Thomas W. Speitel

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Curriculum Research and Development Group (CRDG)

Dr. Thomas W. Speitel, natural and information sciences professor in the College of Education Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG) and Army veteran, passed away on September 19, 2009. With the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) since 1967, Speitel earned his PhD in botanical sciences in 1975. He would devote the rest of his professional career to the COE, serving as an educational associate, graduate faculty, director, chairman, associate professor, and professor.

Born in New York City, New York, Speitel earned his baccalaureate degree in biology from Manhattan College in 1967. Drawn to Hawai‘i’s unique flora and fauna, he was an avid sailor who loved being surrounded by the ocean. After entering the PhD program at UHM, Speitel discovered the excitement of instilling learning in others, and his interests shifted from the field to the classroom.

“For many of us, Tom was both inspiring and entertaining. He was someone to look up to and laugh with. He was generous with his expertise and knowledge, no matter the issue. His many stories of past and recent adventures inspired both envy for the full life he led and the impetus to make our own lives as fulfilling and rewarding as the one he enjoyed,” said Byron Inouye, Senior Learning Technology Digital Arts Designer in CRDG.

Speitel authored and coauthored numerous scholarly publications and created several software programs for the classroom. In the early 1990s, he developed the Science Web of Instructional Media that connected hundreds of multimedia resources to science curriculum developed by CRDG. Released in 2002, this software put him at the forefront of what the Web could do for textbooks and for classroom learning. Now called the School Web of Instructional Media, the online database has expanded to serve much more than science education.

In 1999, the Hawai‘i Marine Sciences Studies program, which Speitel co-authored, was adopted by the state of Texas. That same year, he became a professor in CRDG’s science section and assisted the Space and Naval Warfare Center with human and information system interaction infrastructure development. He led distance learning course development projects for the Department of Defense Education Activity and worked closely with CRDG’s Invention Factory to provide hands-on invention activities for schoolchildren and teachers. His most recent work was the development of Automatic Interviewer, an audio-visual recording software that allows users to record interviews or presentations.

Thanh Truc T. Nguyen, Assistant Specialist in CRDG, said, “Tom was driven to provide as many hands-on experiences in the field of educational technology as possible. With almost every new digital technology released, he was always exclaiming, ‘This is really neat!’ followed by ‘How can we make this better and easier for the teachers and kids?’ His unwavering support in our educational technology efforts will be missed, but not as much as his smile.”

Services were held on October 3rd at St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Church in Kailua where memorial donations were made to the Smile Train Organization (www.smiletrain.org). Persons wishing to donate should use Tribute (in memory of): Dr. Thomas Speitel, 507 Kaimake Loop, Kailua HI 96734.