Thank you for introducing me to Joseph Schwab’s essays on the practical, more than twenty years ago, and for indulging the odd dissertation to which they led me. You were right: Working much with those essays tends to lead a person into eccentric obscurity. Or perhaps I mean that persons inclined toward some forms of eccentric obscurity tend to be drawn to those essays. Either way, I’m content, and still working on the matter.
The first thing I learned from you was the importance of being accessible. As a master’s student in Florida I was afraid to talk to my professors after class – and never, ever “bothered” them between classes. I carried a little of that over to Stanford, but I noted that when you joined the faculty you made it very clear that you were around and available to students. We could call or visit you at home. You let us know that our thoughts, feelings, and occasional anxieties would be heard with respect. You let me know that I needed to do as much as possible to make my students feel comfortable too.
The second thing I learned was the importance of creating a community grounded in interesting ideas and that encouraged diverse perspectives. I learned that grant-generated funds allow professors to build a cadre of graduate students who work with, argue with, and support one another. I learned that it was important to provide leadership that communicates that the professor doesn’t know all of the answers – that seeking answers is what research project is all about.
The third thing I learned was the importance of embracing uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to questioning; questioning leads to seeking to understand; seeking leads to more uncertainty. In the search it is helpful to be surrounded by colleagues and students who will argue and debate in public. I learned to argue – not fight – and to admit when I was (and am now) persuaded by other’s arguments.
The fourth thing I learned is that having a family and a career are both possible. Watching you and Judy balance both – and listening to you share your children’s progress, challenges, and triumphs is something I think about on a weekly basis. Knowing that it was possible to be a “Dissertation Mom” and, eventually, a professor made my time at Stanford much, much easier.
On Sunday I will be hooding two of my students, also Dissertation Moms. On Saturday I will be thinking of you, Judy, and all of my colleagues who were also once your students. The flights from California to Illinois don’t synch in ways that allow be to be in both places, but my thoughts and good wishes with you as you celebrate a lifetime of exemplary teaching, scholarship, and service.
With love and respect,
Renée T. Clift
Nate’s first task was to bring groups of the best researchers in the broad arena of research on teaching together, determine some way to organize the kinds of research being done into coherent groups, and identify individuals who could identify and manage 8 – 10 of their colleagues in a week long planning process. You were the first chairperson Nate chose.
We borrowed a planning strategy from the NIH, developed in order to create their research plan for the “War on Cancer. It basically required researchers to work around the clock with a 24 hour clerical staff, defining research themes and developing research priorities. Everyone was locked up at the Dulles Airport Marriott for a week, and 10 books were produced describing the panel’s definition of what their fields could do to expand our understanding of teacher behavior and what seem to be most successful.
All panels provided credible cases for funding various research projects, and your panel provided a convincing case for exploring the cognitive process of teacher. It was also the most detailed and complex plan. Your work with your colleagues on the planning effort was excellent and helped make it possible for me to argue that a significant amount of money from NIE be devoted to the area of research on teaching.
One major frustration for people in my role (meaning those managing federal funding programs) was that distribution of hundreds of one or two or three year grants almost always ended up as “career development grants” for isolated professors and a few graduate students. Our goal for this program was much grander. We wanted a new approach to the entire field of teaching research to be developed and followed for years.
You and your colleagues at Michigan State University’s College of Education requested and received a significant, long term grant to create the Institute for Research on Teaching.
In my experience in managing research and development funds, I have never seen such a major outcome from a federal investment. Lee, I was certain that you would get great administrative support from you Dean, Keith Goldberg and from Judy Lanier who was both researcher and eventually Dean of the School. But I had significant concerns about your plans to (1) make teachers significant partners in the research process, (2) bring faculty from different departments into the research work, (3) get the active participation of faculty from other parts of the University, and (4) attract a highly talented group of future doctoral students to participate in the Institute’s research.
Lee, you actually did it and even more! I felt you basically change and upgraded the quality of the MSU School of Education while also managing a amazingly productive research program.
Therefore, Lee, we bureaucrats solute you for your success and for making our jobs worthwhile.
Garry L. McDaniels
Ellicott City, Maryland