Loyal L. Darr ’59 has dedicated his career to empowering generations of students around the world with a greater understanding of history and democracy. His impressive career in education spans six decades of service in nine different countries.
The educator is among three alumni who will be recognized for their career accomplishments through induction into the College of Education’s hall of fame during Illinois State’s 2018 Homecoming celebration.
Darr earned his bachelor’s in geography education from Illinois State in 1959. He joined Denver Public Schools (DPS) in 1961 and served in the urban district for over three decades. His first role was as a middle school social studies teacher. In 1971, he became the supervisor of the district’s secondary social studies program, and in 1981 he would lead all K-12 social studies curricula.
After retiring from DPS in 1992, Darr shifted his focus to preparing future teachers. He served as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Denver’s teacher education program from 1992-2005 during which time he filled in as the unit’s interim director three times.
When DPS schools were integrated in the 1960s, Darr led a collaborative effort to revamp the district’s social studies curricula. He recruited a diverse team of teachers, teacher educators, and community members to share ideas and contribute to final decision-making. The progressive programming that resulted was reflective of all DPS students’ cultures and experiences.
In the 1970s, Darr helped DPS students to learn about their communities in new, engaging ways. He piloted course work where police officers co-taught lessons, and outside speakers regularly visited DPS social studies classrooms to share about their careers and answer questions. Mock trials, debates, and legislative hearings were also developed for the classroom under his guidance.
Darr began his service to international education in 1979 as a Fulbright Scholar studying Israel’s history and culture. He would visit the country five times for various initiatives. He educated fellow U.S. teachers on the importance of the region in 1985 and completed a Vinnik Fellowship in 1991, where he studied Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
Darr later co-authored a book chapter and a teacher’s guide for teaching the Holocaust to high school and college students. He also started the Anne Frank Art and Writing Competition, an activity that encouraged students across the state to study Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and Nazi Germany.
As war ravaged Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, Darr was among 18 U.S. and 18 European educators who supported and trained teachers to implement human rights and democracy programming. Their work is now taught throughout the nation’s schools. For their effort, the entire group was honored by former First Lady Hilary Clinton at the White House. Darr was tapped to replicate the successful training in Macedonia, Taiwan, Egypt, and Mongolia.
Darr continued his education by earning a master’s of teaching in geography and social sciences from Western Oregon University in 1967 and an administrators certificate from the University of Denver in 1985.
In 1993 he was recognized with the Beth Joseph Congregation Humanitarian Award and one of the state of Colorado’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Awards in 1994, becoming the first educator to receive the honor. The awards recognized his dedication to integrating the history and culture of minority groups into K-12 social studies curriculum.