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Jerry Purcell Endowed Fellowship in Education: New Endowment to Honor College of Education Staffer

Emeritus Faculty Sam Sebesta Names Fellowship for Jerry Purcell

jerry purcell and sam sebestaEmeritus faculty member Sam Sebesta taught in the area of Curriculum and Instruction from 1963 1995.  Sebesta’s unwavering commitment to education is one reason that he recently established the Jerry Purcell Endowed Fellowship in Education in honor of College of Education staffer, Jerry Purcell.

An area secretary for the Curriculum and Instruction area, Purcell is "the archetypal staff person," according to Sebesta’s colleague Timothy Standal. A College of Education employee for 30 years, Purcell demonstrated efficiency, tact, diplomacy, and adaptability from his initial days running the Copy Center to his last decade of work as senior secretary in the Curriculum and Instruction area. He retired on July 14, 2011.

“Jerry is a wonderful person,” Sebesta says. “He is so smart and so bright. In fact, Jerry would have made a great dean. I was privileged to be his friend.”

In the early part of his career, Purcell worked at Head Start, educated high school dropouts, and tutored Native American students. He joined the College as the Copy Center manager, a position that required a great deal of efficiency, including gentling a copy machine with “the demeanor of a rogue elephant,” says Sebesta.

When Jerry continued on at the College to work as the senior secretary of Curriculum and Instruction, he brought a vital human element of compassion and humor as well as a “finely honed expertise” to the position. Although he was known for his organization and knowledge of the College system, many, like Sebesta, sought Purcell out for his eclectic reading list. Sebesta praises Purcell for his reputation as an avid and adventurous reader.

Sebesta specialized in teaching and researching language arts, reading, and literacy. From a young age, Sebesta saw reading as “the key to the world.” He pursued his passion for educating young readers as an elementary school teacher and, eventually, a scholar at the University of Washington College of Education.

A larger than life personality, Sebesta is known for his gregarious personality and is lauded for both his wit and generosity. Purcell calls him “vivacious,” explaining that, “Sam was and is a leading expert on children’s literature. Of all his scholarly books, an article Sam wrote about his childhood in a one-room Kansas schoolhouse is one of the classic must reads about the impact of an integrated curriculum and a creative teacher on children’s lives.”

During his tenure at the College of Education, Sebesta taught undergraduate courses in Reading Methods and Research, Children’s Literature courses, as well as Response to Literature courses, with his co-teacher Dianne Monson. He has published frequently, including his most recent series of books with Scott Foresman on reading. Sebesta is an active member of the International Reading Association, among other committees and literature review panels.

Of his teaching career, Sebesta fondly recalls a seminar he taught on Writing for Publication.  “I’m especially proud of my students from that course,” Sebesta states. “Bonnie Campbell Hill, a former world teacher and intellect; Megan Sloane, who still publishes frequently; Elaine Aoki, with whom I published; and Katherine Noe (formerly Schlick), who teaches reading methods at Seattle University.”
“I am excited to provide this opportunity to a deserving student,” says Sebesta.  “I’m particularly eager that this future teacher be a proponent of the arts in education - drama, role-playing, and interpretive reading/writing.”

The first Jerry Purcell Endowed Fellow will be selected in Spring 2013.

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