April 1 - 14, 2005
Vol. 35, Issue 6
Back Issues
State of the University
Students invest their energies in volunteerism
VORTEX joins the info superhighway
BOV discusses diversity and housing
New digital archive brings civil rights era to life
U.Va. Women's Center gives award
Curry School marks centennial
Parking rates on the rise
Another best-seller book festival
Edith Arbaugh reflects on the Lawn in exhibit
Humanitarian architect, judge to give Founder's Day talks
New faculty and staff are invited to resource fair April 19
Victor Hugo expert to speak April 15
Dogwood festival is coming up aces
Fan Mountain


Curry School marks centennial
Changing educational practice to prepare America’s future

Eleanor Wilson
Dan Addison
Education professor Eleanor Wilson is writing a history of the Curry School.

By Anne Bromley

Today’s students in the Curry School of Education learn the best methods for using technology in classrooms, help conduct research to improve teaching practices and focus on how to reach the variety of children in schools, especially those at risk of failure related to socioeconomic factors or disabilities. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school among the top 20 education schools out of some 1,200 nationwide, with six of its graduate programs listed in the top 20 of their disciplines.

As the school celebrates its centennial this year, it is clear that, despite many changes, the goals that U.Va. President Edwin A. Alderman first set for the school have guided its course throughout the years: to prepare teachers and school administrators, conduct research on effective instructional practices, and provide services and resources to the community and related professional organizations.

“The school has remained remarkably faithful to these goals,” said associate professor Eleanor Wilson, who is writing a commemorative history of the Curry School that will be published later this year.

The education school settled into its first home in 1914 — Peabody Hall, a brand new building that also housed the Summer Session Office and Bureau of Extension (the early version of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies). Several faculty members held joint appointments and headed the other two units. The Curry School and SCPS still work together today to deliver continuing education courses, reading seminars and other programs for teachers.

Women were first admitted to the University’s professional schools in 1920 and, after two undergraduate years elsewhere, could pursue an education degree. They also “poured into the summer courses,” Wilson said. They essentially provided a source of year-round enrollment — and tuition revenue. “Women kept the school afloat,” she added. More than half of the U.Va. degrees awarded to women between 1920 and 1970, when the University admitted women generally as undergraduates, were in education.

From the beginning, faculty members were active in the state and local professional organizations to improve educational practices in Virginia’s schools.

Beginning in 1928, Professor William Smithey edited a journal, Secondary Education in Virginia, for more than 20 years that functioned as the ‘official organ’ of the department of education and disseminated information about best professional practices. From its earliest days, the school was interested in educational research, an interest that led to the establishment of the Bureau of Educational Research in the early ’50s by the second Curry dean, Lindley J. Stiles.

An important resource for the community and the region was created under the Civil Rights Act in 1967 — the Consultative Resource Center on School Desegregation, led by professor James Bash. Nathan Johnson, the associate director, was the first African-American faculty member hired at U.Va. The center’s programs addressed issues such as curriculum reform, counseling for black students, discipline in the integrated classroom and assistance to administrators and superintendents. Funded until 1981, the center provided services for school districts in Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, as well as in Virginia.

Mid-20th century, the Curry School was making other educational strides. Ullin W. Leavell established the McGuffey Reading Clinic in 1946, which became an important center for improving literacy. Still vital today, the clinic, headed by Marcia Invernizzi and Mary Abouzeid, helps implement the federal Reading First initiative in Virginia, through its Teaching Educators McGuffey Practicum Off-Grounds (better known as TEMPO), a reading outreach program. The school also has developed what have become nationally known programs in physical education (now called kinesiology), speech and hearing, special education and administration.

In the ’50s, African Americans began challenging the University for admission, and Walter Ridley was the first to be accepted into the Curry School’s doctoral program. He earned his Ed.D. in educational administration in 1953, becoming the first black graduate to earn a doctorate at any southern, historically white institution.

Throughout its history, the Curry School has maintained teacher education — housed in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education — as a key to its mission. In the ’70s and ’80s, public criticism focused on concern that teacher education colleges concentrated too much on methods and not enough on subject matter.

The Curry School chose to respond when many others simply closed their programs. Dean James M. Cooper, appointed in 1984, revamped existing undergraduate programs and created the five-year BA/MAT, in which undergraduates major in an academic area along with earning a master’s of teaching degree.

More recently, the Curry School’s extensive Teachers for a New Era initiative, working with the provost’s office and the College of Arts & Sciences, is providing many ways to improve the preparation of K-12 teachers, making it a University goal to elevate the profession and designing ways to measure the success of teachers through their students’ success. (See http://www.virginia.edu/provost/tneuva/.)

Approaching its centennial, the Curry School has reinterpreted the goals that Alderman first laid out for the new school, Wilson said. Several years ago, faculty identified children at risk as one of three top priorities in which the school already has major strength. The other two areas are promoting integration of educational technologies into the classroom and, again, providing the highest quality of teacher education.

