Retired WSC faculty dies

Kadra Sommersted, Staff Writer

Dr. Daryl Wilcox, a former Wayne State College special education faculty member for more than 20 years, passed away on Jan. 10 at the age of 87.

Wilcox had spent 59 years as an educator, 11 years at the primary level, eight years at the secondary level, and 39 years at the collegiate level, with her last 20 years at Wayne State College. She retired in spring 2013 from WSC.

“I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Wilcox when I was hired,” said Laura Franklin, associate professor in the School of Education and Counseling. “She was on the search committee that ultimately hired me, and she started grilling me from the phone interview to the face-to-face with these very important, timely questions about best practice in education.”

Franklin said that from the first phone interview she remembers thinking, “Wow this is a human being that has been in education and knows how it’s evolved for many, many years.”

Casey Hurner, assistant professor in the School of Education and Counseling and chair of the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership, was a student of Wilcox’s.

“I knew Dr. Wilcox in my undergraduate program at Wayne State College,” Hurner said. “She was my adviser, and assisted me through my entire K-12 Special Education degree. She was a mentor during that time.”

Hurner said Wilcox was a great mentor and a great advocate, teaching her many different things about special education within public school systems. Wilcox also showed her how to become an advocate for students.

Brook Jech, office assistant in the School of Education and Counseling, recalled Wilcox’s community service.

“I kind of knew her back when I worked for Haven House,” Jech said. “She was on the board there.”

Jech described Wilcox as a compassionate person who gave her a card after Jech and her husband adopted their youngest son, and said she was always planting flowers.

Wilcox was a long-time board member for Haven House in Wayne.

“She was pretty big on the law, and understanding special education law,” said Hurner. “As well as putting it to practice. Making sure it’s not something that is arbitrary, but something that really is needed and practiced in school systems.”

Hurner said she was also lucky to have Wilcox as her adviser during her master’s program at WSC, guiding Hurner through her K-12 special education master’s program as well.

“During that time, I got to know her at a little bit different level, as I was a current teacher and practitioner,” said Hurner. “So she got to teach me even more skill sets. She came to my classroom, and assisted some of my students in my classroom.”

Wilcox also hired Hurner as an adjunct professor when she finished her master’s degree.

“I got to work with her as a colleague after that time,” said Hurner. “And I got to learn and grow even more.”

Hurner worked closely with Wilcox for a combined eight years with schooling and working as an adjunct. She said she had met her in 1998, knowing her for 20 years.

Franklin knew Wilcox for a number of years as well.

“I have known her since I came here, so I have known her for six years,” said Franklin. “I worked for one year and she retired.”

Franklin said she thinks it’s cool that she got to be on the search committee for the position that Hurner was hired for, which was formerly Wilcox’s position.

“Nobody replaces Dr. Wilcox,” Hurner said. “I took the position that she held.”

Hurner and Franklin said that when Wilcox found out they were hiring Hurner for her position, she said she could retire in peace.

“She was very, very nice and very kind,” said Franklin. “The students that had her obviously felt like they were seen by her, and that she valued them as people.”

She said that she was ahead of her time.

“She taught in the ’60s,” said Franklin. “She went to protests. She was inclusion before inclusion was inclusion.”

“She was teaching when Brown vs. Board of Education, separate but not equal,” said Hurner. “She was one of the fighters and one of the advocates to stop segregation, to bring everybody together.”

Hurner said that Wilcox spoke of the stories in class, and remembered how she thought it would have been cool to have lived in the era and to have fought the fight, providing social justice for all populations.

Both Hurner and Franklin agreed that Wilcox was a “powerhouse of knowledge and advocacy.”

“She specifically focused on reservation schools,” said Hurner. “She did a lot of grant work (and) grant writing.”

Hurner said this allowed the students to have hands-on activities for math and curriculum.

Both Hurner and Franklin referred to Wilcox as a “powerhouse advocate,” though she had a kind demeanor.

“She was intimidating,” said Franklin. “You weren’t going to mess with her, but you really weren’t going to mess with her students. She had their backs.”

Wilcox was born Sept. 6, 1930. She was a Wayne State College professor in the School of Education and Counseling for more than 20 years. She was awarded the Nebraska Association of Special Education Supervisors (NASES) Distinguished Service Award at a conference, titled “The Breakthrough Coach and Communicating for Efficiency,” by her former student, Stuart Clark of ESU No. 1, on April 20, 2012, in Lincoln.

Wilcox earned degrees at the University of Kansas, Pittsburg State University, University of Kansas and Baker University. Her teaching interests included learning styles, early childhood education and special education. Her research interests included mild and moderately handicapped students’ needs, learning disabilities and styles of learning.

She served on a variety of college and departmental committees, and as an adviser for the Student Council for Exceptional Children student organization.