The People:
Naida Ackley

Naida Ackley (1906-1989), a registered occupational therapist, attended weaving classes at Penland School of Handicrafts (now Penland School of Crafts) several times during the 1930s and 1940s. Ackley was typical of the student who came to Penland during this period. While some students were practicing craft artists, many were occupational or vocational rehabilitation therapists and administrators seeking craft training that they could implement in their professional lives.

Born January 26, 1906 in Ludlow, Vermont, Naida Ackley graduated in 1926 from Sargent College (now part of Boston University and known as the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences). In 1934 she became a registered occupational therapist. Ackley also attended the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy (1947-1948) and the William Alanson White School of Psychiatry (1949-1950) in New York City.
During the summers Naida Ackley took classes at Penland, she was employed as the Assistant Director of Occupational Therapy at the Davis Clinic in Marion, Virginia (1929-1937); as the Director of Occupational Therapy, State Home for Girls in Trenton, New Jersey (1937); and as the Assistant Director of Occupational Therapy, State Hospital, Trenton, New Jersey (1937-1941).

In 1932, Ackley and Kathleen Campbell, another occupational therapist from Marion, Virginia, came to Penland a week early in order to provide free instruction in leather tooling and woodworking to members of the local community. They continued the lessons the following week, offering instruction to the Weaving Institute students as well as Penland area residents. Ackley and Campbell returned to Penland the summer of 1933 to take classes and again to teach leather-tooling to institute participants.

Naida Ackley retired February 29, 1972 from the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, Trenton, New Jersey, where she had served as the Director of Occupational Therapy since 1941. Throughout her career and into retirement Ackley was active professionally as both a lecturer and writer. In 1962, she was awarded the American Occupational Therapy Association’s prestigious Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship, and in 1973 she was made an AOTA Fellow.

Following Naida Ackley’s death on July 11, 1989, a memorial scholarship fund was established in her name by a long-time colleague, Ethel E. Huebner. The scholarship, first awarded in 1991, is administered through the American Occupational Therapy Foundation.

- Michelle A. Francis, 2008


  • Ford, Bonnie Willis. “Another Weaving Institute at Penland.” Mountain Life and Work 9, no. 3 (October 1933): 27-28.
  • Ford, Bonnie Willis. “Weaving Institute at Penland.” Mountain Life and Work 9, no.3 (October 1932): 28-29.
  • Naida Ackley Resume, American Occupational Therapy Association Archives. The Wilma L. West Library, American Occupational Therapy Foundation, Inc., Bethesda, MD
  • Naida Ackley File, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Boston University Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston, MA.
  • Weaving Institute Files, Jane Kessler Memorial Archives, Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC.