Henry J. Hermanowicz January 6, 1928June 15, 2019 Henry J. Hermanowicz, an education reformer who champ-ioned the rigorous training of public school teachers and insisted that teacher excellence was the key to the successful functioning of a sound society, died in State College on Saturday, June 15. He was 91. His son, Joseph C. Hermanowicz, confirmed his death, which he said was from natural causes. Mr. Hermanowicz was 21 years of age when he began teaching mathematics in the Illinois public schools. He wanted to show his students that mathematics was a fundamentally creative activity driven by conceptual thinking, not memorization. Most students were receptive to this approach, but the resistance he encountered from fellow teachers started him on what became a lifelong quest to re-imagine the way public school teachers were trained, both in terms of subject content and pedagogical approach. He published widely on educational matters, addressing, as he called them, "the what, why, and the how" of excellent teacher instruction. Through a long career that included numerous publications, two deanships--the first at Illinois State University's College of Education and the second at the Pennsylvania State University-- as well as the Presidency of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (1977-1978), Mr. Hermanowicz always advocated rigorous training for teachers in subject mastery, pedagogical effectiveness, and, what was also crucial to him, epistemological differentiation. Teachers, he believed, needed to understand how and why different bodies of knowledgemathematics as opposed to the social sciences, for examplewere distinct from one another, as this kind of training enabled people to learn how to think. And learning how to think, he always believed, awakened intellectual curiosity, which, for him, gave richness to life. Mr. Hermanowicz was deeply committed to the mission of public universities in the United States, and believed that the health of the nation and its people was in large part dependent on the quality of education available to those attending the public schools, all the way from the elementary grades to post-graduate professional levels. He opposed Ronald Reagan's calls to dismantle the Federal Education Department and vigorously contested these plans in meetings with then Secretary of Education, Terrel H. Bell. His work and contributions traversed national boundaries. Aside from the influence exerted by his publications, he worked with the governments of Thailand and Brazil for the improvement of their teacher education and served as a consultant to the Canal Zone Schools in Panama. He forged relationships between Penn State University and institutions in Venezuela, Ireland, and Taiwan to recruit students who would return to develop teacher training in their home countries. From 1979 to 1989, he was a member and Secretary of the Joint Council on Economic Education, and from 1975 to 1986 a member of the National Teacher Examination Policy Council of the Educational Testing Service. While Mr. Hermanowicz was dean of the College of Education at Penn State, the University was nationally recognized for the quality of its teacher preparation. In 1993, Penn State created a professorship in his honor, the Henry J. Hermanowicz Professorship in Education, only the second endowed professorship in the College's history. Mr. Hermanowicz secured a gift to establish the first in 1988. Henry Joseph Hermanowicz was born on January 6, 1928, in Chicago, where he grew up on the southwest side. His father, Boleslaw Joseph, an orphan, joined a resistance movement against Russia and was smuggled out of Poland by members of a bakers' guild. He arrived at Ellis Island in 1912. His mother, Sophie Reile, came to the United States from Germany in 1913. Their story is Chicago's. They met in the city's Lincoln Park, married, purchased a building on Cermak road, occupied its top stories, and, with the facility of multiple languages, ran a storefront bakery in their ethnic neighborhood of European emigres. Their three children worked in the store: Thadeus delivered goods around the city in his father's truck, Irene assisted their mother at the sales counter, and Mr. Hermanowicz, the youngest, helped his father in the bakery. Through dedicated work, the bakery thrived, its doors opened every day, including a half-day on Sundays, precluding the family's religious observance so that parishioners could be served on their way home from church. After the business was well-established, the elder Hermanowicz enrolled in night classes at a nearby public school to earn an American grade school certificate, which brought considerable personal satisfaction. It also deepened the importance of education he impressed upon his children. All three Hermanowicz children served their country in the War, Thadeus in the army, Irene in the marines, and Henry in the navy as part of the occupation force in Japan from 1945 to 1946. Mr. Hermanowicz received his undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University in 1949. He spent seven years (1949-1956) as a public school teacher in DeKalb, Illinois, teaching mathematics at both the elementary and secondary levels while at the same time earning an M.S. degree in Educational Administration at Northern Illinois University. He received his M.S. in 1954. He earned an Ed.D. at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1959. He was a professor of Education at Illinois State University until 1966 when he was appointed Illinois State's first dean of the College of Education. He moved to State College, Pennsylvania in 1974 to assume the deanship of the College of Education at the Pennsylvania State University. He stepped down from this appointment in 1989, but continued to teach at Penn State until 1992 when he was awarded a Fulbright to teach at Seoul National University. In 1949, Mr. Hermanowicz married Helen Louise Hines, also from Chicago, with whom he had seven children. She died in 2006. Mr. Hermanowicz is survived by his children, Kenneth, Neal, Glenn, Carol, Bruce, and Joseph. His daughter Kay predeceased him in 2014. He also leaves seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His dedication to the Penn State community was profound and included every aspect of university life. As much as he was intent on providing rigorous training for students in the College of Education, he was just as involved in maintaining relationships with university alumni, especially those in Pennsylvania who served as administrators in the public schools and taught the state's children. He derived satisfaction from working among scholars, but never missed the opportunity to be in his own children's company to watch the home games at the University's Beaver stadium. Mr. Hermanowicz's tenure as dean at Penn State coincided with an era of severe contraction and unprecedented budget reduction for schools of education across the country. Penn State was no exception, but even in adverse circumstances, enrollment in the College of Education dramatically increased, and Mr. Hermanowicz introduced several new initiatives, including programs in counseling psychology, bilingual education, and adult education. He also supported the founding of the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Institute of Research and Training which was designed to improve the connection between the employment needs of industries within the region and the educational preparation of students. Dean Hermanowicz demonstrated imagination and entrepreneurship at a time when the university faced great challenges. Faculty often remarked that his job must have been difficult, but what never flagged was his ability to exhort, inspire, and have fun with his colleagues. "It was wonderful," said one faculty member at Dean Hermanowicz's retirement in 1989, "to witness your unquenchable enjoyment of each and every moment. Until I met you, I never knew a dean could possess a sense of humor." Still, his commitment across the arc of his career remained a moral one. From the beginning, he maintained the conviction expressed in a paper published the first year he became dean at Penn State: "A civilization that relegates teacher education to a low priority or ignores it because of its complexity will suffer irreparable consequences to its quality of life for generations to come."
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Published in Centre Daily Times on Jun. 23, 2019.