Emery Stoops, alumnus, philanthropist, professor emeritus of the USC Rossier School of Education and 1993 recipient of the USC Distinguished Emeritus Award, died on March 25 in Playa Vista, Calif. He was 106.
“Emery Stoops was not only a highly regarded educational practitioner, he was a true visionary,” said Karen Symms Gallagher, who holds the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean’s Chair in Education at USC Rossier. “He understood how a strong school of education with a clear mission could positively change the playing field for teachers, students, researchers and administrators. The USC Rossier School will be forever in his debt.”
A longtime supporter of education in general and of USC in particular, Stoops taught at USC for 17 years. After retiring in 1970, he embarked on a second career in estate planning, life insurance and tax-sheltered annuities. He served as a co-founder and president of First Penn-Pacific Life Insurance Co. and also was a top-selling financial adviser and estate-planning consultant for the Aetna Life Insurance Co.
In 1994, Stoops and his wife, educator Joyce King Stoops, created a $1.25 million trust fund to establish the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Chair in Educational Administration at the USC Rossier School. The chair was to be held by a senior scholar who was widely recognized for contributions to the study, administration and understanding of educational institutions.
“USC has been an important part of our family for decades,” Stoops said in making the gift. “We feel it is not only a privilege but an obligation to support its academic excellence. We don’t (just) believe that the school of education can be the best in the world: We know it.”
In 1996, an additional $2.25 million gift from the Stoopses – together with a $250,000 contribution from the Rita H. Small Charitable Trust – endowed the chair in perpetuity. Now called the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean’s Chair in Education, the position is held by Gallagher.
“Of the countless acts of generosity that will help advance the university’s academic mission in coming years, few have the capacity to shape the future as decisively as a gift endowing a dean’s chair,” President Steven B. Sample said at the time of the endowment gift. “We are committed to building quality and institutional integrity for the long term – not just for the years, not just for the decades, but for the centuries ahead. The Stoopses’ generosity and lifetime of service to the (USC Rossier) School of Education have moved us closer to achieving these goals.”
In addition to the dean’s chair, the Stoopses’ contributions have established USC’s Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Education Library and 22 scholarships for USC Rossier graduate students, among other gifts to the university. The Stoopses have considered USC their “academic and spiritual home.”
Robert E. Ferris, professor emeritus at the USC Rossier School, said: “I had the pleasure of knowing Emery as a graduate student, as a superintendent of schools who sought his advice and as a professional colleague after my appointment to the University of Southern California faculty. Emery was always generous with his time, support and encouragement. His legacy is an inspiration.”
Stoops lived the classic American success story, rising from humble rural beginnings to self-actualized accomplishment.
He grew up in Kansas, attended a prairie school and went on to graduate from the University of Colorado in 1930. From 1928 to 1932, he grew wheat on 1,500 acres of land he owned in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. During the Great Depression, he came to USC to work on a master’s degree in education and to seek a teaching position.
“The one thing I knew was that I wanted someday to work for a university,” Stoops once told an interviewer.
After a fruitless job search, however, he returned to Kansas and taught in a rural school. Eventually he worked his way back to Los Angeles and earned an Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision from USC in 1941.
Stoops taught English, speech and social studies at high schools in Whittier, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, and he held administrative posts in Los Angeles County public schools before joining the USC faculty in 1953 as a professor of educational administration and supervision.
During his distinguished academic career, he served as an educational consultant to the U.S. Office of Education, the California State Department of Education and numerous school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also was a visiting professor at a number of universities, including New York University, the University of Alaska, the University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Denver, the University of Hawaii, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington.
The author or co-author of more than a dozen books and 60 magazine articles, Stoops tackled topics ranging from teacher recruitment to classroom discipline. His professional publications include the Handbook of Educational Administration: A Guide for the Practitioner, Elementary School Administration and Guidance Services: Organization and Administration. He also wrote several general-interest books, including Psychology of Success (in which he recommended, “Never retire!”) and the novels Prairie Pioneers and The Homesteaders.
Joyce King Stoops completed her Ed.D. at USC in 1967 and met the twice-widowed Stoops at her final oral exam, where he was substituting for another professor. The couple married two years later.
Stoops was a member of the USC Associates, the university’s premier academic support group. As part of USC’s 125th anniversary celebration in 2005, the USC Rossier School of Education hosted a special luncheon honoring him – at age 103 – as the university’s oldest living alumnus. In June 2006, he also took part in the USC Emeriti Center’s H. Dale Hilton Living History Project, which produced a videotape of him recounting his life and career at the university.
Over the years, Stoops chaired the board of directors of the Westwood Hills Christian Church and was a contributing member of the Chiro Collegium of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, a member of the literacy committee of the Pacific Palisades Rotary Club and a member of the past-presidents council of Phi Delta Kappa International. He is also the namesake of the Emery Stoops Lecture Series, established in 1962 by the USC chapter of Phi Delta Kappa.
Stoops is survived by three children from previous marriages, including daughters Emelyn Ruth Jackson and Eileen C. Gardner and son Emerson Stoops, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned on the University Park campus.
More stories about: Obituaries