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COE Bids a Sad Farewell to Professor Emeritus Sandy Dawson

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January 15, 2015

A..J. Sandy Dawson, Professor Emeritus at the UH Mānoa College of Education (COE), passed away on January 8, 2015 at the age of 74. With the COE for a decade, Dawson began a second career in the college’s Department of Curriculum Studies (CS) and Institute for Teacher Education (ITE) after more than 30 years with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Dawson held a BS in mathematics and PhD in secondary mathematics education from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and an MA in mathematics education from Washington University. An educator since 1963, he taught at the elementary and secondary levels in Canada and at the university level in Canada, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Hawai‘i.

In 1999, Dawson joined the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) as a senior program specialist in mathematics education. Through his work with PREL, he began Mathematics and Culture in Micronesia: Integrating Societal Experiences (MACIMISE). A collaborative research and development project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), MACIMISE is the culmination of two other NSF projects that were led by Dawson.

Before MACIMISE, Dawson was the director of Project Delta (1999–2002) and the MENTOR Project (2003–2007), both focused on nine southern and western Pacific island communities. Project Delta was designed to provide in-service training for teachers of 4th–8th grade mathematics. The MENTOR Project, co-directed by ITE Master of Education in Teaching Director Joe Zilliox, investigated a number of issues related to the induction of novice teachers of mathematics into the teaching profession.

“Sandy created a legacy across the Pacific and the world,” said Zilliox. “He had impact and influence because of the respect he showed those with whom he worked, regardless of their position or place in life. He truly liked people, and they felt that connection. In turn, he was respected and liked by them.”

MACIMISE, which continues today, aims to increase the mathematics learning of elementary school students in eight Micronesian island groups by utilizing learning experiences embedded within each of the island communities (ethnomathematics). Dawson served as the project’s director, with co-directors Professor Emeritus Thomas Craven of UH Mānoa and Dr. Donald Rubinstein of the University of Guam, and maintained an active role with the project into his retirement.

In 2003, Dawson joined the COE faculty as an associate professor of mathematics, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses. He was promoted to full professor with tenure a few years later, serving the COE’s statewide program, curriculum studies graduate program, and ITE Elementary program.

Throughout his amazing fifty-year career in education, Dawson was a prolific writer, authoring numerous books, articles, and conference papers. In 2013, he retired from the COE with emeritus status and, in keeping with his philosophy that “life should be lived as an adventure,” traveled the following year with his wife Sandra to an ethnomathematics conference in Chidenguele, Mozambique. He planned to continue his work with MACIMISE across Micronesia, as well as to golf more with friend and colleague, Neil Pateman.

“Sandy brought new perspectives and vision to the College of Education,” Dean Donald B. Young said. “We knew of his successful work in Micronesia while at PREL and thought it quite a coup to persuade him to join the college and share his expertise and passion with our students and faculty. Sandy has been a major influence in shaping our mathematics education program and outreach.”

In order to continue his important work, the College of Education would like to build a $35,000+ endowment in perpetuity for Mathematics Education and Ethnomathematics in Sandy Dawson’s name. Donations can be made “In Memory of Sandy Dawson.” For more information, please contact Director of Development Mark Fukeda at mfukeda@hawaii.edu or (808) 956-7988.

There will be a celebration of his life at the Andrew W.S. In College Collaboration Center on Sunday afternoon, February 8, 2015.


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