About 50 years ago, Veryl Anderson started teaching three disabled children from the basement of Christ Church in Andover with a $100 budget.

That program became The Professional Center for Child Development, which now serves more than 2,000 children annually with a $7.5 million annual budget and 120 employees. The center’s core day school program that serves students ages 3 to 12 years old was recently renamed the Anderson School in honor of the woman who founded the program.

“(Anderson) was a pioneer 50 years ago when children didn’t have the opportunities they do now to be educated,” said Kelley Granahan, director of development and marketing. “From those humble beginnings we are here today.”

Over 100 school and community leaders gathered Nov. 18 to celebrate Anderson, a former Andover resident who visited for the special occasion.

She was surrounded by friends, colleagues and former students’ families.

Brian Latina, a board member whose son was one of Anderson’s students, was excited to be at the event to honor the woman who “is family to me.”

Latina’s son Matthew, 37, went to the school. Throughout the years Latina would continue to stay involved even after his son aged out partially because of the special relationship forged with Anderson.

He recalled one time when Matthew was in the hospital and Anderson was one of his first calls. With her former nursing experience she was a calming voice in the stressful situation, Latina said.

Similarly, Steve and Kristin Smith created a strong bond with Anderson and the school staff when their son Avery attended.

“His teachers and classroom assistants gave us people to lean on that genuinely made us feel they understood what we were struggling with and lent us a hand while at school when all we could feel was that we didn’t want to let him out of our sight. That trust was hard to be willing to give but was truly well earned,” Smith said.

“The PCCD that Veryl built is a wonderful facility and an amazing collection of people to bring it’s vision to life.”

The renaming of the day program will help the school reach new heights, said Chris Hunt, executive director.

“Renaming allows us to honor our history and past while moving us into the future,” Hunt said. “We stand on the shoulders of others who got us here.”

The school has had a particularly hard time with branding, but recognizing the program as the Anderson School will allow for people to take more pride and ownership of it, Hunt said. The center will also be able to continue expanding the services it offers, he said.

“PCCD would never have become the leader in special education we are today without Veryl’s vision, energy, and commitment,” Hunt said. “She devoted her entire career to creating programs maximizing opportunities for children with disabilities and special needs to fulfill their potential. Naming the school in her honor grounds us in our history, officially recognizes the inspiration she provided, and the enduring foundation she built for our programs.”

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