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Avis L. Sebaly

March 22, 2010

Avis L. Sebaly, a widely recognized area educator, died March 11 in Kalamazoo. He was 95.

Sebaly, also known as "A.L." and as "Mike," came to WMU in 1945. He retired in 1985 as professor emeritus of education and professional development after 39-1/2 years of service to the University.

Throughout Michigan and nationally, Sebaly was known for his efforts to improve teacher standards and professional development.

As president of the Michigan Association of Teacher Educators, he drafted and guided the implementation of the state's first Professional Standards Act in 1961. He also drafted the constitution for the association and served as the organization's liaison with public school administrators and teachers.

Sebaly initially came to WMU as a student on an athletic scholarship, majoring in history and earning a bachelor's degree in 1933. He also attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a master's degree in 1940 and a doctoral degree in 1950.

Before returning to WMU, Sebaly was a social worker in Kalamazoo County; teacher and coach at Southeastern Junior High School in Battle Creek, Mich.; and superintendent of the Level Park Public School System near Battle Creek.

He then took the position of boys' advisor for WMU's former University High School, and later served as assistant director of the school. Sebaly, who was appointed a professor of education at WMU in 1954, was granted a leave of absence from 1956 to 1958.

While on leave, Sebaly served as national coordinator of the Teacher Education and Religion Project of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. "Teacher Education and Religion," the book he edited from his time with the project, was among the first scholarly works during the Cold War to address the contentious issue of teaching about different religions in public schools and the place of religion in the general education of teachers.

Sebaly was named director of the directed teaching center in WMU's College of Education upon returning from his leave. He subsequently served stints as chair the Department of Directed Teaching; director of the University's Job Corps training program; chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation; and acting associate dean as well director of special projects for the College of Education.

During his tenure at WMU, Sebaly also chaired two major national accreditation reviews of the University and held leadership positions in several professional organizations. Those leadership posts included serving as national president of the Society of Professors of Education, state chair of the Teacher Education and Professional Standards Commission, and a member of the State Blue Ribbon Committee on Professional Practices Act of Teachers of Michigan.

WMU's Alumni Association recognized Sebaly as the University's most "popular professor of education" in 2003. He also has been honored for his extensive community service in Kalamazoo, a lifelong spirit of volunteerism that was planted during his employment as a social worker during the Depression.

Memorial service

A remembrance service will be held 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 22, in the Kiva of Friendship Village of Kalamazoo.

Memorial contributions may be made through WMU's Development Office to either the Sebaly Scholarship for theatre or education students, or to the Life Enhancement Department or Employee Scholarship Fund at Friendship Village of Kalamazoo.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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