LSU Professor, William Elder Doll Junior: A Life Celebrated
Esteemed scholar, beloved professor, and faithful friend, Dr. William Elder Doll, Junior passed on Tuesday, December 27, 2017, at the age of 86. At his core Dr. Bill Doll was a lifelong learner and educator whose passion for play and sense of possibility inspired those who knew him.
Bill attended Cornell University where he studied philosophy and history, graduating with a BA degree in 1953. His Master’s in philosophy was conferred by Boston University in 1960, and his PhD in education by the Johns Hopkins University in 1972. Bill began teaching at LSU in 1989, designed the Holmes Elementary Program, and founded the Curriculum Theory Project which he led until he left LSU. His contributions to LSU were so vast and innumerable that a conference room and a scholarship were named in his honor following his retirement from the university. The William E. Doll, Jr. Archive – preserving his papers and correspondence – is also housed in the LSU Library.
Dr. Doll’s accomplishments were many; he published four books, founded Curriculum Camp, an annual graduate student conference at LSU, and traveled the world as an international scholar. His 1993 book, A Post-Modern Perspective on Curriculum, was translated into several languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew. In China, it was ranked in the top ten among highly cited foreign books regarding pedagogy. At age 73, his accolades garnered him the 2005 AERA lifetime achievement award.
In the midst of all his accomplishments, to those who knew him, he is most remembered for his zest for life, his passion for others, his easy laugh, and his signature bow ties.
Dr. William Pinar, a friend, noted scholar, and co-founder of the Curriculum Theory Project at LSU reflected on his mentor’s life and eulogized him, saying, “I am among those he has mentored, and those who know his engaged and committed interest in ideas not his own can share with me the profound sense of gratitude I feel to Bill for being in my life.” Dr. Pinar went on to say that Dr. Doll was “a person who was always present, at all levels of meaning, welcoming every single colleague as a long-term friend.”
Dr. Petra Hendry, one such welcomed colleague and long-term friend, reflected on Dr. Doll’s vibrancy and ability to encourage innovative thinking. “He believed that learning was the process of evoking awe,” said Dr. Hendry. “He was always open to new ideas and committed to the success of each of his students. He never came to the table with negative assumptions and believed that everyone had the potential for brilliance.”
Dr. Stephen Triche, a former student, mentee, and friend of Dr. Doll’s, also remembered the joy that was shared in Dr. Doll’s classroom with graduate students. “He exuded a joy whenever he was around his students and he worked tirelessly for us.” Dr. Triche recollected the times that Dr. Doll went to bat for his graduate students, encouraged them, and worked for their benefit. Now, in his own classroom, Dr. Triche says he often asks himself, “How would Dr. Doll do this?” His sense of play was often seen in his classroom. His students were often involved in dynamic lessons and ideas were expanded upon until new meaning was discovered. Dr. David Kirshner remembers one such lesson in which fifth grade students were invited to explore the possibilities of fractions. Dr. Kirshner recalled, “It was obvious in looking at him that Bill was entirely in his element.” He reveled in the fact that, within the span of a few minutes, Dr. Doll extended meaning to his students and opened their minds to vast and imaginative prospects.
All that knew Dr. Doll knew his generosity, his joy, and his passion. In these ways, his memory will live on forever in the hearts and minds of his students, colleagues, and friends. His countless contributions to his field, as well as countless contributions to those he loved, serving to inspire and ignite a sense of wonder.