Tom Guyer Reads Opportunity into Dyslexia

Tom Guyer (BA ’88) was lucky. By fourth grade, he had outsmarted dyslexia, thanks to a combination of geographic coincidence, his private “ninja” tutor and his forward-thinking parents. Today, through his company, Winsor Learning, and a generous gift he made to DU this year—in the form of an endowed scholarship dedicated to students in the Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP)—Guyer is able to remove the element of chance for thousands of young people who have difficulty with language. He also hopes to steer more dyslexic individuals to business leadership roles. “Dyslexia is not a ball and chain,” said Guyer. “It’s an opportunity.”

By the time Guyer was a student at DU, majoring in Fine Arts in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences division, he was able to enjoy what researchers now consider to be the “advantages” of his condition: exceptional imagination, the power to see things differently and advanced capacity to conceptualize. He excelled in school and later joined forces with his father, who was a serial entrepreneur.

In 1997, he started Winsor Learning, a company that has provided materials and training to more than 40,000 teachers in more than 2,500 school districts. His former tutor, Arlene Sonday, a leader in the field, designs the learning materials. Guyer, as CEO, provides vision and firsthand experience.

DU’s LEP program was founded in 1982, and though Guyer didn’t experience it as a student, he has been impressed with its current state. “The central location on campus, and DU’s investment in such excellent facilities, shows that the University is serious about supporting students who need tutoring, advice, mentoring and other individualized attention,” he said.

“I wanted to give the University a pat on the back. And also, I wanted to help some students who not only have learning differences, but maybe they have to stretch a bit financially to attend DU.”

There is an additional charge of $1,350 per quarter for the 300 or so students who engage the services of LEP.

Guyer knows firsthand how important skill-based intervention is. When he was in about second grade, his family happened to have a lake house neighbor whose colleague had just been certified in the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading, spelling and writing to dyslexic children. Over the next two years, the tutoring Guyer received helped rewire his brain and proved that early intervention is key. It prepared him to graduate from St. Paul Academy, a college preparatory school, and eventually succeed at DU.

“I’m proud I went to DU,” said Guyer, who lives in his hometown of Minneapolis. “I’m proud of the way it operates, attracts funding and invests in the facilities and quality of education. I want to be a part of that with my ongoing support.”