Six Colleagues Retire from School of Education

Ben Edmonds, Wendy Marencik, Susan Whiston, Frank DiSilvestro, Katy Pastel and Erna Alant celebrate their retirement from the School of Education.

Six colleagues working in the School of Education announced their retirement this year. Their achievements to the school and its staff, faculty and students were celebrated with a gathering in March. Susan Whiston, Katy Pastel, Wendy Marencik, Ben Edmonds, Frank DiSilvestro and Erna Alant worked to improve education around the world through their various fields of expertise and collectively gave over 100 years of service to Indiana University. We thank them for their many years at the school and wish them well in retirement!

Dr. Susan C. Whiston, Professor, Counseling and Educational Psychology

Dr. Whiston has received three degrees from the University of Wyoming-- a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in counseling and guidance, and a PhD in counselor education with a minor in psychological assessment.  Her career at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she rose from Assistant Professor to full Professor and then Department Chair.  In 2000, Susan began her career at Indiana University Bloomington where she has excelled in teaching, research, and service in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Dr. Whiston has distinguished herself in the field of vocational psychology, and was recognized by the prestigious John Holland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career and Personality Research from the Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17 of the American Psychological Association.  The Society of Counseling Psychology and American Psychological Association also recognized Dr. Whiston as a Fellow.  Her expertise in vocational and career research means that she has had the privilege to share her knowledge globally as evidenced by the many presentations she has been invited to deliver at conferences around the world in places like China, Japan, Turkey, and Australia. 

Dr. Whiston’s contributions to the field of vocational psychology and counseling include more than 60 refereed journal articles, a bestselling textbook, numerous books chapters, and countless conference presentations. 

Dr. Whiston has always made time for her students, colleagues, department, and various state, local, national, and international professional organizations.  She has served as program director of the master’s program, and training director of the doctoral program during her time as a faculty member.  Her steadfast leadership, incredible work ethic, commitment to mentoring students, and scholarly productivity are a model for all to follow.  As a researcher who has studied the challenges of work-life balance, this tribute would not be complete without mentioning that Dr. Whiston accomplished all of this while raising three beautiful children.  Jen, Michael, and Matt are the light of her life, and they clearly adore their mother.

Despite her many outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Whiston is a humble journeyer whose genuineness and grit make her a beloved colleague.  Retirement just means a new adventure awaits.

Katy Pastel, Art Director, Marketing and Communications

Katy Pastel has been with us since January of 2001 when she was hired as a Sr. Graphic Designer for the Center for Innovation and Assessment which was housed in the Smith Research Center.  During her time with the CIA, Katy worked on the ICPAC project and contributed to the design of over 400 publications a year generated by this huge project.

In 2007, just as the project was winding down, the school received funding to create the P-16 Center, and Katy began to serve as Art Director both for that center and another school project, Learn More, as well as began to work closely with Dean Gerardo Gonzales and former Communications Manager Chuck Carney on special design projects that would arise from time to time.

These occasional projects began to happen more and more frequently, and the school began to understand how important these marketing and design skills would be to our success.  Katy’s work became increasingly important as we looked for new ways to market and brand the important work that we do here.  In total, Katy has given over 17 years of her life here at IU to creating meaningful design that supports the field of education and our school.  Her work can be seen in our corridors, in our outreach to our alumni, and in hundreds of brochures and flyers used throughout the school.  We are so thankful for her service to the school, and all her hard work to help make us all look good.  Congratulations and best wishes!

Dr. Wendy Marencik, Clinical Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction

One of Dr. Wendy Marencik’s most noteworthy aspects of her contributions is how connected they all are to the generous, loving, and intelligent person that she is. Wendy is homegrown. She is native to Indiana and has made Bloomington her home for many years.

Wendy is dedicated to preparing teachers who can teach children with special needs effectively. She knows that teaching is complex and multi-faceted and must be informed by knowledge about one’s self, and encourages her students to become self-aware and reflective is part of her role.

Wendy’s commitment to students extends past the classroom. On multiple occasions, she has gone beyond the call of duty to aid students who were experiencing personal and professional struggles. As a special educator she knows the importance of the individual, understands her students as individuals and works to bring out the best in each of them. These personal qualities are reflected in the students’ glowing course evaluations and in the comments they make on a regular basis.

At the end of each academic year, Wendy hosts a gathering for student teachers in the Teaching All Learners (TAL) program and almost all of the seniors attend this event.  Wendy has worked to improve the TAL program. Accomplishments include: 1) working with other TAL faculty to complete a thorough curriculum mapping of the program; 2) devising and implementing a plan to extend student teaching to a full year; and 3) supporting workshops to help student teachers prepare for completion of their edTPAs.

Wendy’s commitment to public schools is manifest in the work she does with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, including publishing letters to the editor arguing in favor of strengthening public schools so that they can meet the needs of all students.

Wendy has managed all this while maintaining a demanding teaching load and raising a family. She has raised three girls, one of whom went on to be a teacher. Now that her youngest is in her first year at UCLA, Wendy and her husband, Jim, have more time to play ping pong and put together jigsaw puzzles.

