A master teacher's legacy

Dr. Eveleen Lorton’s planned gift to the School of Education and Human Development continues a life of service to teachers and higher education. SEHD alumni and faculty remember her life and legacy.
A master teacher's legacy

When Eveleen Lorton started teaching at the University of Miami in 1966, she could have hardly predicted the impact her career would have on future generations of aspiring educators.

During her time at the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), Lorton established herself as a master teacher and pedagogical pioneer, later accruing the experience, connections, and network of distinguished educators to establish the Glazer & Lorton Writing Institute at the University in 1984.

A collaboration of the University and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Glazer & Lorton Writing Institute — which celebrated its 38th successful two-week session this past summer — offers instruction in the teaching of writing with a focus on research-backed methodology, experimentation, and personal exploration to encourage curiosity and nurture critical thinking skills in students.

Lorton passed away in the fall of 2021, but her commitment to educators will continue thanks to a planned gift establishing a scholarship fund for students planning careers in teaching, an endowed honorarium to be awarded annually to a faculty member for outstanding teaching, and an additional gift in support of the work at the Glazer & Lorton Writing Institute.

Lorton’s gift is part of the University of Miami’s Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history, the $2.5 billion campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial.

“This gift is game-changing because it helps SEHD to strengthen its programming, rewards excellence in teaching, and invests in aspiring educators looking to pursue a career in teaching, attracting educators from more diverse backgrounds in the process,” said Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the School of Education and Human Development. “Dr. Lorton is irreplaceable, but she nurtured such a culture, ethos, and pedagogical model during her time at the Writing Institute that it can continue her mission of inspiring educators for many years to come.”

Joanie Cobo, B.A. ’92, co-director of the Writing Institute and assistant principal at the Vineland K-8 Center, recalls first attending the Writing Institute in the 1990s as a recent graduate hoping to pursue a career in teaching.

Cobo had agreed to volunteer at the summer session at the Institute, she said, to earn “a much-coveted ticket to the lectures.” She found her first job using connections from the workshop, but she also found a mentor and close friend in Lorton. Cobo describes Lorton as an educator who made “students feel as if they could be geniuses and teachers feel like they could do anything.”

Cobo remembers Lorton as someone who “sought to make sure that we are continually evolving to help others and empower ourselves to find and impart joy through our profession, and it gave her joy to see students and teachers succeed.” Cobo says the gift also demonstrates that Lorton “understood the collective urgency to make sure that teachers had what they needed to instruct.”

Shawn DeNight, M.A. ’94, Ph.D.’94, a facilitator at the Writing Institute and teacher at Miami High School, said Lorton’s gift “really captures her spirit.” DeNight describes Lorton as compassionate; someone who “always looked for a way to tell people how important they were to her or how much she loved them.”

Even so, friends and colleagues from the Writing Institute were surprised when they began receiving hand-written letters filled with kind thoughts, fond memories, and well-wishes from the late Dr. Lorton in the weeks following her passing.

DeNight recalled the day he received his letter, saying, “It was like it came from heaven. Since all of us at the Writing Institute were like her extended family, it felt like she was speaking to us from the grave."

Dick Smith, Lorton’s nephew, said of the master teacher: “From a young age her spirited conversations and acts of service expressed her joy-filled and loving heart.  Eveleen loved people and made certain they knew it. Truly, Eveleen’s life song was sung in tune with her heart and mission for the betterment of others.  Eveleen’s heart and mission are reflected beautifully in her most generous gifts and years of dedicated service to the University of Miami.”

Cobo echoed Smith’s sentiment, saying the main thing to remember about Lorton is this:

“She always thought of what she could do for others, whether it was with handwritten notes, donating lunches or instructional materials for teachers, sending fresh flowers, or donning a bright pink suit in the Florida heat to welcome teachers with a hug on their first day at the Writing Institute. It was a life of service. She was raised by a pastor, so I think she grew up understanding the idea of dedicating oneself to others and brought that with her into academia.”

Lorton’s planned gift will further the values she spent her life cultivating at the Lorton & Glazer Writing Institute of the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, among them curiosity, joy, and service.