Cal Lutheran Alumni

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Lessons Learned

When Judi Quentmeyer ’69 Irvin first set foot on the California Lutheran College campus she was fourteen years old. She tagged along with her older sister, Kathy, who ended up attending Cal Lutheran during its opening year.  The road to campus was not yet paved and the chicken coops that would become classrooms were being refurbished. Little did Judi know at the time that she would spend her college career at Cal Lutheran.

This year, the Cal Lutheran Alumni Board of Directors is honoring Dr. Irvin with the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award in acknowledgment of her outstanding career in improving literacy in classrooms across the country and her leadership as head of the nonprofit National Literacy Project.

Irvin credits California Lutheran University with helping to build a firm foundation for her career. The support and encouragement from faculty, small class sizes and the excellent foundation she received as a psychology major prepared her academically and gave her the self-confidence to pursue a master’s degree, teach middle school for eight years, and earn a Ph.D. in education from Indiana University. As she said, “At CLC people cared about my academic performance.” And that made all the difference.

Now professor emerita at Florida State University, where she was a professor of educational leadership and policy studies in its College of Education, Irvin has taken leadership roles throughout her career. She’s chaired the Research Committee for the National Middle School Association and served on the Commission on Adolescent Literacy of the International Reading Association. She’s also written and edited numerous books, chapters and articles on adolescent literacy. But perhaps her most significant work is a set of books developed as part of a Carnegie Corporation-funded project--Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy: An Implementation Guide for School Leaders, Meeting the Challenge in Adolescent Literacy: Practical Ideas for Literacy Leaders and Taking the Lead on Adolescent Literacy: Action Steps for Schoolwide Success. These three books are a guide for school and district leaders wanting to develop their own school-based literacy action plans. To this day, the biggest compliment she can get on one of her books is that “we know you have taught and experienced what we experience.”

Irvin currently serves as executive director of the National Literacy Project (NLP), an organization she and her colleagues founded in 2000. The organization helps schools and districts across the country improve literacy by integrating rigorous reading and writing instruction with content-rich subject matter. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, NLP is currently involved in implementing literacy-rich modules of instruction in civics education.

Dr. Irvin’s 97-year-old mother will be attending her award ceremony, along with her sister Kathy (who came to CLC in 1961), her brother Jeff Quentmeyer ’71 and his wife Christine (Wood ‘71) Quentmeyer.  Also attending are her former CLC roommate, Marlene Rosselli ’69, and the friends who nominated her for the award, David Gunn ’67 and his wife Linda (Shoemaker ’67) Gunn.

In accepting the alumni award, Dr. Irvin has some advice for current students: “Don’t forget that the years fly by – so don’t waste a moment with regrets and what-ifs. Live your life with commitment and purpose…..welcome feedback from others on your work... (and) when someone takes time to criticize your work, say ‘thank-you.’”  

For Irvin, the years she spent at Cal Lutheran were pivotal for her as a learner, an eventual scholar, a writer, a reader, a thinker—and now as 2017 Outstanding Alumna.