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NewsDec 18, 2020

$3 million gift endows Dr. Gay Su Pinnell Fund for Reading Recovery® and Literacy

Gift furthers Lesley’s pre-eminence in innovative research on literacy education

Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas at Commencement
Photographed: Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas

Yesterday saw the announcement of a generous $3 million gift from Gay Su Pinnell through her charitable fund with The Columbus Foundation. The gift will endow the Dr. Gay Su Pinnell Fund for Reading Recovery® and Literacy and will support the Center for Reading Recovery® and Literacy Collaborative at our Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Pinnell’s connection to Lesley University includes a more than three-decade collaboration with Lesley Professor Irene Fountas. The two are among the nation’s pre-eminent scholars in literacy education, having co-authored dozens of books and publications including “Guided Reading,” which revolutionized reading instruction in the United States.

In expressing her deep appreciation for Dr. Pinnell’s gift, Lesley President Janet L. Steinmayer said, “Gay Su Pinnell’s gift will be transformative in helping Lesley to remain at the forefront of innovation in the human arts and literacy education. Her vision and close collaboration with Irene Fountas have had a tremendous impact on generations of Lesley-trained educators and their students. Educating teachers who can ‘crack the code’ of literacy to children who struggle in reading is at the core of Lesley’s social justice mission.”

Professor Fountas, who holds the Marie M. Clay Endowed Chair in Early Literacy and Reading Recovery®, is the founding director of our Center for Reading Recovery® & Literacy Collaborative.

“I have been privileged with the opportunity to collaborate with this giant in literacy education for many years, having learned firsthand that life can be different for our children in schools,” said Fountas. “We at the center are enormously grateful for Dr. Pinnell’s vision and her lifetime of professional and philanthropic generosity. This remarkable gift will be instrumental in transforming educational systems to impact generations of children, ensuring each child’s human right to a literate life.”

Lesley’s Center for Reading Recovery® is one of 19 nationwide, offering its unique and innovative literacy interventions to thousands of young students each year. Over the past three decades, the program has provided high-quality reading instruction to more than 2.3 million first graders in the lowest 20 percent of their reading classes. The center partners with schools on system-based measures to improve literacy outcomes for children, especially those in marginalized subgroups and children who struggle to read and write. Its highly trained faculty speak to the needs of practicing educators in accessible, realistic, and effective ways. It also offers a variety of professional development opportunities for educators and school leaders including an annual Literacy for All Conference for Pre-K-8 teachers.

Emphasizing the positive impact this gift will have at Lesley and beyond, Professor Fountas said, “There has never been a more important time to marshal resources to assist students who struggle to read. This gift will help secure the future of Reading Recovery® for children in the entire Northeastern United States for years to come. Gay Su Pinnell’s deep passion and commitment to social justice have been evident since her early revolutionary work on behalf of the lowest-achieving children in the United States.”

Pinnell and Fountas were the recipients of the 2018 International Literacy Association’s Diane Lapp & James Flood Professional Collaborator Award. Lesley awarded Pinnell an honorary doctorate at its 2018 Commencement, where she was a guest speaker.