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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Salute to Service: Anne Graves and Caren Sax Leave Lasting Legacy

Dr. Anne Graves and Dr. Caren Sax
Dr. Anne Graves and Dr. Caren Sax.

The San Diego State University College of Education salutes two longtime professors who will retire this summer. Dr. Anne Graves, professor and former chair of the Department of Special Education, and Dr. Caren Sax, professor and chair of the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE) both made significant impacts on their departments and our college.

Dr. Anne Graves 

A former special education teacher, Graves received her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1984, and held two previous academic positions before joining the SDSU faculty in 1990. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1992 and then to Full Professor in 1994. 

Her research has focused on supporting struggling readers — particularly students who are culturally and linguistically diverse and dual language learners. Her work afforded her opportunities to present at conferences nationally and internationally and to work with some of the best scholars in the world. Grants from the federal government allowed her to expand her research and teacher preparation efficacy. 

“A highlight for me was working with and publishing with brilliant professors at SDSU such as Margie Kitano, Alberto Ochoa, Pat Cegelka, Ellie Lynch, Rena Lewis, Ian Pumpian, Laura Hall and Regina Brandon.” Graves said. 

She added that she is most proud of the opportunities she had to prepare teachers in scientific methods for teaching reading and writing. She wrote about this extensively in her book “Sheltered Content Instruction: Teaching English Learners with Diverse Abilities” (with Dr. Jana Echevarria), which saw five editions and sold about 250,000 copies. 

“Instilling a sense of urgency in future teachers about timely literacy development is very fulfilling because of the great need in the community for best practices,” Graves said. 

Graves served as chair of the Department of Special Education from 2006-13, guiding the department through the implementation of new credentialing standards, an accreditation review and the development of a new induction program. 

“It is not an exaggeration to say that there may not be a Department of Special Education today if it were not for Anne Graves,” said Dr. Laura Hall, professor and current chair of the Department of Special Education. “Today we acknowledge and appreciate the many ways Anne has had an impact on the lives of so many and wish her much good fortune as she steps away from SDSU.” 

In retirement, Graves said she hopes to work with local schools in early reading and writing support. 

Dr. Caren Sax 

Caren Sax joined the SDSU faculty in 1990 as a lecturer before becoming an assistant professor in the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education in 1999. She was elevated to associate professor in 2002, full professor in 2005 and was elected department chair in 2008. 

Coming to SDSU with a background in special education, Sax brought expertise in providing transition services to students with disabilities as they exited the K-12 system into adulthood. She is particularly proud of prioritizing the use of assistive technology in ARPE, including designing an interdisciplinary Certificate in Rehabilitation Technology with SDSU’s College of Engineering. She also co-designed the Disability and Society course (GS420) — which now enrolls more than 1,000 students per year — and has been an advocate for accessibility and Universal Design across the SDSU campus. 

Sax has had a global focus to her work, leading study abroad programs, teaching students in COE’s rehabilitation counseling program in Palau and elsewhere in the Pacific and providing training and professional development in Europe and Asia on transition services for youth with disabilities. 

“When I was first hired to work on several three-year grant projects, I had no idea that I would still be here 31 years later,” Sax said. “I have been able to pursue my interests and passions with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met, who pushed me to question our systems and practices and figure out how to improve them. What I’m most proud of are the hundreds of master’s and doctoral students I’ve worked with over the years who have gone on to be successful in their careers and continue to give back to our programs and the community.” 

Dr. Fred McFarlane, professor emeritus and former chair of ARPE, called Sax “a committed and passionate educator and scholar.” 

“She is a lifelong learner, demonstrates creativity in her teaching and scholarship and constantly identifies the uniqueness and strengths of each person she touches,” McFarlane said. “Her competency as an educator is exhibited in her teaching, leadership as the department chair and the project director on multiple research, education and technical assistance efforts. Caren’s beliefs, values and convictions about education and learning serve as a model for all of us.” 

Sax will continue working on grant projects as director of the Interwork Institute, and she will continue teaching distance programs for rehabilitation counseling in the Pacific. She said she also plans to do more writing, sailing, traveling and spending time with those she cares about.