The late Dr. Coolie Verner (1917-1979) is one of the nation’s and international community’s founding fathers of adult education. He earned his M.A. and Ed.D. from Columbia University in 1951 and 1952, respectively. Dr. Verner spent two years studying art in Paris as well as one year (1952-53) at the University of London as a Fulbright Scholar. He was a Canada Council Fellow in 1968 and 1969. Between 1942 and 1947, Dr. Verner served in the U.S. Army, advancing from the rank of Private to Captain.
Dr. Verner’s illustrious career in adult education began at the University of Virginia (1947-50) where he taught adult education classes and was a part of that University’s Extension Division. From 1953 to 1961, he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Adult Education at Florida State University. He established the fourth graduate program in the United States at Florida State University, a degree program that has produced many of the United States’ top scholars, administrators, and practitioners in adult education. Professor Verner joined the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia in 1961, where he established the first graduate program in adult education in Canada. Under Verner’s leadership as Chair and Professor, this degree program expanded and quickly became one of the international community’s premier programs in adult education, attracting scholars and students from across the world. He remained Chair of this program until his retirement in 1977. Dr. Verner died on October 12, 1979, at his home on Mayne Island, British Columbia.
Dr. Verner’s contributions to the field of adult education continue to impact adult education as an academic discipline and professional field of study and practice. The founding of the two notable graduate programs ranks high among his contributions. His leadership in establishing and serving as the first Chair of the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE) in the American Association of Adult Education (AEA-USA), and the role that he played in helping this Commission develop and implement a research agenda is indeed noteworthy. His vision for CPAE and the significant role that it could play in the development of adult education as an academic discipline and as a field of study is evident in the body of knowledge about adult education developed through the research of the Commission’s past and current members.
In addition to his more than 170 published works in Adult Education, Dr. Verner initiated, nurtured, and contributed to the development of two of the field’s large seminal published works, Brunner’s Overview of Adult Education Research and the CPAE’s black book, Adult Education: Outlines of the Emerging Field of University Study. In 1964, he coauthored with Alan Booth an introductory textbook, Adult Education, which had five printings. Verner, perhaps more than any of the founding fathers, was committed to the development of adult education as an academic discipline. His writings, speeches, and other public pronouncements emphasized the need for consistency and clarity in defining the concepts and processes that are embodied within adult education as both a discipline and professional field of practice. Verner’s contributions to creating and organizing a systematic body of knowledge about adult education are an important and lasting legacy to the field.
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