As a school champion, a teacher educator, and colleague, we will miss Wendy a great deal.

Dr. Ben Edmonds, Director, Secondary Transition to Teaching Program, Curriculum and Instruction

Ben Edmonds came to Indiana University as a special education doctoral student in 2005 shortly after retiring as an assistant superintendent as both teacher and administrator in Ohio. In 2009, Ben joined the faculty of the IU School of Education. 

In May of 2013, Ben was inducted into IU’s  Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET). Induction into FACET is prestigious, comprised of a community of faculty who are committed to excellence in teaching.

Ben has taught assessment courses for the Special Education Area every semester and, has lent his valuable and much-needed wisdom gained both from his former life as a Director of Special Education, Director of Personnel, and Assistant Superintendent in public school systems, and as a scholar.  When the position of Associate Dean for Teacher Education came open in the SOE a few years ago, several of his peer faculty members enthusiastically nominated him for the position.

Ben has chaired a number of committees and has served multiple terms as a member of the School of Education Policy Council, the Graduate Student Council, the Faculty Annual Review committee only to name a few.  He also served on a search committee for the C&I Department Chair, the Otting Endowed Chair for Special Education, and the department administrative assistant. If that were not enough, even as his retirement looms, he offered to chair one last search committee, to find a clinical assistant professor of special education.

Ben’s contributions to special education program faculty discussions have been unfailingly calm, reasoned, deliberative, intelligent, honest, and thoughtful. He understands how to work effectively in groups such as ours – with people who have diverse interests and perspectives and strong opinions. He not only has a firm sense of how colleagues and students should be treated, but brings personal experience and a rather unique set of competencies when applying these qualities in practice.

We wish Ben a retirement full of grandbabies, tractors, gardening, and special times with his partner, Carol.

Frank DiSilvestro, Associate Professor, Instructional Systems Technology

Frank DiSilvestro is a graduate of Rutgers University, receiving his undergraduate degree in political science and his master’s degree in counseling. He then served in the U.S. Army medical service before continuing his graduate education, earning a doctoral degree in counseling and guidance from IU in 1973.

Frank joined the IU School of Continuing Studies as an assistant professor in 1976. He served in different capacities, including associate director, in the school’s Division of Extended Studies.  During his tenure with the division, the program won 27 national awards for outstanding courses, more than any other university in the country. During apartheid, he also led a team of IU faculty to South Africa in 1986 under a Ford Foundation grant to allow gifted black South Africans access to higher education through IU’s Independent Study program.  Frank distinguished himself as a very active faculty member and has published numerous articles related to lifelong learning, taught graduate-  level courses, and participated in numerous service activities.

Frank became chair of the School of Continuing Studies Graduate Program in Adult Education in 2009.  Frank served as coordinator of the Adult Education graduate program housed in the Department of Instructional Systems Technology. He led the program to develop a Certificate in Adult Education as well as a doctoral minor in adult education. Frank was awarded the School of Education Trustees’ Teaching Award in 2014 and in  2016, he was awarded the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) Malcolm Knowles Award for outstanding adult education program leadership.

IU colleagues have described Frank as unfailingly kind, generous, thoughtful, positive in outlook, and the best listener ever claim many IU colleagues.

Frank has received recognition for his many achievements, but what is most important to him is his family. He has been married to Ruth for 44 years and they have three children and 13 grandchildren. Frank looks forward to spending more time with his family, continuing his consulting, and pursuing hobbies including painting, reading, and golf.

Dr. Erna Alant, Professor and Otting Endowed Chair in Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Professor Erna Alant earned her bachelors, masters and PhD in the field of Speech- Language Pathology at the University of Pretoria and joined the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1978 before being appointed as a clinical tutor, lecturer and eventually professor, at the University of Pretoria.

In 1990, she founded the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) at the University of Pretoria.  In 1995 the CAAC received the Education Africa Presidential Award from Nelson Mandela for its work in South Africa, received the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1998 for the project “Communication for life,” the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities award in recognition of her international contributions in the field and in May 2017 she received the Neville Cohen Award from the University of Pretoria, South Africa for her contribution to the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

In 2009, Dr. Alant accepted a position as Professor and Otting Endowed Chair of Special Education within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Indiana University.  She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Special Education as well as in the Department of Speech and Hearing, acted as Coordinator for the doctoral program in Special Education, and in 2011-2012.

Professor Alant’s impact at IU has been felt in the energy and commitment through which she promoted understanding of the field of Special Education beyond traditional academic realms. She was instrumental in establishing the AAC-in-Action project, a collaborative venture between Monroe County Community School Corporation, Speech and Hearing Sciences and IU Special Education faculty.

Dr. Alant has been a consistently supportive mentor for doctoral students and is to be particularly applauded for her work with international graduate students, with whom she developed strong rapport for and she also developed a reputation for her contributions to the professional development of women faculty, both those who were pre-tenured and those in leadership roles.

In conclusion, the Curriculum & Instruction Department recognizes Dr. Erna Alant for her strong advocacy for those who may be marginalized, both in society and in higher education. She has been very warmly regarded as a colleague and She will be sorely missed for her warmth, generosity, passion, guidance and wisdom.