Alumni president Ed Little: "I always wanted to work with children"
by Pat Caraher | © Washington State University
It’s been almost 30 years now, but Ed Little, president of the Washington State University Alumni Association, remembers it like yesterday.
A sophomore and a member of the Cougar Yell Team, he was in Eugene, Oregon, for WSU’s 1974 football game with Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Before the Cougars secured their 21-16 victory, Little received an urgent message on the sideline.
His father, Gerald, had been seriously injured in an industrial accident. Little was needed in Seattle. Athletic director Sam Jankovich immediately had his wife, Patty, drive Little to the Eugene airport. When they arrived, a ticket was waiting for the next flight north. The following day, President Glenn Terrell called Little’s mother at the hospital to inquire about Gerald’s condition and to check on the rest of the family.
Gerald was superintendent of ordinance at Lockheed in Seattle. He was working with a crew when he fell off a ladder, severely damaging his back. Several disks had to be fused.
“During the operation,” Little says, “. . . his heart stopped, causing all kinds of complications. It really was touch and go. He had five surgeries.”
Little missed two weeks of school. The family savings were “wiped out,” and he found himself at a crossroads. He could either quit school, or he could apply for student loans and hope to find a part-time job that would allow him to continue.
He decided to return to Pullman.
By then, the University had completed the paperwork Little needed to receive student loans and arranged for him to work as a houseboy at Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
“All my professors helped me get caught up. Not one pressured me to get my work in immediately. They all knew my mind was still in Seattle,” he says.
Gerald passed away in 2000. Little shares the story, he says, because it illustrates the special concern WSU has for its family.
“It was that definite face-to-face relationship we talk about at Washington State University.”
• Ed Little is now in his 26th year as an educator in Vancouver and his sixth as Alki Middle School principal. “I always wanted to work with children,” he says. “What better way than in education?”
At Alki, he hopes to provide positive leadership, “where everyone can contribute within the organization.”
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education in 1976 and 1980, respectively. In May 2001, he will complete his superintendent’s credentials and by 2005 a doctorate, again from WSU. That says something about his commitment to education and to Washington State University.
• When Little began teaching sixth grade in Vancouver, education was “textbook oriented.” A quarter-century later, computers and the Internet put knowledge at the student’s fingertips. As a result, teachers have to “rethink” how they teach. They have to ask, “What is important for our students to know now?”
“Students, particularly those in middle school, want to be involved. If they aren’t, they get bored quickly,” Little says. Hands-on activities are popular. Rather than just learning about the Civil War, he says, some Alki students “recreate parts of the battle.” Students can also take “electronic field trips” to colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. From their classrooms, they can ask questions of the people in the historic community and receive answers via the Internet and television.
• Ed Little prefers “being out in the building” to sitting in his office. He tries to visit every classroom at least twice a week—whether for 30 seconds or 30 minutes--always unannounced. “I think my teachers and students appreciate the visits,” he says. “They need to know me as a person.”
The visits have additional benefits. He can quickly sense the “feeling tone” of the classroom. How? By the way the teacher addresses the students, and vice versa. And how students treat each other.
“We don’t tolerate ‘put-downs,’ ” he says. “We want ‘put-ups. ”’
• Little has been a volunteer for WSU in some capacity for 24 years, including 12 with the Southwest Washington Cougar Club. After serving as president, he waited a year before becoming deputy director of the Alumni Association in the Vancouver area.
As alumni president, Little says he is looking at the goals President V. Lane Rawlins has set, and he wants to align alumni resources to help the University reach those goals.
“I want the University to be seen in a positive light, as a quality, caring educational institution that truly values the face-to-face contact in education,” Little says. “That really is what Washington State University does best.”
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