Saint Michaels Association For Special Education Inc.

Information: (928)871-2801

"S M A S E "


SMASE Rainbow is about special people in a special place...


Date Established.  The school was incorporated with the Arizona Corporation Commission on Mach 18, 1970 as a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation.  The incorporators, who also served as the first Board of Directors, were Father Marcan Hetteberg, Sister Marijane Ryan, Irvin Jones, Marie Allen, Judge Murray Lincoln, Patricia Doerger, Laurine Ruleau, Byron Houseknecht, Martha Slocumb, Andrell Henry, Ellouise DeGroat, Elmer Lincoln, Sally Begay, and Jerry Bathke.

Founder. Saint Michaels Association for Special Education (SMASE) was established in 1968 by a Catholic nun named Marijane Ryan from Boston, known for the brown cowboy boots protruding under her white habit and with a single student began SMASE's legacy. A Navajo medicine man noticed her wheeling a six year old crippled Navajo boy outside the Franciscan clinic, parked his horse-drawn wagon behind the clinic and watched.

As a Registered Nurse, Sister Marijane Ryan came from Boston to care for another nun who was dying of cancer, but was taken by the boy and his plight, polio.  She thought she could use her training in rehabilitation to help him walk.  Each day the pair would wander outside for their training.  And everyday the Navajo medicine man would arrive and watch them in silence - even if they change the time of their sessions.

The boy tried to teach her Navajo and she tried speaking to the medicine man, but she could never get any reaction from him.  Then, one morning, after four months of therapy, the boy stood between two chairs.

The medicine man got really excited and he took off in his horse and wagon.  That afternoon, he came back with his grandson, who was three years old and had cerebral palsy.  Three weeks later, she had about fifteen children.  Such was the start of Saint Michaels Association for Special Education.



Marijane Ryan (78) passed away peacefully in her sleep, on April 10, 2014, after a short illness.  Born the youngest of eight children on August 8, 1935, in Boston, MA, Marijane experienced a long full life.  Marijane became a nun in the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.  In 1968 she was sent to St. Michael’s, Arizona where she began a lifelong relationship with the Navajo.  Using her training that she received in Boston at Kennedy Memorial Hospital, she founded the St. Michael’s Association for Special Education and was the director of this school for 14 years.  After leaving St. Michael’s, Marijane moved to Los Angeles and then eventually to Phoenix where she began her work with Hospice.

Marijane Ryan, daughter of Edward William Ryan and Anna Elizabeth Lundy, was preceded in death by her sisters, Anna Ryan, Ruth Leahy, Grace Tilden, Claire Ryan, and her brothers Jack Ryan, Edward Ryan and Jackie Connolly.  Her brother Robert Ryan, and numerous nieces and nephews survive her.

Friends and family are invited to attend a Mass for a Celebration of Life on May 10, 2014, 10:00 a.m., at the Mary Mother of Mankind Catholic Church, 24 Mission Road, St. Michael’s, Arizona.  The Celebration will continue with a reception at St. Michael’s Association for Special Education following the Mass.  In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Michael’s Association for Special Education, Inc., use the "Donate" button at the top of the page or send your donation to P. O. Box 100, St. Michaels, Arizona 86511, you can also , or Hospice of the Valley, 1510 E. Flower St., Phoenix, Arizona 85014,