From Page to Practice
Her education helped her achieve her goals.
Her scholarship will support the educators of the future.
A worthwhile cause
As Clinical Professor of Reading at New York University, Katherine (Kay) Dougherty Stahl ’76 is helping future teachers gain insight into one of the critical foundations of education – learning how to read.
“Training teachers in literacy is so important. Fifty percent of teachers do not stay in the profession, and I feel that is due in large part because many teachers are unprepared to deal with the complexities of teaching reading” she says. “Due to the role of literacy in all educational content learning, it’s important to offer teachers in-depth skills so they can truly be prepared for the instructional challenges they will face in today’s schools.”
At the time Kay attended West Chester University, its minor in reading education required 24 additional credits, including those in subjects like linguistics and speech development. “When I left my undergraduate program, I was as well prepared as most people are when they have a master’s in reading,” Kay says. “Even now, I see very few schools other than West Chester that offer a minor in literacy education at the undergraduate level.”
A published author, Kay received the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development Teaching Excellence Award in 2014 – and the passion she exhibits in the classroom is equally evident in her planned giving.
Reflecting on what has been important to her, the University gets high marks. “It’s the education I got at West Chester, and the influence it had on preparing me for my life’s work, that comes to mind.” So, with the help of the Foundation, Kay established the Katherine Dougherty Stahl Scholarship. “They have been willing to work with me to shape my gifts to support the causes I care about,” she says.
Katherine (Kay) Dougherty Stahl ’76
Creator and Donor, Katherine Dougherty Stahl Scholarship
"When I make a contribution to those students, it’s really a gift back to myself – I’m not only helping to change the lives of the students who are receiving the gift, but also the students who they will be teaching for generations.” – Kay Stahl '76
"To see that there was such effort being made – it made me feel like I wanted to be a part of the future the school was creating, to continue to build on the University’s strengths.”
Supporting students like her
Kay taught for more than 20 years in Brunswick, an area that had the highest poverty rate in the state of Georgia. Her commitment to teaching reading in urban environments stems in large part from her personal experience as a first generation college student – she grew up in a working class community and understood that her own education was integral to achieving her goals. Like many students then and now, supporting her education was a financial challenge for her parents, and she relied on federal grants and the work study program.
But her education remained a priority. She earned a doctorate degree from the University of Georgia and transitioned from the classroom to the college campus, where she held an academic appointment at the University of Illinois for four years.
Kay’s eventual relocation to the northeast allowed her to reconnect with her alma mater – and opened the door to new possibilities. She connected with Dean Ken Witmer who, over the years, kept her informed about innovations and expansions in the College of Education and Social Work. “It was so wonderful to hear about the projects in urban education and in Belize. To see that there was such effort being made – it made me feel like I wanted to be a part of the future the school was creating, to continue to build on the University’s strengths.”
She also connected with fellow alumni. In 2016, she was invited to give a commencement address, and in May of that same year, she was recognized on the College of Education’s Wall of Honor. She currently serves on the College of Education and Social Work Advisory Board.
“The University stays in touch,” she says. And it’s made all the difference.
Turning the page
Now preparing for retirement, Kay is still excited as ever. “I am delighted that I have found a profession that has served me so well,” she says. “West Chester has really maintained its values. It’s still affordable, and it draws a kind of student who often is first generation, and who comes from a family of working class people who have needed financial support in the past.”
She continues, “When I make a contribution to those students, it’s really a gift back to myself – I’m not only helping to change the lives of the students who are receiving the gift, but also the students who they will be teaching for generations.”