Dr. Eugene “Gene” Edgar, professor of special education at the UW College of Education, plans to retire in June 2013. Edgar has worked at the UW since 1972.
Edgar has has received the University of Washington’s Outstanding Public Service Award and the James D. Clowes Award for the Advancement of Learning Communities, among other honors.
Raised in a blue-collar, working-class family in Pennsylvania, Edgar was inspired by interesting teachers in middle school. The role of a teacher is sacred to Edgar, who has truly enjoyed teaching in public school and at the University of Washington.
“My goal, until I was in my mid-twenties was to be a teacher,” he said. “But becoming a teacher was a stretch in a family of milkmen, steel factory workers, and farmers. Serendipitously, I received support to attend a teacher’s college in my home state.”
Edgar eventually went on to receive a Ph.D. from Peabody College. His specializations include special education and teacher learning, both of which he has taught and researched while at the University of Washington.
“Opportunities arose and I stumbled into some really interesting directions,” Edgar explains. “Then a totally unplanned turn would lead me elsewhere. I came here working on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance and then worked on the early childhood special education program…From there into working with kids with serious intellectual disabilities at a time when there were no formal programs in the country. I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d head that way.”
Edgar’s teaching and grants followed roughly parallel paths, including serious work around educational transitions and teacher education. Along the way, he has committed himself to preparing students for public citizenry, encouraging them to actively think about the common good, to engage with others in their field.
“In terms of service, we all owe a debt to the common good, to the public,” Edgar asserts. “I think that public service and scholarship, to actually engage with the community as partners, is really important. I’ve learned that here and, again, without lots of preplanning, I’ve had opportunities to do good.”
Edgar has inspired incredible devotion from his students and colleagues. Click here to read tributes to Edgar»