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Passing: Donald Graves, Founder of UNH Writing Process Laboratory

October 6, 2010

Donald Hiller Graves, 80, founder of the Writing Process Laboratory at UNH, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, after a lengthy illness. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held Oct. 16, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at the East End Community School, 195 North St., Portland, Maine.

Graves started at UNH in 1973 in the early childhood program. In 1976 he founded the Writing Process Laboratory, where he remained until retiring in 1992. His research with elementary children at Atkinson Academy gave him the inspiration to write his first book, entitled "Writing: Teachers & Children at Work."

He was internationally known for his work in children's writing. His deep conviction that children wanted to write pervaded his teachings and radically changed expectations for what young children could accomplish if they were treated as writers. His abiding faith in teachers' ability to make sound instructional decisions also inspired countless educators to revolutionize their teaching.

Graves published a total of 26 books in 25 years, not only professional texts, but also a book of poetry dedicated to his grandchildren. He was a memorable speaker, known for his storytelling skill, his ability to mimic student voices and his human warmth.

Graves received a bachelor's in English from Bates College in 1952, where working in the dining hall, he met his wife of 56 years, Mary "Betty" Elizabeth Lewis. After spending four years as a member of the United States Coast Guard, they moved to Fairhaven, Mass., where he began teaching at the East Fairhaven Elementary School in 1956. He became principal in 1958 and obtained his master's in education in 1959 from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.

He then moved with his family of five children to begin a new career in educational ministry at the Hamburg Presbyterian Church in New York. In 1973 the University at Buffalo awarded him his doctorate in education.

He is survived by his wife Betty; daughter Marion Graves Chang and her husband Cheming; daughter Alyce Graves; daughter Caroline Graves Hodsdon and her husband Jack; son William Graves; daughter Laura Graves and her husband Bill Needelman; brother George Graves and his wife Joan; eight grandchildren, and his first great grandchild, expected in the spring.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Telling Room (The Donald H. Graves Fund), 225 Commercial St., Suite 201, Portland, ME 04101, www.tellingroom.org.


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