Mary Anne Doyle Makes an Impact During Her 35-Year UConn Career

Mary Anne Doyle greet guests.
Mary Anne Doyle welcomes guests to a Neag School special event about young adult literature and Islam in May 2017. The event featured four authors and 15 students from East Hartford High School who studied their novels as part of a Muslim education research project. (Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Mary Anne Doyle began her career at the University of Connecticut’s School of Education in 1983 as an assistant professor. She will retire this month after a 35-year career as an administrator and faculty member.

“Mary Anne has always comported herself with dignity, civility, professionalism, a strong sense of what is right and wrong and always with a sense of humor,” says Thomas C. DeFranco, former dean of the Neag School. “Whether working on promotion, tenure, retention cases, schoolwide issues or UConn policies, she has always provided a calm and assured voice to the conversation, a supportive environment to her faculty to grow and excel and has always been a strong advocate to the students and faculty in her department, the school and the university.”

“Mary Anne is also widely recognized as an outstanding scholar, on a national and international level, in the area of reading and, in particular, in the area of Reading Recovery,” says DeFranco.

Here, many other colleagues past and present, as well as former students, share their sentiments about Doyle.

Reading Recovery

Beginning in a faculty position focused on expertise in reading, Doyle was promoted to associate and then full professor prior to taking on the role of department chair of Curriculum and Instruction in 2000. She also served as director of the UConn Reading and Language Arts Center in the Neag School, and is widely known as an outstanding scholar, on a national and international level, and, in particular, in the area of Reading Recovery, a program aimed at improving the reading skills of at-risk first-graders.

“Mary Anne Doyle’s contributions to Reading Recovery are beyond measure,” says Jady Johnson, executive director of the Reading Recovery Council of North America. “Her contributions to worldwide leadership, scholarship, and service to Reading Recovery are unparalleled.”

Doyle currently serves as chair of the executive board of the International Reading Recovery Trainers Organization. Marie Clay, the developer of the program and professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Auckland, named her the consulting editor to the Marie Clay Literacy Trust, Auckland, New Zealand, which is responsible for the ongoing publication of Clay’s texts and works.

Doyle has also served as president of the Reading Recovery Council of North America and is the current editor of the Council’s journal. She will continue to be the scholar who moves Clay’s theoretical work forward into the future.

“On behalf of the students, faculty and staff in the Neag School, we thank her for all that she has done to advance education, set a high standard for all to emulate, and make the Neag School a much better place.”

— Professor Thomas DeFranco

An early colleague of Doyle’s in Reading Recovery, Kathy Klemanski, a now-retired Reading Recovery teacher from Farmington Public Schools (FPS), recalls meeting Doyle in 1995.

“Mary Anne always challenged me to push myself [and to] develop a deeper understanding of early literacy instruction and practice the works of Marie Clay,” Klemanski says. “She instilled confidence, power and emotional gravity in me, where I reached a depth of understanding and skill that was rarely seen in early literacy within FPS. With her support, I was encouraged, supported, and given advice. I am so grateful to have had Mary Anne’s wisdom, her inspiration, her grace, and her humor.

“It never failed, Mary Anne always blew me away with her provocative questions during our sessions and … instilled in me a hunger for learning all I could about early literacy,” Klemanski adds.

Another colleague at FPS, Erin Nock, has fond memories of Doyle working with the children at the school. “As a Reading Recovery teacher leader, Mary Anne is able to form an immediate bond of security and trust with the students.”

“Children immediately take to her warm and positive nature, as she gently acknowledges the strengths in every learner, immersing them with praise, encouragement, and direction,” she says. “After each lesson with Mary Anne, students sit up a little taller, smile a little more broadly, and love reading a bit more.”

The work on Reading Recovery in the Farmington school district continues today.

Through Doyle’s expertise, the Neag School was able to join a national consortium of universities engaged in supporting Reading Recovery. The Ohio State University served as the coordinating  agent for the $45 million i3 (Investing in Innovation) grant awarded to the consortium, and gave the University of Connecticut access to approximately $2 million to support the implementation of Reading Recovery training across Connecticut, from 2010 to 2015.

During a recent gathering to celebrate Doyle’s retirement, Richard L. Schwab, former dean of the Neag School, also offered insights on her impact with Reading Recovery.

