Obituary: Herbert J. Walberg

For more than 33 years, Herbert J. Walberg served as a teacher and research professor in education and psychology beginning at the former University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, now UIC, while continuing to gain a worldwide reputation as a pioneer of educational research.

Herbert Walberg and was in the College of Education
Herbert J. Walberg

During his longstanding career, Walberg gained universal attention for his use of meta-analysis and other pioneering approaches to synthesize educational research. He was best known for his signature “Walberg’s Productivity Model,” a well-respected theory he developed on educational productivity.

Walberg died Feb. 6. He was 85.

Before earning his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he received his bachelor’s degree in education and psychology from Chicago State University and his master’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Illinois.

After receiving his PhD, he held research posts at the Educational Testing Services and the University of Wisconsin. He served as a professor at Harvard University before moving back to the Midwest when his son, Herbert J. Walberg III, was born.

He started his career at the “Circle Campus,” as it was then called, in 1970, where he was an associate professor of education and professor of human development and learning as well as a research professor of urban education, according to his curriculum vitae. He retired in 2003, but he continued to work in his retirement at UIC as an emeritus university scholar.

Timothy Shanahan, UIC distinguished professor emeritus, met Walberg in 1979, when Shanahan was interviewing at the UIC College of Education for his position at UIC. The two became longtime colleagues.

He said Walberg had “a very active mind” and was a dedicated teacher who worked with many UIC doctoral students who went on to have prestigious careers. Shanahan said Walberg was very highly regarded and was an accomplished writer and researcher whose work brought positive recognition to UIC and the College of Education.

“During the years he was there, he accounted for a very large percentage of the citations that the faculty of the College of Education received,” Shanahan said. “He made us look good.”

William Schubert, UIC distinguished professor emeritus, said he met Walberg in 1975, when Schubert began at UIC. He remembered how helpful the older professor was to him and other young faculty members beginning their careers at UIC.

“He was always nice to his students as a doctoral adviser,” Schubert said. “He would support them in many ways and encourage their work and was an example to other faculty members.”

He also pointed to Walberg’s impressive number of books and article citations in many journals as a testament to his work ethic and his passion for educational psychology. Walberg wrote or edited over 75 books and published more than 425 articles.

“He certainly contributed a lot to the field,” Schubert said.

Walberg was a distinguished fellow at Stanford University, serving on the Koret Task Force and as an adviser and consultant for the Vanderbilt University Center for School Choice. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Statistical Society in London, the American Psychological Association and the Australian Association for Educational Research.

Walberg also was a founding member of the International Academy of Education, headquartered in Brussels, where he edited a booklet series on effective educational practices, distributed by the United Nations International Bureau of Education to over 4,000 education officials in more than 120 countries, said Jennifer Walberg, his daughter-in-law.

“Truly an international scholar, he gave invited lectures in Australia, Belgium, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Venezuela and the U.S., as well as many other national and international venues,” said Jennifer Walberg.

Supported by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, he was one of the pioneers in comparative research in Japanese and American schools.

For the White House and the U.S. Department of State, he organized a radio series and book about American education, which was distributed to over 70 countries. He was an adviser to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and to government officials on education in Australia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and other countries.

Walberg frequently testified before U.S. congressional committees, state legislators and federal courts and was appointed by President George W. Bush as a founding member of the National Board for Education Sciences. He chaired and served on many boards including the Beck Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the Foundation for Teaching Economics.

Known for his love of jokes, music and his generosity to those in need, Walberg also loved writing and publishing in education and psychology, according to his family.

He was sought out for speaking engagements and advisory roles and appeared in interviews from local, national and international syndicates including television. He was admired and loved by his many students, colleagues and friends. Many of his former doctoral students became dear friends, his daughter-in-law said.

The funeral is private, but a memorial celebration is being planned. Email with questions.

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