Family and Friends of Shirley N. Robards - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Shirley N. Robards Curriculum Resource Library Endowment | Est. 2010
brick engraved with name Family and Friends of Shirley N. Robards

Family and Friends of Shirley N. Robards

Warm, caring, outgoing and energetic, Dr. Shirley Robards could often run circles around the younger people she helped. She had to; there was much to be done. As a teacher of teachers, an advocate for children, and a voice for the underprivileged, she touched the lives of education majors and grade schoolers alike during her 37 years with The University of Tulsa.

Dr. Robards was a beloved member of the TU education faculty and a familiar face to the teachers, principals and superintendents with whom she worked as the School of Education’s Coordinator of Field Services. One colleague recalls that Dr. Robards would spend her mornings traveling to the elementary schools, checking up on the student teachers under her guidance. Then, in the afternoons, she would return to campus to fulfill her duties as an associate professor teaching courses in language arts, math and literacy.

Her passion for education may have been most evident in her work with the Tulsa GEAR-UP project, a six-year partnership grant involving the University, Tulsa Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education. The project’s aim was to help underrepresented students and families improve academic achievement in mathematics and literacy. As principal investigator, Dr. Robards worked with program coordinator Barbara Jackson to recruit, train and place graduate assistants and undergraduate tutors in five Tulsa-area public middle schools and four high schools. She also created a professional development component for the selected schools’ teachers. In particular, she encouraged GEAR UP students to develop an appreciation of science and math, enthusiastically leading them on field trips to NASA in Houston, the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and other destinations. GEAR UP began in 1999 at TU, and undoubtedly thanks to Dr. Robards’ involvement was renewed in 2005. She continued to serve in the program until her health began to fail in 2009.

Of course, there was more to Dr. Shirley Robards than TU. For 49 years, she was wife to Frank Robards, then mother to Linda Bull, and grandmother to Madeline and Mitchell Bull. She was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and a CAP aerospace educator. She worked with the TU chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, the premier professional association for educators, where she served several terms on the national level as an executive board member or as international vice president. She served as national president of the Association of Teacher Educators, which named her a Distinguished and a Life Member. Her passion for education began with herself, as attested by her three degrees — a B.A. in Elementary Education from Kentucky Wesleyan College; an M.A. in Administration and Sociology from Western Kentucky University; and an
Ed. D. in Elementary Education and Reading from Indiana University.

The Robards family and the TU family lost Shirley Robards in Spring 2009. The next year, the Robards family chose to memorialize this beloved educator and sustain her remarkable legacy with a generous and well-directed gift to the school to which she had devoted so much of her life. The family established the Shirley N. Robards Curriculum Resource Library in the TU School of Education, which was dedicated in Spring 2011. Their gift has brought the library squarely into the 21st century, with the addition of ‘Smart Boards’ and enhanced computer access, as well as new furniture, carpeting and paint – all of which serve student learning.

The University of Tulsa and the School of Education are deeply grateful to the Robards family for this wonderful remembrance. As today’s students use the library for study or research, they draw inspiration from Dr. Robards’ example and tangible support from the resources so kindly provided.