“Mary Anne took Reading Recovery not only to national prestige at the University of Connecticut … but international prestige, having served as the president of the Reading Recovery Council of North America and the International Council that works with all the deans and professors from around the country,” he said. “More than 2 million kids worldwide were able to read through her support. They didn’t need special education services or intervention after her work … saving districts money and greatly enhancing the self-esteem of those students.”

Mary Anne Doyle hugs UConn Husky Dog mascot during Commencement weekend.
Mary Anne Doyle hugs the UConn Husky Dog mascot during the 2018 Commencement Weekend festivities. (Photo credit: Frank Zappulla/Neag School)

Impacting Graduate Students

“Dr. Doyle and her many graduate students continue to make significant professional contributions to teaching and improving reading education throughout Connecticut, the United States, and abroad, and will impact children, teachers, and schools across the world for years to come,” says Gil Dyrli, faculty emeritus from the Neag School who was a colleague of hers for many years.

“Mary Anne truly loves reading education, teaching at UConn, sharing expertise with teachers and students, and moving her profession forward,” adds Dyrli. “She’s one of a kind.”

Neag School alum and now a professor of education at Eastern State Connecticut University, Theresa Bouley ’01 Ph.D. recalls working closely with Doyle as a doctoral student from 1997 to 2001.

“Mary Anne was a consistent, supportive, patient, and kind mentor. She went above and beyond, demonstrating her commitment to the program, and to the field of reading/language arts,” says Bouley, who also served as a tutor in the UConn Reading Language Arts Center.

Doyle, Bouley says, has also made a positive, lasting impact on numerous teachers and literacy specialists in public schools across the state.

“I discovered teachers who have worked with Mary Anne to be the leaders in their schools, and on numerous occasions I have personally relied on these teachers to enhance the effectiveness of the professional development I was providing,” Bouley says. “While reading programs and assessments come and go, Mary Anne has supported countless educators in developing their knowledge and skills of research-based practices.”

A former advisee of Doyle’s, Kelly Andrews-Babock ’01 6th Year, had similar positive experiences.

“Mary Anne … would often meet with myself and three other colleagues. We would pepper her with questions, and she would calmly answer them, advise us, and always share some laughs,” says Andrews-Babock. “Mary Anne arranged for me and another colleague to co-teach for the Neag School in the fall of 2011. Since then, Mary Anne has presented on Marie Clay’s ‘Observation Survey,’ enlightening my students on the important work she’s still involved with. Her knowledge of language acquisition and beginning reader success is excellent. Mary Anne always has a great smile, words of encouragement, and insight to share with everyone. I have the utmost respect for her.”


“While reading programs and assessments come and go, Mary Anne has supported countless educators in developing their knowledge and skills of research-based practices.”

— Theresa Bouley ’01 Ph.D.

Administrator and Leader

Just prior to taking the role of department chair, Doyle served as the professional development coordinator at Manchester and East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools and was also instrumental in the development of the current Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s program. During her 17 years as department chair, the department grew, programs became nationally ranked, and she was largely responsible for the administration of one of the best teacher preparation programs in the nation.

“As an administrator, Mary Anne always had the courage to make difficult decisions – not the easy or quick one – but the decisions that were the right ones, and in the best interest on the student, or the faculty member, or the Neag School,” says DeFranco. “As dean, on many occasions when I was faced with making a difficult decision I would speak with Mary Anne about the situation, knowing that she would always give me the advice I needed to make the right decision.”

“I want to personally thank Mary Anne for all that she has taught me over the years,” he adds. “On behalf of the students, faculty and staff in the Neag School, we thank her for all that she has done to advance education, set a high standard for all to emulate, and make the Neag School a much better place.”

Schwab echoes Doyle’s accomplishments as an administrator. “Under her leadership, grant productivity soared. International programs expanded, and the Neag School hired many wonderful new faculty. She ran the Reading and Language Arts Center, and she has been a leader in reading and many students have benefited from that work,” Schwab says.

“While these professional commitments are noteworthy, it is even more important to note that Mary Anne is a wonderful person. She’s honest and always on top of situations. Fair, yet demanding, and always positive and hardworking. She is a wonderful scholar, mentor, teacher and colleague, we will miss her very much in the Neag School. But we are also very happy for her as she moves into this new chapter in her book of life.”

View a photo album featuring Mary Anne Doyle here