Remembering Professor Sharon Dugdale

Dr. Sharon Dugdale was a professor and the first Associate Dean for the School of Education, serving on the faculty from 1990 to 2008. Our community was deeply saddened by her passing in April 2016. Below, we share the obituary written by her family.

Sharon Dugdale passed away peacefully at home on April 28th with her husband at her side after a three-year struggle with Multiple Myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

She grew up in West Virginia, the daughter of loving parents.  Her father was a chemical engineer and a square dance caller who introduced western style square dancing to the area.  Her mother, who was an excellent seamstress, energetic, organized, and good at math, became a tax accountant and ran an H&R Block Tax office after her children grew up.  Both of her parents loved singing and dancing and were members of various choirs for most of their lives.

Sharon graduated from high school as a National Merit Scholar and enrolled at Michigan State University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. degree in Elementary Education.

Sharon began her career as a teacher in Michigan, where she taught junior high school mathematics and was the Chair of the Mathematics Department.  She later taught elementary school in Illinois and after obtaining a Master’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Illinois, she joined the courseware development team at the Computer-based Education Research Lab (CERL) in 1972 to work on the PLATO system, an innovative network of interactive, graphics-based computer terminals intended for use in education.  In 1972, she designed Darts, where students shoot darts at balloons tied to a number line.  Darts was a pioneering breakthrough that dramatically demonstrated the potential of interactive graphics-based computers to provide students with experiences not possible on the page of a textbook.  In 1973, she was promoted to design and develop (with David Kibbey) an entire fractions curriculum.  This curriculum showed very impressive gains in student understanding of fractions at a time when researchers were questioning whether any approach could improve elementary school student achievement in fractions.

She started developing software for microcomputers when they were first introduced, serving as Principal Investigator on several development grants to design mathematics courseware for secondary schools.  Her most well-known and widely-used software is the award-winning “Green Globs and Graphing Equations” ( which she produced with Dave Kibbey.  Like Darts, her creative design of Green Globs was a pioneering breakthrough, this time showing the potential of computers for education in algebra and graphing. Green Globs was first used during pilot testing with high school students in 1980, and it is still in use today, 36 years later, in high schools and middle schools world-wide – quite an impressive run for any software program in such a rapidly-evolving field.

After completing a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, she relocated to UC Davis, where as a Professor of Education she pursued research interests in teaching and learning of mathematics, the impact of technology on mathematical content, teaching methods, and learning strategies.  She provided leadership to a wide range of academic programs, including service as Chair of the Ph.D. Program in Education and as the first Associate Dean of Education for six years during the establishment of the UCD School of Education.

Sharon enjoyed a rich and rewarding career that connected her with innovative colleagues world-wide.  She was widely regarded as a pioneer in computer-based learning.  She received speaking invitations, and frequent inquiries, from all continents except Antarctica and traveled widely to share her work, knowledge and insights into how students learn.

Following her retirement from UC Davis in 2008, Prof. Dugdale rekindled her enthusiasm for dancing and found great joy in square, round, and ballroom dancing with her husband of 29 years.  They were frequent participants in the afternoon dances at the Capital Dance Center in Rancho Cordova and the Ballroom of Sacramento.  They also enjoyed a renewed interest in wilderness hiking, particularly in Northern California.  She especially enjoyed and treasured the opportunity to reconnect with childhood friends and renew lifelong friendships.

As Professor Emerita, she took a lower profile in academia, though she continued to respond to requests for consultation to projects and contributions to books, particularly concerning the early development of educational applications for graphics computers.

In addition to a distinguished academic career, Sharon was a lifelong clarinetist and recorder player, a jewelry maker, dress designer, gardener, artist, and lover of classical music, pets, and all living things.

She will be remembered for her great integrity and fairness, her ability to solve difficult problems in simple and elegant ways, her generous spirit, and as a gentle and supportive soul, focused on helping others achieve their goals.

Family members wish to thank the doctors and staff at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento for their excellent care and support throughout the past several years.

She is survived by her husband, her brother Rick (Joanne), and their children, Jill (Adam), Kevin (Julie), and Chris (Cara).

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Sharon’s name to the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative, a patient-driven non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for multiple myeloma, or plant a tree or a flower or feed a bird.  Sharon loved the world of nature to the end. Her fondest wish was for everyone of every culture to savor the joys of each day.

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