It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of our founding board member, and longtime dual-language learner advocate, Dr. Ruby Takanishi. The early education leader and research pioneer passed away peacefully earlier this month. Her legacy within the field and the extended SEAL community inspires our collective responsibility to carry it forward.
Dr. Takanishi’s values and passion were evident throughout her lifelong work. She was an extraordinary leader in the field of research who quickly earned a national reputation as a champion of early childhood education. Once quoted saying “primary education today reflects the social and economic divides in our country,” her sharp, evidence-based approach to tackling systemic barriers in education challenged policy-makers to reimagine public school systems nationally. Notably, Dr.Takanishi led the launch of the preschool through 3rd movement in 2003 as the president and CEO of the Foundation for Child Development.
Ruby played a critical role in SEAL’s pilot, replication, and growth into a nonprofit organization. During the preliminary years leading to SEAL’s development, Dr. Takanishi was one of the leading experts tapped by the Sobrato Family Foundation. It was Dr. Takanishi’s early education policy research that helped set the stage for the SEAL model. As chair of the 2017 National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures, Dr. Takanishi helped ensure SEAL was included as a spotlight within this meta-analysis. Furthermore, it was a great honor that Dr. Takanishi became a founding SEAL board member.
Dr. Takanishi has been recognized by the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association (Division of Children and Families), and the Society for Research in Child Development for her contribution to connecting research with public policies. In 2014, the American Education Research Association honored her with its Distinguished Public Service Award. Most recently, she served as a senior research fellow in the Early and Elementary Education Policy division at New America in Washington, DC.
Dr. Takanishi’s accolades are only a small testament to a lifetime of achievement. Ruby was both brilliant and generous, she acted as a mentor to many and gave all of herself to colleagues and friends alike. Even in her final months, she never missed an opportunity to act as a bridge of communication, connection, and inspiration. Her legacy both propels and inspires us to live up to her vision of educational equity for all children, especially our youngest dual language learners. While we mourn this enormous loss, we are up for the challenge – she wouldn’t want it any other way.
Our deepest condolences go out to Ruby’s family and loved ones in this time of immense challenge. Ruby’s friends and family have created a website to celebrate her life. Check it out here.