Robert Amendola was born in Boston in 1909, one of two children.
He graduated from the Massachusetts Normal School of Art in 1930; was awarded his bachelors of fine arts degree at Yale University in 1933, and his Masters as Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in 1935.
He started his career as a free lance sculptor, but soon found himself “drafted” into war time work as an engineering illustrator for Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft and Chance-Vought Aircraft both in Connecticut. During this time, his friend Father Thomas Carroll, famed innovator in rehabilitation of the blind, was working with the US Army to develop a model rehabilitation program with a fundamentally new approach to the problems of blindness for the newly blinded veterans of WWII in nearby Avon, Connecticut.
Some young soldiers were having difficulty learning independent travel routes. Father Carroll interviewed each of the service men to find out what might be the problem. For many, the ability to accurately picture one’s immediate environment was difficult and this interfered with their mobility. Father Carroll had a theory that an artist might be helpful because artists think of space and spatial orientation.
He sought the aid of his sculptor friend whose daily work involved a trained analytical approach to perception of environmental forms and spatial relationships. Father Carroll reasoned that such analytical perception might be adapted to training the blinded veterans to accurately conceptualize an unseen environment using non-occular perceptions visually organized. He persuaded Bob to work with him adapting his perspective and training as an artist to help those veterans who have difficulty orienting themselves and conceptualizing their environs effectively.
Bob worked with Father and the small team on weekends and whenever he could escape from his duties in Hartford. At the conclusion of the war – everyone returned to their home base and Father eventually opened a comprehensive rehabilitation program for civilians, modeled on the ground breaking work the Army had developed at Avon Farms
There Amendola became the spatial orientation instructor and he honed his skills of instructing blind students on spatial orientation, using sound localization extensively to assist in orientation – developing systematic methods of training the newly blinded on how to localize sound – how to make sense of that information.
Bob’s lesson plans, concepts, and lectures are the result of those early experiments and his later work with thousands of civilian trainees at St. Paul’s Rehabilitation Center, now known as the Carroll Center for the Blind.
Robert Amendola was a man of great creative energy. His work was published by The Carroll Center in 1991 in two volumes. Those of us who have chosen to work with blind persons are fortunate that he has applied his considerable talent to our work. It is our hope that these lesson plans and his lectures will be found useful by many teachers who dedicate themselves to the independent functioning of blind persons.
Robert Amendola continued his work as an artist through his years completing many commissioned sculptures, notably the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of St. Thomas Moore at Yale University and the statue of George Washington Carver as a boy at his Diamond, Missouri birthplace, now a national monument.
In 1977, for the first time since its opening in 1954, the Carroll Center invited former trainees for a reunion. On a cold day in March, 300 persons showed up. Some had not been in touch for 20 years. It was a wonderfully warm and inspiring moment, and the teacher they asked about the most was “Mr. A.”, in whose course, Videation and Spatial Orientation, and through whose kind of teaching they claimed had markedly increased the effectiveness of all the living skill courses which they had learned in the Carroll Center Program.