Thursday, June 16, 2005

RICHARD ALM / 1921-2005

UH teacher of schoolteachers
founded Reading Clinic

For more than 30 years, Richard Alm was the schoolteachers' teacher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Richard Alm: The Minnesota native taught at the UH College of Education

"He was inspirational, in that he is a good human being who would just bend over backward to help people," said Kelvin Young, 70, a former student and lifelong friend who considered Alm his mentor.

Alm died June 5 at Maunalani Nursing Center. He was 83.

Young, with Alm's guidance, went on to earn his doctorate and later became director of the reading clinic that Alm founded to help reading- impaired youngsters.

Alm taught at UH-Manoa's College of Education from 1951 to 1985, chairing the department of curriculum and instruction, which trains schoolteachers. He helped start its Doctor of Education program.

He also began the Reading Clinic during the mid-1960s to assist children from public and private schools with reading problems. The clinic, which ran for about 30 years, also provided teacher training at the College of Education.

Alm's two sons, Robbie Alm, senior vice president of public affairs at Hawaiian Electric Co., and Circuit Judge Steve Alm, say their father taught them many life lessons.

"He helped me to treat people fairly," Steve Alm said. "He's the most honest person I know -- a very decent, kind human being, totally without pretension," who believed "people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

He credits his parents, who believed that helping others is its own reward, with setting the example for his brother and him.

Alm is described by family and friends as a sociable man who told great stories and loved a good joke and funny story.

He authored and edited numerous publications, including English textbooks.

Alm considered his 10-year editorship of the English Journal, a prestigious academic journal for English teachers, one of the highlights of his life.

The University of Hawaii picked the Minneapolis native, a protege of famed educator Dora B. Smith, to teach at the College of Education.

Alm and his wife, Julie, sailed to Hawaii in 1951. They decided to stay and raised their two sons here.

Steve Alm said his parents believed Hawaii, with its different races, was the perfect place for their sons to grow up.

Julie Alm was also on the College of Education faculty, and son Robbie recalled how his parents began a long tradition of Christmas Day brunch for faculty who did not have family in Hawaii.

Born Aug. 26, 1921, the son of a butcher, Richard Alm was the first in his family to go to college. He graduated as valedictorian from a Minneapolis high school and received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota. During World War II he was stationed in France as an army sergeant with the 12th Armored Division.

After the war, Alm and his wife taught in the Seattle public school system, and he was helping to supervise a teacher intern program at the University of Washington when he was tapped for the UH position.

Alm spent his retirement years traveling and volunteering, including visiting the dying through Hospice Hawaii.

"We run into people who have had my father as an instructor or my mother as a counselor," Steve Alm said.

Private services were held.

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