Sollee, Eric

Eric Sollee (8 September 1926 – 30 June 2008) was an American fencer and fencing coach. He fenced at Harvard earning NCAA All-America honors. He coached at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and the Carroll Center for the blind, among others. As a coach he is notable for helping to quickly develop competitive fencers and for a paradigm shift in how to fence against classical fencers. Sollee trained a number of top competitors including Olympians.

For over 40 years, Eric Sollee was an important part of the success of The Carroll Center for the Blind. Eric taught Fencing to blind clients in rehabilitation training at The Carroll Center.

Fencing? For individuals who are blind? Yes. It’s one of many unique features at the Carroll Center including Eric himself.

Eric joined the Carroll Center for the Blind staff in 1972 as the shop instructor and part–time fencing instructor, succeeding his good friend and the first Fencing instructor, Larry Dargie. Fencing was initiated as a training tool in the 1940s by Father Thomas Carroll in the rehabilitation program for the blinded veteran’s programs of WWII. It was designed as a corollary to orientation and mobility training and the use of the long cane for safe travel. Father Carroll and Larry Dargie brought that successful concept to the Carroll Center (formerly known as the St Paul’s Rehabilitation Program) in 1954.

Eric Sollee became the second and longest running instructor in teaching blind persons to fence and in many ways he rewrote the book on the impact and value of fencing to blind persons. Eric brought much more than fencing to those he taught. His commanding voice, dynamic personality, and expertise in modifying fencing for therapeutic purposes were wonderfully balanced with his genuine interest and caring for helping each client at the Carroll Center to deal with adjusting to blindness. His ability to see the potential in every student, and his faith in the positive effects of rehabilitation, generated hope among even those most resistant. Fencing was the tool and Eric was the conduit for success with each of the clients he reached over many years.

Our graduates attest to his magic:

He was a breath of fresh air, a mentor, a person admired and respected for all that he did. Eric didn’t just teach fencing. He was gifted with the ability to make one feel that they mattered and contributed as much to society as the next.

I feel my orientation in space was immensely enhanced by Eric’s class and teaching style. He also brought back my competitive spirit and love for sports participation, something I had let go of as I began to lose my vision.

Even after he endured a stroke, Eric continued to teach Fencing both at the Carroll Center and at Harvard University aided by a support cane for balance. Despite his disability, he never gave up. Eric’s teaching ability continued to be the measure of excellence inspiring all he touched to seek their own level of excellence. Eric died in 2008 at the age of 82.

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