In a 1984 interview, near the end of his long career at Washington State University, Professor Lloyd Urdal discussed changes in special education, minority education, adult education, education funding, and the need for better preparation of math and science teachers—all of which are major issues in 2012.
Presaging today’s demands for science, technology, engineering and math experts, he said: “We do have a tremendous pressure now in terms of the computer science age, and the development of computer specialists and the exploration of outer space and you name it.”
Urdal, who died in 1996, often thought in terms of shaping the future. Now, his family has continued his legacy. The couple’s son and daughter-in-law, David and Shirley Urdal, have created the Grace and Lloyd Urdal Endowed Scholarship in Education with an initial gift of $25,000.
“Dad was always working hard, always believing strongly in what he did,” said David. “He valued teaching educators. He had a wonderful sense of humor.”
Encouragement and education
The scholarship will be available starting next year to WSU College of Education students who plan to teach mathematics or science. Math was a favorite subject of Lloyd’s. He was an expert in academic assessment and evaluation. And science is his son’s calling. David Urdal is the recently retired executive vice president and chief scientist at Dendreon Corp., a Seattle biotech firm known for innovative cancer research.
“And my son is a science teacher,” David said of John, who teaches at Madison Middle School in Seattle.
Lloyd and Grace encouraged their children—including daughters Joan Kingrey, Christy Urdal and Valerie Kalhovde—to pursue whatever interested them. Joan was the only one to follow in her father’s footsteps. A longtime public school administrator, she taught educational leadership at WSU Spokane before her recent retirement.
“I resisted the idea of going into education for a long while, but eventually figured out it was in my DNA,” said Joan. “I’m pretty sure my father hoped I would be a college professor.”
A WSU alumna, Joan remembers how students appreciated his humor “and his ability to bring even the most fearful through advanced statistics.” She remembers him smoking his pipe in Cleveland Hall—home of the College of Education and a building of which he was very proud. It was a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1963.
Lloyd served nine years as the first chair of the college’s Department of Education. The predecessor to today’s Department of Teaching and Learning was created within the college in 1964.
Lloyd was the first in his large Canadian family to go to college, but not until he’d studied engineering and served as a mechanic and pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He and Grace met as students at Camrose Lutheran College near Edmonton, and he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Alberta. From there, it was off to the University of Chicago for a Ph.D. in social sciences. He returned to the Alberta plains each summer, earning tuition money by working the family farm.
For three years, Lloyd was director of research and then principal at UC’s Laboratory School—an experimental school founded by famed education philosopher John Dewey. In 1955, he accepted a job teaching at the WSU College of Education.
After living in Edmonton and Chicago, the isolated four-hill college town of Pullman “was a shock,” Grace Urdal recalled. The shock wore off, affection followed and the rolling hills of the Palouse have been her home ever since.
The Urdals became U.S. citizens soon after their arrival. At first, Lloyd focused on teaching—mostly undergraduates, as there were few WSU education graduate students at the time.
Lloyd was a popular man on College Hill, his widow remembers.
“They all loved him. He was just an excellent teacher,” said Grace, who worked for a while as a secretary in the veterinary college and later in the university human resources office.
After his retirement in 1986, Lloyd chose not to maintain a campus office as some emeritus professors do. With family and travels, the couple had plenty to keep them busy in the decade before he died.
David said the scholarship is a good way to honor the memory of his much-missed father and his still-active mom. Joan agrees.
“My parents were a wonderful team, and I know they are both proud of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “They’re a tough act to follow.”