College of Education "Then & Now"

Thursday, December 6, 2007


St. Cloud State’s choice in 1962 for the school’s first dean of education, Irvamae Applegate, became an internationally acclaimed advocate for global excellence and equal rights in teacher education. But to the students of what was then St. Cloud State College, Applegate was their own tireless champion.

Dean Applegate

Dean Applegate

From the time then-St. Cloud State President George Budd appointed Applegate to head the newly designated School of Education, the Beulah, N.D., native was a pacesetter and tenacious fighter for students on her own campus and beyond. Believed to be the first woman education dean in the nation, she transformed teacher education at St. Cloud State.

"She literally designed the College of Ed Building," said Gordon Mortrude, who was assistant dean under Applegate. "She built St. Cloud State into one of the best colleges of education in the country."

In 1966 Applegate expanded her leadership role when she was elected president of the National Education Association (NEA). During her one-year term as head of the nation’s largest professional employee organization, membership exceeded one million for the first time.

Applegate’s reputation for integrity and advocacy for equal opportunity also expanded, Mortrude said. "One morning I got a phone call for Irvamae from Hubert Humphrey asking me, ‘Is the first lady of American education in?’" Mortrude also recalled an incident when Applegate’s principles were put to the test during a visit to a southern state in support of civil rights in teacher education. When a foe of integration threatened that she wouldn’t make it out of the state alive, Mortrude said, "Irvamae rode out on the floor of the car. Her integrity and courage touched my heart."

Each year Applegate’s memory is honored by the NEA through the Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award. The prize is given as part of the organization’s annual Human and Civil Rights Awards named for pioneers and leaders in human rights, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Cezar Chavez.

While NEA president from 1966-67, Applegate was an executive committee member of what is now Education International and worked tirelessly to promote international understanding and to involve young people in world peace efforts, according to the NEA. In 1966 she was quoted in Time magazine in support of early efforts to build a national "Compact for Education," saying: "There’s potential for both good and evil – let’s give
it a chance."

On campus Dean Applegate’s leadership and the aid of federal grants brought innovation and progress, including significant expansion of the rehabilitation counseling program to train more professional counselors for community service. The Special Education Department was opened in 1968, and in summer of 1968 a pilot training project developed in conjunction with inner-city schools of Minneapolis made St. Cloud State the only state college to participate in specialized training of this kind.

Dean Applegate had a reputation not only as a creative and energetic leader, but as a big-hearted friend to students. Mortrude said students often would go to her office with their problems. When they needed a little help, he said, "she would head for her purse."

After her death in 1973 at the age of 52, the result of a brain aneurism, Dean Applegate’s husband, Duane, continued her legacy of caring by setting up a loan fund with the St. Cloud State Foundation, which remains a source of support to students in St. Cloud State’s College of Education.


This fall a pilot class of 13 college administrators made history at St. Cloud State University. The pioneering students in the university’s first doctoral program are preparing to meet an anticipated critical need for new or replacement higher education administrators.

COE professor Imbra

COE Professor Christine Imbra, director of St. Cloud State's first doctoral program, welcomes the pilot class of students working toward a doctor of education degree in higher education administration.

The decision to offer the applied doctorate in higher education administration in the university’s College of Education was made after a market analysis by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. The
study indicated Minnesota will need 130 new or replacement post-secondary administrators annually through 2012. The need goes beyond state borders as well, since 370 such positions are projected to be open in the five-state area each year through 2012.

"I’m very proud of the fact that the first doctoral program was initiated in this college," said Kate Steffens, dean of the College of Education.

The members of the charter class, all fulltime professionals already in higher education, can expect to have their doctorates in nine semesters, or three years, said College of Education Professor Christine Imbra, director of the program she developed with Assistant Professor Daniel Macari.

"I think the doctoral program at St. Cloud State is a great opportunity," said Herbert King, a student in the program and director of the Multicultural/International Student Services Center at Century College, a two-year MnSCU institution in White Bear Lake. "The cohort model, which meets every other weekend, along with the program’s design and curriculum fit my needs, and this will be an integral part in helping me reach my goal of becoming a senior level administrator in higher education."

The doctorate complements the St. Cloud State College of Education’s introduction of a master’s degree in higher education administration three years ago. Forty-seven students are in that program, preparing for entry- and mid-level positions of leadership at two-year and four-year higher education institutions.

"The potential for applied research at the doctoral level is clearly aligned with my vision for greater outreach and stronger partnerships within the community," Steffens said. "I look forward to a future where our doctoral candidates are conducting research, side-by-side with faculty, in the field and having a significant impact within our schools, community and other educational organizations."

Since its inception as the Third State Normal School in 1869, St. Cloud State has been advancing education in Minnesota. Representatives in the first Minnesota Legislature recognized the benefits their new state’s citizens would derive from having formally educated teachers and made this only the ninth state to have professional training institutions for public school teachers.

In 2005 state lawmakers voted to authorize state universities to offer applied doctorate programs, a decision that will have far-reaching effects on education in Minnesota. That vote allowed St. Cloud State to become the only state institution besides the University of Minnesota to offer a doctorate in higher education.

The College of Education is exploring additional doctoral programs in community counseling, behavior analysis and educational administration, and other colleges are developing proposals for doctorates in applied psychology, audiology
and nursing.


- Marsha Shoemaker

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