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UW College of Education Creates Named Professorship to Support Early Childhood Education

January 25, 2023
man and woman at an event
Mary Ellbogen Garland, right, president of the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, interacts with Scott Thomas, the John P. “Jack” Ellbogen Dean of UW’s College of Education, during an event last year. (UW Foundation Photo)

The John P. Ellbogen Foundation has provided $500,000, which has been matched dollar for dollar by the University of Wyoming Foundation, to establish the John P. Ellbogen Foundation Professorship in Early Childhood Education.

“The Ellbogen Foundation is thrilled to strengthen UW’s expertise and capacity to prepare and support excellent early childhood educators,” says Becca Steinhoff, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation executive director and chief operations officer. “We know that these educators have a lasting impact on young children’s growth and learning at a critical stage of their development, and that they improve the quality of early childhood programs in Wyoming and beyond.”

The John P. Ellbogen Foundation is a longtime partner of the UW College of Education. The foundation has supported UW’s early literacy efforts, countless university faculty and students, and the university’s first-ever named academic deanship -- the highly regarded John P. “Jack” Ellbogen Deanship.

Throughout his adult life, Jack Ellbogen believed in the importance of a high-quality education, and he established numerous programs at UW and throughout Wyoming to emphasize the importance of quality teaching. He was a firm believer that a classroom teacher is the single most important factor to student learning.

UW also recognizes the importance of early childhood education and is investing in such a program. A new bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education (with a minor in family and consumer sciences) is under formal consideration by the UW Board of Trustees this year.

Additionally, the university has allocated a new tenured faculty position for the growing early childhood education program at UW. This position, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation Professorship in Early Childhood Education, is the first of many initiatives of the College of Education to advance early childhood education across Wyoming.

“The John P. Ellbogen Foundation Professorship will benefit Wyoming in countless capacities,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “The University of Wyoming has benefited greatly through our partnership with the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, and this most recent gift will be pivotal in the success of unifying leaders of education across the state.”

Once hired, this new faculty member will become a partner with the Wyoming Early Childhood Outreach Network (WYECON), which facilitates collaboration and strengthens ties with school systems, Head Start centers, home-based child care providers and early childhood development centers. WYECON delivers professional development opportunities for early childhood education.

“The College of Education is pushing forward with new programming in early childhood education, and the timing of this gift is extraordinary,” says Scott Thomas, the John P. “Jack” Ellbogen Dean of the College of Education. “The Ellbogen Foundation professor will bring intellectual leadership to our academic programs, WYECON and UW’s Early Care and Education Center. This permanent commitment will ensure that generations of students receive a world-class experience at UW.”

This opportunity has allowed the Ellbogen Foundation to connect its support with the College of Education’s growing foundation in early childhood education. Moreover, a named professorship will allow UW to attract top-tier talent in early childhood education.

“The Ellbogen Foundation continues to support Wyoming students and educators through steadfast philanthropy,” says John Stark, president and CEO of the UW Foundation. “This remarkable gift will have far-reaching impact, not just within the university but throughout our state.”

This gift, in conjunction with the generosity of many philanthropic supporters, is part of a remarkable period of growth for the College of Education. The UW Trustees Education Initiative came at a pivotal point in the college’s history and has helped leverage support for UW’s educator preparation programs. The Ellbogen Foundation Professorship in Early Childhood Education is yet another key indicator of a bright future for the next generation of Wyoming’s teachers.

“This gift, combined with UW’s investment, is an amazing opportunity to advance our work in early childhood education across Wyoming,” Thomas says.

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