Professor emeritus Mary Elizabeth York passed away January 1, 2012. She came to PSU in 1972, as the coordinator of PSU’s new Early Childhood Teacher Education Program and worked in the Helen Gordon Child Development Center. Dr. York joined PSU after a successful career as an elementary teacher and an administrator for day care centers working with the Migrant Opportunity Program in Arizona.
As a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), she regularly met with other university teacher educators and eventually became a founder and the first president of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE). Upon moving to Oregon, Dr. York became an active member of the local affiliate OAEYC, where she successfully lobbied for a state-approved Early Childhood Certificate.
In 1972, PSU-sponsored childcare did not exist. Seeing a need, Dr. York helped to establish the Helen Gordon Child Development Center in the former Fruit and Flower Daycare building. During this time she also worked to grow the early childhood program at PSU from one to seven courses and an early childhood certificate of specialization.
Dr. York retired from PSU in 1983 but continued to teach and present workshops for several years. Insisting that her well-earned title “emerita” be used appropriately, she tells a favorite story:
In 1991, I did a workshop on child development. When the brochure was designed, I was asked by telephone how I wanted my name to appear. I responded, “Mary Elizabeth York, professor emerita.” Apparently, the caller did not hear the “t” in the last syllable or I didn’t hear her pronounce a “c” before the final “a.” When the brochure came out, I was “professor America.”
Dr. York was well-known both locally and nationally in the field of early childhood education. “As a new faculty member in the field of early childhood education in the early 1980s at Southern Oregon University,” says Dean Randy Hitz. “She became one of my mentors and she remained so throughout her life. I have no doubt that there are countless other educators with stories similar to mine.”
The GSE currently awards a scholarship in Dr. York’s honor. Friends wishing to remember her may contribute to the Mary Elizabeth York fund via the PSU Foundation, PO Box 243, Portland, OR, 97207.