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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
901 South Bond Street, Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9920

September 22, 2008
CONTACT: Dennis O'Shea

Fessler to Retire as Dean of Education

Ralph Fessler, the inaugural dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and a state and national leader in teacher education, will retire at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year, he announced today.
Ralph Fessler
Photo by David Cowell

Since joining Johns Hopkins in 1983, Fessler has played a key role in the preparation of teacher and school administrators in Maryland and in the evolution of the university's K-12 education and research programs into what is now the School of Education. He served as professor and director of the Graduate Division of Education and, beginning in 1999, as dean of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. That school was divided in January 2007 to create the School of Education and the Carey Business School.

"It has been a privilege and an honor to work with such outstanding faculty and staff, talented students, and dedicated alumni who attend to some of the most challenging and important issues facing education," Fessler said. "The School of Education is a creative, innovative and responsive community that has made a difference in the lives of children, and I believe that the best is yet to come."

Fessler's retirement will coincide with the school's yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of its origins — which can be traced to the 1909 founding of Johns Hopkins' College Courses for Teachers — while at the same time celebrating its identity as a new standalone School of Education. "Ralph has presided over the continued growth and maturation of a school that is well-positioned for national prominence," said William R. Brody, president of the university. "The initiatives he has taken over the years to build the infrastructure needed for both teaching and research will have a lasting impact on Johns Hopkins and the School of Education. I am grateful for his many contributions and accomplishments as dean."

"Dean Fessler is a passionate leader of the highest integrity," said Kristina Johnson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "He is dedicated to his faculty, students and staff and has worked tirelessly in leading them through the transition to a standalone school of education, reaccreditation, and the process of raising the visibility of the new school."

Under Fessler's leadership, Johns Hopkins education programs in 2003 obtained national accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The school moved in 2006 into the Education Building, located at 2800 North Charles St. in Baltimore, marking the first time Johns Hopkins education programs have had their own building. The school also established numerous university-wide collaborations to bring an interdisciplinary focus on K-12 education issues.

Under his leadership, the master's degree and graduate certificate programs expanded, including the Master of Arts in Teaching degree which he reestablished in 1986 after a hiatus of 12 years. The MAT program, which is designed to prepare individuals with strong academic backgrounds as teachers through a graduate program that leads to certification, is currently the school's largest program. Other areas of expansion included the school's doctoral programs; program offerings at the Columbia and Montgomery County campuses; distance learning programs; science, technology and mathematics education initiatives established in partnership with the School of Engineering; and grant and research activity which currently stands in excess of $14 million annually. Today, the School of Education has more than 50 partnerships with school districts throughout the region and nation.

Fessler worked with faculty and external partners to establish the Center for Technology in Education, which, under the leadership of director Jackie Nunn, has emerged as a leading research and development center that supports the integration of technology into teaching and learning. In addition, he brought two nationally recognized centers to the school, the Center for Summer Learning, under the leadership of Ron Fairchild, and the Center for Research and Reform in Education, under the leadership of Robert Slavin.

"Without question, Dr. Fessler has been a formidable leader not only at Johns Hopkins University but also across this state," said Nancy Grasmick, Maryland state superintendent of schools. "His outstanding work and steadfast commitment to excellence have helped to secure Maryland's distinction as a leader in education in this country. Every single day, Dr. Fessler exemplifies the characteristics of a man with an amazing vision, a vision that has kept Johns Hopkins University on the cutting edge of education."

Fessler received his BS, MS and PhD degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and taught in public schools in Illinois and Wisconsin. He held faculty and administration positions in the University of Wisconsin system before coming to Johns Hopkins in 1983 as professor and director of the Graduate Division of Education. He served as associate dean of academic affairs from 1993 until being appointed interim dean of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education in 1999 and dean in 2000.

Fessler has served on numerous state and national task forces and boards, including as chair of a task force that led to the "Redesign of Teacher Education" in Maryland. He also served on the board and executive committee of the American Association of Colleges and Teacher Education.

Fessler's research activities have centered on studying teacher career stages and implications for teacher leadership development. From 1999 to 2005, he served as principal investigator of a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to redesign teacher education programs for urban communities, which led to the establishment of innovative approaches to recruiting, preparing and retaining quality teachers for urban schools. He was co-recipient of the Research of the Year award from the Association for Teacher Educators for his work on teacher career stages. In addition, he has assisted with numerous international education initiatives, including projects in Israel, Taiwan and the Czech Republic.

A nationwide search for a dean will begin soon, Johnson said.

Note: A digital image of Dean Fessler is available. Contact Dennis O'Shea at dro@jhu.edu or 443-287-9960.