School of Education dean taught many lessons

Dean of the University of Miami School of Education Sam J. Yarger, who helped shape the school into one of the top programs in the nation during his 13 years as dean, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 68.

Yarger dedicated his life to education, from his early days in the late ’50s as an elementary school teacher, school psychologist and elementary school principal in Michigan to serving as dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and associate dean at Syracuse University. He joined the UM community in 1992 as professor and dean, concentrating in the areas of educational psychology and teacher education.

At the School of Education, Yarger led the graduate program to a ranking as one of the best in the nation. For the past few years, U.S. News & World Report ranked the School of Education among the nation’s best graduate programs; in 2005, it was ranked 14th among private universities. It placed fourth among the top 50 graduate schools of education in terms of the amount of research funding generated per faculty member.

“Sam Yarger embodied all that we endeavor to be at the University of Miami-he was a passionate educator, a dedicated researcher and a skilled administrator,” President Donna E. Shalala said in a statement. “He recognized the importance of teacher education beyond the classroom and ensured that our graduates were not only prepared for their role in the classroom but as active partners with students, parents and administrators.”

Under Yarger’s leadership, the School worked closely with Miami-Dade Public Schools to pair education students with classroom teachers and expose them to real life situations in the classroom.

Yarger is survived by his wife, Sally and children, Mark, Daniel and Jennifer, a sister, Ida May Tompkins, and four grandchildren.

Flags at UM will fly at half mast this week and next in Yarger’s honor.

A viewing was held Thursday at Van Orsdel Funeral Home in Kendall. There will be a memorial service in Yarger’s honor at 11 a.m. today at the Storer Auditorium.

Natalia Maldonado can be contacted at