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In This Issue


New education fellowship honors the people who most inspired Kay Gibson — her parents

Joan and Donald Henrichs
Joan and Donald Henrichs.

Kay Gibson’s passion for teaching was inspired by the best — her parents. Both were teachers. Her father left a career as an engineer for a utility company because he felt a calling to teach. He pursued a bachelor’s degree in education at Wichita State by taking night classes while working full-time.

“In fact, I got my degree in elementary education during the same time he got his,” recalls Gibson, now an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in WSU’s College of Education.

Her mother taught kindergarten students for 30 years at Bryant Elementary in Wichita. It wasn’t until Gibson was well into adulthood that she learned how her mother created individualized reading instruction for her students long before curriculum differentiation became a recognized practice for gifted children.

Their names were Joan and Donald Henrichs.

Now, as Gibson prepares to retire from a lifetime of teaching — the last 16 years at Wichita State — she leaves as part of her legacy an endowed scholarship for graduate students in special education at WSU. The fund, technically called a fellowship, will be named in her parent’s honor.

Kay Gibson ’70, ’83, will retire next May from her position as associate professor in the College of Education.
Kay Gibson ’70, ’83, will retire next May from her position as associate professor in the College of Education.

“They were very influential in my life and in nurturing my interest in learning and teaching,” says Gibson, who earned her doctorate from the University of New England in Australia. “They dedicated themselves to teaching and improving the minds of children. Putting this fellowship in their name allows me to honor their contributions.”

It also allows her to give much-needed assistance to graduate students in the College of Education who want to advance their knowledge of special education.

“There are very few graduate scholarships in the College of Education, and none in the curriculum and instruction department,” Gibson says. “I’ve met so many students who are very passionate about working with gifted children, and often they face serious financial hardships in order to get their degree.”

Gibson is graduate coordinator for special education in the curriculum and instruction department. She has specified that her fellowship be awarded with a preference to students specializing in gifted education. If there are no qualified candidates in that area, other applicants in special education will be considered. Gibson also has established a deferred gift with the WSU Foundation, specifying that it be used upon her death to support the Joan and Donald Henrichs Fellowship in Special Education.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Wichita State in 1970, Gibson spent the early part of her career teaching in Australia. She returned to Wichita in the early 1980s, got a master’s degree from WSU in 1983, and worked as a gifted resource teacher in Wichita public schools until 1989, when she and her family returned to Australia. Gibson moved back to Wichita, her hometown, in 1998 to help care for her ailing mother, who died in 2003. Gibson’s father died in 2011.

Even after teaching for 20 years, Donald Henrichs never lost his passion for educating kids. In retirement, he first worked as a substitute teacher for the Wichita school district, then devoted many hours to volunteering at Riverside Elementary School. He is remembered there with a plaque thanking him for his dedication.


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