Inga Dubay could never have guessed that one handwritten letter from a friend would be the beginning of a lifelong fascination with handwriting. “The letter was written in italic handwriting,” Dubay said. “The letters were just so beautiful, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to learn how to do this!'” Living in Ashland during the mid-’60s, Dubay’s academic career began to go down a different path after receiving the letter.
Inga Dubay could never have guessed that one handwritten letter from a friend would be the beginning of a lifelong fascination with handwriting.
“The letter was written in italic handwriting,” Dubay said. “The letters were just so beautiful, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to learn how to do this!'”
Living in Ashland during the mid-’60s, Dubay’s academic career began to go down a different path after receiving the letter.
“I was originally a painting and drawing major,” Dubay said. “I thought, ‘I’ll just take one class and learn italic calligraphy.’ Then the next term was the history of letters, and I just got more and more interested in the subject.”
Now, Dubay is one half of the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series, along with her business partner Barbara Getty. Last Saturday, for the 11th year, the duo taught their annual Free Handwriting Improvement Workshop at Portland State, pulling in nearly 200 people.
Both teachers of calligraphy and handwriting since the late ’60s, Getty and Dubay are no strangers to the field, having taught in Oregon schools to everyone from children to college students.
The Getty-Dubay Program, which has been recognized all over the world and has been featured on Good Morning America and in Time magazine, offers an alternative to looped cursive writing, teaching people of all ages to write in clean, legible letters.
Dating back to the 16th century, italic handwriting has two forms. Getty said italic handwriting comes from the Renaissance-when more people were writing, and were writing faster-which gave the letters their little slant. According to Getty, there are two kinds of italic: a cursive hand that is joined, and italic, which is unjoined and more legible.
“Most people have bad handwriting,” Getty said. “A lot of teachers think that we don’t need legible handwriting anymore. I say, wrong. Handwriting is personal, and it’s a very impersonal world we’re in now, with everyone text messaging and using computers to communicate. Handwriting is still important, because it’s personal communication.”
With a common goal, Dubay and Getty started work in the late ’70s on their own program for italic handwriting. Within three years, the Getty-Dubay Handwriting Series was pilot-tested at seven schools in Beaverton.
Getty and Dubay printed the books themselves at a local print shop. “This was in 1979,” said Dubay. “We had our own little cottage industry. We delivered the books to the pilot schools out of my VW bus.”
After trying to get their work published and striking out, Portland State’s Continuing Education Press, part of the PSU School of Extended Studies, picked up their series. Soon, Portland’s K-6 public schools adopted the Getty-Dubay Program. But Getty and Dubay’s work was not finished yet.
“In 1981, Barbara and I traveled all over Oregon, visiting every textbook commissioner and textbook commissioner’s assistant’s office, something like 12,000 miles,” Dubay said. In the end, their statewide journey paid off: Getty and Dubay’s program received state textbook adoption, while Getty and Dubay worked to create new additions and improvements to the formula.
“In 1991 we published Write Now, which was an extension of the series to adults,” Dubay said. “That same year Barbara and I suggested that we hold a free handwriting workshop in honor of John Hancock’s birthday.”
The public school handwriting standard has long been looped cursive, but the method lacks efficiency and speed, according to Getty and Dubay.
“Looped cursive is just how it’s done here,” Dubay said. “But all those loops get confusing. It’s hard to read. Italic handwriting is taught all over the world. To teach it here is a very innovative thing.”
Both Dubay and Getty became intensely interested in handwriting after taking classes from Oregon Calligrapher Laureate Lloyd Reynolds, a professor teaching calligraphy at Reed College.
“He [Reynolds] always talked about how millions of children are being crippled by bad handwriting. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about that,'” Dubay said.
“Reynolds was the one who really inspired me,” said Getty. “He thought [calligraphy] was so wonderful, and the letters so beautiful, and they are.”
In recent years, Write Now has been revised to teach physicians how to write legibly.
“It isn’t that doctors’ handwriting is any worse than anyone else’s,” Dubay said. “But when you’re dealing with prescriptions and dosages, a doctor’s handwriting can mean a matter of life and death.”
Getty and Dubay said that legibility can benefit everyone.
“[Illegible] handwriting is not a dead issue,” said Getty. “This is a national affliction that no one recognizes.” To date, Getty and Dubay have done over 150 presentations for groups of medical professionals. They have published three books: Write Now, Italic Letters and their Italic Handwriting Series for children.
And as for the future?
“We’re going to keep on keepin’ on,” Getty said. “[The program] led us both down an interesting path all these years. We’ve helped a lot of people enjoy handwriting, and that feels good.”