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
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”
(www.greenglobs.net) 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
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
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
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 http://www.myelomacrowd.org/mcri/,
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.