One thing the Curry School needs to help accomplish its goals is a new home. Located in Ruffner Hall since 1973, the school presently has several programs in other buildings off-Grounds. As that first gift made it possible to establish the education school 100 years ago, the recent $22 million gift from Boston businessman Dan Meyers will help the school build a new facility fit for its second century.

curry history
Courtesy of Special Collections
A historical photo of Curry School students.
The founding of the Curry School of Education an excerpt from alumni news spring 2005
On April 13, 1905, a representative of John D. Rockefeller Sr. visited Charlottesville for the inauguration of Edwin A. Alderman as the University’s first president. Before he left town, the Rockefeller representative penned a note on a sheet of the president’s letterhead. The note confirmed Rockefeller’s gift of $100,000 to establish an education school at U.Va.

The gift was the result of a request by Alderman to the General Education Board, which Rockefeller had established three years earlier to promote education “without the distinction of race, sex or creed.” Rockefeller required that the University’s education school be named for J.L.M. Curry, a southern advocate of state-supported education.

Alderman, a passionate crusader on behalf of public education, shared Rockefeller’s admiration for Curry and was delighted to meet the philanthropist’s terms. In Alderman’s inaugural address, he invoked the spirit of another educational reformer while he outlined his own ambitious agenda. “Thomas Jefferson’s mind played constantly around three lines of institutional reform in Virginia — elementary education … secondary instruction … and university education,” Alderman said. “The largest social task of this University … is to strive for the accomplishment of these unrealized ideals. The first step forward would be the establishment here of a school of education of such power that its teachers could approach … problems of educational statesmanship with insight and authority.”
— Cathy Eberly
curry letter
Courtesy of Special Collections
In this letter, dated April 13, 1905, F. T. Gates, who worked for John D. Rockefeller Sr., tells U.Va.’s first president, Edwin A. Alderman, that Rockefeller will contribute $100,000 toward the $1 million needed to build an education school.


‘Jefferson and Education’
Many people know about Thomas Jefferson’s goal of establishing the University of Virginia, but fewer may be aware of his plans for a system that included elementary and secondary education. In his new book, “Jefferson and Education,” Curry School of Education professor Jennings Wagoner looks at the evolving, extensive plan Jefferson developed for four decades and illustrates how his ideas for educating children were far ahead of the times. The following is excerpted from Wagoner’s new book, “Jefferson and Education,” published by the University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

When the first students began to enroll at the University of Virginia on March 7, 1825, they became the initial beneficiaries of Thomas Jefferson’s educational legacy. That legacy, however, included far more than a stately group of classical buildings neatly arranged around an open space soon to be covered with grass and lined with trees. Jefferson’s legacy was framed by a philosophy of education that was reflected in much more than the buildings and layout of his “Academical Village.” It further encompassed his views regarding the broad range of advanced studies, mode of organization and governance, qualifications and expectations of faculty and students, and secular orientation of his university. Perhaps most significantly, the Jeffersonian legacy incorporated larger social and political purposes to which he pledged the university and the elementary and secondary institutions that were always a vital component of his conception of a complete system of education.

As noted when describing earlier phases of Jefferson’s evolving educational plans, specific details changed over time. He made both academic and architectural adjustments as useful advice, advancing knowledge, altered circumstances, and his assessment of economic and political realities of the moment dictated. Jefferson was entirely consistent, however, in defining the broad outlines of his plans and purpose. To Jefferson, education should equip all citizens of the new nation with the skills and sensibilities that would enable each to become self-sufficient, able to pursue happiness, and capable of maintaining a republican society. From the outset, Jefferson’s vision for education in Virginia included an entire system, not only erudition for a leadership class.


In the final analysis, perhaps Jefferson’s most enduring legacy is the dictum that the current generation must chart its own course in matters educational as in other ways. He warned against ascribing to men of the previous ages a superhuman wisdom. As successive generations endeavor to adjust their educational goals and structures to the demands of their time, his advice penned in an 1816 letter seems appropriate to bear in mind: “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him as a boy, as [for] civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

  • Three departments: Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education; Human Services; Leadership, Foundations and Policy
  • 19 program areas within the three departments
  • undergraduate degree programs: communication disorders, sports medicine
  • combined BA/MAT five-year degree program
  • several graduate degree programs administered off-Grounds through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies
  • Number of faculty: 111, including full- and part-time
  • Number of students:
    71 undergraduates, 58 female and 13 male
    945 graduate students, 646 female and 299 male
  • Curry graduates include:
    12 college or university presidents
    3 heads of higher education agencies
    35 deans and college vice presidents
    40 of 133 school superintendents in Virginia
    15 CEOs of education-related organizations


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