Retired educator makes $1 million gift to Reading Recovery® program

Profile of Gay Su Pinnell, Professor Emerita at Ohio State University

Feb. 15, 2023 — DENTON — An Ohio educator and philanthropist who has devoted her career to reading and literacy enhancement efforts has given a $1 million gift to support Texas Woman’s Reading Recovery program.

The gift, made by Ohio State University Professor Emerita Gay Su Pinnell through her charitable fund, The Columbus Foundation, will support an endowed chair position and activities in TWU’s Reading Recovery/Descubriendo la Lectura program, a literacy intervention effort for first-graders who have difficulty learning to read and write.

After the program was piloted in New Zealand and grew to a national implementation based on research, Pinnell helped launch the Reading Recovery program in North America in 1984. Ohio State holds the trademark to Reading Recovery, and Texas Woman’s is one of two universities in the United States with centers to support the training of Reading Recovery university trainers.

Several studies have chronicled the effectiveness of the non-profit Reading Recovery program, which has served more than 2.3 million first-graders in North America since it was launched.
“This is a significant gift that will support teaching, research and service, and it truly underscores the core of our mission: building knowledge and expertise to benefit young learners,” said Betsy Kaye, an associate professor and director of Texas Woman’s Reading Recovery program.

Kaye added the gift will help expand the program’s reach to more districts and teachers, “which means we will be able to serve more students.”

Young student reads with guidance

Moreover, the gift will increase opportunities for the Texas Woman’s program to become a global leader in literacy for children, Kaye said. The university’s Reading Recovery program was the first to add faculty training for bilingual teachers.

Pinnell’s connection to Texas Woman’s came about after she forged a friendship with longtime Texas Woman’s educator Billie J. Askew, who was among several faculty members who trained at Ohio State to work in the Reading Recovery program. Askew, who founded the Reading Recovery program at Texas Woman’s and was instrumental in expanding its reach across North America, passed away in September 2021.

To recognize Askew’s contributions to Reading Recovery, Pinnell’s gift established the “Dr. Billie J. Askew Endowed Chair.”

“This gift is to honor the work of Billie Askew and to carry on Billie’s work in teacher leadership,” Pinnell said. Although methods for improving reading may change over time, it is important that there be ongoing research and development aimed at improving children’s literacy, she added.

Pinnell said she hopes her gift and the continued success of the program will inspire other gifts to continue funding research and development in the program.

Media Contact

Matt Flores
Assistant Vice President, University Communications

Page last updated 4:35 PM, February 15, 2023