Friday, March 11, 2011

Dr. Lawrence Sipe, R.I.P.

Today has been a sad day in many respects. The crisis in Japan is weighing heavily on my mind. You really cannot take a single moment of your life --or the lives of your loved ones-- for granted. Then, this evening, that message was acutely reinforced when I learned that my adviser at school passed away today. Dr. Lawrence Sipe was not only my adviser, but my favorite professor at UPenn. He was the first professor I contacted when I was thinking of applying to UPenn. I took his class, Picturebooks and the Practice of Literacy, in my second semester and I'm currently taking his Young Adult Fiction class. I can't believe I won't see him in class next week!

Last Summer, I was often in his office, arranging the picturebooks on the shelves and talking to him about Caribbean children's literature. He was so interested in Caribbean children's books and I often showed him books I was reading. I still have the packet of pretty origami paper he gave me when I was tidying his desk that Summer. He was a reader of my blog and expressed a lot of interest when I told him I had started Anansesem.

Dr. Sipe's areas of expertise lay in children's and young adult literature, early childhood education and emergent literacy. He was an avid reader of children's and young adult books and dedicated his life to studying the ways children develop literary understanding as they talk about and respond to books. He has certainly inspired me on a professional level. I don't think he even knew how much I valued him being my adviser.

Dr. Sipe was also such an amiable little man. He always had a smile and a compliment ready for you. He was quite a character in the School of Education and in class often made us laugh because of the witty, off-the-wall or sarcastic things he would say. GSE students often talked about his children's and young adult literature classes as being the "fun" classes offered at the School. It still hasn't fully registered to me that he is gone. I know many of us at school will be mourning his death and sharing memories of him in the upcoming days.

I am once again reminded to be thankful to God for life. I have to trust that despite the painful things that happen, there is always reason to be hopeful and much to celebrate in life. My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Sipe's family and with the people of Japan.

Summer Edward is a Children's Literature and Publishing Consultant. She holds an M.S.Ed. degree in Reading, Writing, Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania and is the recipient of a Highlights Foundation Scholarship for promising children's writers and the School of the Free Mind's inaugural Way of the Book Honor Award given to artist-authors demonstrating long and sincere commitment to changing the world through children's books. Learn more about her here .


Diane Browne

Hi Summer
I'm sorry to hear about the passing of your advisor. He seemed to have been a very interesting person. I guess little comfort as that may be, you can say that at least you were able to share your love of our books with him.


I'm sorry for our loss. I say 'our' because I believe we've lost something that the majority of us didn't know we had.


beautifully said

Anouska Kock

My condolences, Summer
He sounds like a really cool guy. I'm sorry he has passed.


Hi darling,

I knew how much you admired Dr Sipe and just how much you looked forward to working with him and learning from him. I am so sorry that he has passed away. While I know that you will have to come to terms with his passing, remember that there is more waiting for him ..and for you.




Thank you for posting this. I was his doctoral student and just found out this morning. What a thoughtful tribute.

Summer Dula Edward, RYT 200, M.S.Ed.

Thanks Mummy. Love you too.

Summer Dula Edward, RYT 200, M.S.Ed.

Hi Angela, I was so shocked when I heard. Last week before I left for Spring break, he taught us class as usual and that was the last time I saw him. I know many of us are thinking about him and will miss him.


Thank you so much for posting this- I feel just as strongly- he was (is) my advisor and dissertation chair- a kinder, sweeter, more patient man, I have never known. I'm in shock still; your tribute to him was wonderful.

Joanna Robertson

I heard the news this morning through the NRC listserv. I found your posting as I was trying to find out more. I knew Dr. Sipe through professional conferences and through reading his work extensively. As a fellow children's literature person, I so admired and idolized all he did. I also understand what you are all going through on another level. While I was working on my doctorate, Peter Mosenthal was my advisor and mentor and he died right before my second year, also very suddenly and incomprehensibly. Hearing of Dr. Sipe today has brought back all those memories, as well. I think of Peter all the time and know what you are all feeling today.


Dr. Sipe was my advisor too, and I loved him. My school started the Lawrence Sipe Award last year. The k-3 students give it to the picture book whose text and illustrations have the best "synergistic" relationship for the year. I am so sad I can't share with him the five finalists--or the book that will win when they vote in May. The literacy world has lost someone who really understood children, valued their words and understanding, and the vital role books could play in their lives.


Thanks for posting this beautiful tribute, Summer. I didn't know Dr. Sipe well, but I also treasured his smile and quiet dignity as I moved around the 3rd floor of GSE for all those years. I'm just glad he inspired and worked with so many great students who can carry his work and love forward. Bless you for the work you do, and remember that Dr. Sipe will live on as long as we remember him.


A beautiful tribute to a man who meant so much to so many.

Summer Dula Edward, RYT 200, M.S.Ed.

Thanks everyone. You've given me much encouragement in the past few days. A loss like this is so much more bearable in the context of a supportive and empathetic community. Clearly Dr. Sipe lived his life well since he touched so many lives. Cheers.

Elizabeth D

Dr. Sipe was my advisor as well, approximately 4 years ago. I, too, worked as his graduate assistant and spend days and hours helping to organize his office. I just found out today about his passing and I am truly saddened. GSE and the educational world as a whole have lost such an amazing man with so much to offer. His classes were challenging, and yet so rewarding at the same time. Dr. Sipe will be truly missed.

Barbara Joseph

Dear Summer,

My condolences on the passing of your adviser Dr. Sipe. I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sipe--I was at GSE more than 20+years ago. A wonderful place! But his influence will guide you. You are doing great work for Caribbean children's Literature. Keep on you have an avid reader in me.
Barbara Joseph/T&T


Thanks Barbara!

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