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Archive for Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Friend of education dies at 67

June 29, 2004

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During her 37 years at Kansas University, Nona Tollefson made her mark on education in the Sunflower State.

Tollefson, a KU professor of psychology and research in education, died Saturday after a brief battle with cancer.

She researched testing and assessment methods and then went out to help school districts improve in those areas.

"She was great at translating the theory, the esoteric, into something very understandable," said Andy Tompkins, commissioner of the Kansas State Department of Education.

"She was such a great resource. If we had a question on some issue, we'd always get Nona on the phone."

Tollefson traveled around the state and worked with teachers on their testing, grading, monitoring and evaluating of students. She published several journal articles and made presentations at academic conferences all over the nation.

"She was a great advocate for the use of tests in prescribed ways," said John Poggio, KU professor of psychology and research in education. "She felt they had a place, a purpose and if used wisely, were a real advantage in bettering the education of students."

Tollefson joined the KU faculty in 1967 as a lecturer and then as an assistant professor in 1977. She was promoted to a full professor in 1984.

She never retired and kept working through her illness.

She received the Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence in 1981 and was named to the Kansas Women's Hall of Fame by the Commission on the Status of Women at KU in 1986.

She received an Outstanding Educator Award from the Lawrence school district in 1987 and the School of Education Budig Teaching Award in 2000.

"Nona Tollefson was an outstanding professor and mentor," said Sherry Borgers, professor of psychology and research in education. "Students respected and admired her for her knowledge, her ability to communicate material in an understandable manner, her concern for them as individuals, her sense of humor and her willingness to mentor them as researchers and educators."

She was married to John Tollefson, a former KU business dean who died in a lumber accident in 1991.

Survivors include a daughter, Elizabeth Tollefson, and two sons, John Tollefson and Bill Tollefson.

Memorial services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Plymouth Congregational Church.

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