angeles, along with his wife, Elise Robertson, and two granddaughters, Stella, 5 and Sadie, 4. She is also survived by her sisters, Lissa Barker and Carol Anderson, a brother, Jeffrey Couch, a step-sister, Claudia Weber, and her former husband, Mouncey Ferguson II. She was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, an incredibly giving and supportive person, a caring friend and mentor, an inspired conversationalist, and a tireless advocate for children and families. She was beloved by many and will be sorely missed.
A memorial celebration of Sue’s life will be held in Falls Church on April 16, 2011. In lieu of flowers donations in Sue’s name may be sent to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, 4255 Westbrook Drive, Suite 219, Aurora, Illinois 60504.