Voice Magazine / Stories / 2016 Fall / A Gift to Education
Tony LaFetra

A Gift to Education

Anthony LaFetra comes full circle from a child learning from University of La Verne-trained teachers to a Board of Trustees member who gives back to the very institution that built his educational foundation.

Anthony “Tony” LaFetra rose slowly amid smiles and thunderous applause, surrounded by fellow community leaders and educators.

He had come full circle – from a child learning from University of La Verne-trained teachers, to a Board of Trustees member who gave back to the very institution that built his educational foundation.

It was not just any gift.

He bestowed $10 million to establish the LaFetra College of Education.

“I’m partial to the College of Education because of the effect it has had on my life,” LaFetra said. “The university has produced teachers that were helpful to me and I’d like to see that continue and improve. I wasn’t a great student by any means, but they got me going in the right direction academically. They thought, ‘This kid can do better than he’s doing,’ so they put extra energy into me and it worked.”

The university’s education and organizational leadership programs are already known for changing lives in classrooms and organizations.

More than 125 graduates are superintendents and about 165 serve as principals in California school districts. Doctoral graduates lead in other sectors such as health and law enforcement.

A Brilliant Past

The college has been training teachers since the university’s earliest days.

Education Professor Emeritus Dr. Peggy Redman, who began pursuing a teaching career in 1956, remembers taking classes ranging from curriculum, to learning how to thread a projector.

As Southern California’s population grew, so did the university’s approach to preparing educators.

Teachers expanded their skillsets through weekend programs starting in 1972. Three years later, the university dove into bilingual education. One program trained 24 Spanish-speaking teachers to become public school administrators. Eight became high school teachers.

The $1.4 million program was considered the largest federally-funded program in U.S. bilingual education in the 1970s.

Mainiero Hall’s second floor served as the hub of teacher training.

Professors placed inspirational quotes in their windows, and many invited their entire class to their homes for end-of-semester potlucks, said Cynthia Cervantes McGuire ’75 ’87. Expectations ran high for students.

“In those days you had to quit part-time jobs to student teach. You were expected to give everything you had to the classroom as if you had been hired,” she said.

John “Skip” Mainiero, chair of the education department at the time, encouraged Cervantes McGuire to pursue educational leadership. She worked 37 years for the Azusa Unified School District, including seven as superintendent.

Her husband, Dr. Thomas McGuire, began leading the education department in 1987.

Former Interim Dean of the College of Education and Organizational Leadership Dr. Barbara Poling recalls that, in the 1980s, working in a classroom was the grand finale for aspiring teachers.

“You didn’t really interface with students until you were almost finished with your degree program,” Poling said.

That changed in the mid 1990s, with students gaining classroom experience much earlier.

Special Assistant to the Provost Mark Goor, who served as the college’s dean more than five years, helped the college gain national accreditation in 2012, and established numerous programs and partnerships. The number of people earning credentials has grown, but one thing remains the same.

“We really stress the importance of teachers caring for their students and the people with whom they work,” Redman said.

A Bright Future

Dr. Kimberly White-Smith, LaFetra College of Education’s new dean, says the university is uniquely positioned to provide teachers for urban centers and lead the way for teacher success.

White-Smith most recently worked as associate dean and director of the Donna Ford Attallah Educator Development Academy at Chapman University.

“I look forward to working in collaboration with LaFetra College faculty and administration to develop exceptional educators and leaders who can positively impact students, families and communities,” she said.