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HGSE Remembers Vito Perrone

By Jill Anderson on September 16, 2011 12:12 PM

Vito PerroneVito Perrone, a retired HGSE faculty member with 23 years of experience at the school, passed away on Wednesday, August 24 in Cambridge, Mass.

“Vito leaves a lasting legacy in the field of education,” says Dean Kathleen McCartney. “His outstanding scholarship on testing, equity, and peace education greatly influenced the progressive education movement.  Through his courses on teaching and curriculum, as well as his leadership of the Teacher Education Program and the Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning Environments Program, he inspired a generation of teachers. His students and faculty colleagues remember him as an outstanding educator with a remarkable ability to foster collaboration among students, teachers, and other education stakeholders. Vito’s passionate commitment to the profession of teaching had a profound impact on all who knew him.”

Perrone joined the HGSE faculty in 1988, and served as director of the Teacher Education Program and chair of the Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning Environments Program. In 2001, he was named the Theodore R. Sizer Senior Lecturer on Education at HGSE.

“I think of all the people I’ve known never known anyone more dedicated to helping people become better teachers and helping them to inspire their students to learn then Vito,” says Professor Patricia Albjerg Graham, who was dean when Perrone joined HGSE. “He worked more hours per week than two ordinary people would spend. While at the Ed School running our Teacher Education Program, he worked closely with some of the most troubled high schools in Boston and inspired teachers, schools, and children to all do a better job.”

Perrone began his education career as a teacher in public schools. At the Ed School, he consistently earned praise from his students for his stimulating and well-organized courses. Additionally, Perrone often urged students to collaborate with him and each other.

“Vito taught the way he wrote and the way he was,” says Boston Arts Academy Headmaster Linda Nathan, Ed.D.’95, a former student of Perrone’s. “You didn’t just talk about it or research it, you did it.”

Nathan says that Perrone encouraged “hands-on” learning requiring students to work in schools.  “He respected teachers more than anyone I met,” she says.  (Nathan wrote a tribute to Perrone on the Coalition of Essential Schools.)

Perrone was a great advocate of writing books, Nathan says, urging all of his students to tell their stories to the world. A well-known author in his own right, Perrone wrote many education books such as A Letter to Teachers: Reflections on Schooling and the Art of Teaching, Lessons for New Teachers, and the 101 Conversations to Have series.  Some of Perrone’s writing will be read at a memorial on December 3 at the Boston Arts Academy.

Prior to his time at HGSE, Perrone was an associate professor at Northern Michigan University where he was associate professor of history and dean of common learning and graduate studies (1962–1968). In 1968, Vito became dean of the New School of Behavioral Studies in Education and four years later dean of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Dakota. In 1986, he was named vice president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“He was a remarkable man with very wonderfully firm, strong ideas and strong principles, and ideas of how to carry those principles,” says Professor Eleanor Duckworth, who notes that you could always count on Perrone’s wisdom. “He was very dependable guy to talk to and, above all, a teacher.”

Deborah Meier, who met Perrone in the study group, said many were enormously influenced by him, especially those like herself who went on to start schools. Meier, who founded the Mission Hill School, says that Perrone had an ability to build bridges between academics, educators, and the public. “He had common touch without condescension,” Meier says.

Perrone received his bachelor’s (1954), master of art (1958), and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Among one of Perrone’s many legacies is the coordination of the North Dakota Study Group on Evaluation, a national organization of teachers, school administrators, and university scholars, from 1972 to 2000.

For more information on the Boston Arts Academy tribute, please contact Linda Nathan at lnathan@bostonartsacademy.org.