by Myra Segal
November 8, 2011

Lenore Wolfe, a long-time early childhood leader, friend, and advocate, passed away October 7, 2011, at age 95. Lenore was a role model, mentor, and leader for many of us in the early childhood community. She touched many lives and remains with us as an example of how one person can truly make a difference.

Lenore was one of the individuals responsible for influencing the state of New Mexico to offer early childhood programs in the public schools. She established the Head Start program at Laguna Pueblo (which recently won a national award) and helped develop bilingual early childhood education on the Navajo Reservation and throughout the pueblos. Lenore worked with more than 18 tribal programs in many communities to integrate tribal and traditional values into their curriculum. This work even took her to Nepal to help develop a similar program.

Among her many pursuits, Lenore served on the APS School Board, was one of the founding members of the NM Association for the Education of Young Children, was a board member for NM Voices for Children, worked at the NM Public Education Department, and retired at age 93 from consulting with the city of Albuquerque’s child development centers. It was only fitting that she was honored on her 90th birthday with a reception inside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, where she spent many hours advocating for funding and to establish standards for public school kindergarten education.

Lenore spent her long life working to improve the rights of others, following a path set down by her father in Oklahoma. As a college student in New York City, she was a labor organizer. She started her advocacy in early childhood education in the 1960s in New Mexico. She earned both her B.A. and M.A. in elementary education at UNM, and began her career as a preschool teacher and as an instructor at the Navajo Nation through UNM’s Navajo Study Bilingual Teacher Training Program.

Lenore was also known for her menagerie of birds and reptiles at her home, which was often a destination for various elementary school field trips. In her 50s, after her Nepal experience, she began traveling the world. In her 70s, she became a docent at the Rio Grande Zoo. In her 80s, she was a docent at the NM Museum of Natural History and, in her 90s, she worked with many child development efforts.

Only ten days before her death, she said, “It’s been a good life.” She indeed taught many people how to live.

Lenore Wolfe’s life will be celebrated at the UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel on Saturday, November 12, 2011, at 4:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the NM Association for the Education of Young Children’s T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program for training teachers for early childhood education (NMAEYC, 2201 Buena Vista SE, Suite 42, Albuquerque, NM 87106).

We will miss you, Lenore.

Myra Segal is the Deputy Policy Director at New Mexico Voices for Children with a focus on early childhood policy

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