Once a sixth-grade teacher in Oakland, UCSB professor of Education Michael Gerber has dedicated the last 33 years to special education research, and last week an anonymous donor gave a $2 million estate gift to create the first endowed chair in the Gevirtz School in his name. The Michael M. Gerber Chair in Instructional Innovation and Technology for Exceptional Children will establish a highly prized faculty position that is expected to greatly enhance the program’s desirability.
“I am so stunned. The main thing that comes to my mind is what great possibilities it creates,” Gerber said. “I’m excited for that.” An active faculty member for decades in the graduate school, Gerber is known as a leader in the fields of special education, high risk, and disabilities. He said this new position will increase the school’s visibility and allow it to recruit exemplary scholars at the nexus of innovation and technology.
Across campus, UCSB has several endowed chairs that were created by philanthropic gifts, which set up faculty positions with salaries paid by the state. This marks the first endowed chair for Gervirtz School, which boasts more than 30 years of research in the field of special education.
The donor, who chose to remain anonymous, said most people who toil in the field of special education and high risk do not get the recognition they deserve. “I hope that we will be able to help continue the fine work Mike has been able to do at UCSB and we look forward to a warm, long relationship with the Education Department,” the donor said.
Gerber said his wife, Kathy, who has been a teacher and learning specialist at Mountain View and El Camino elementary schools, has been his touchstone throughout his career. “She has a very strong sense of practice,” he said, adding she raises her eyebrows when he has a crazy idea.