The Illinois State community mourns the loss of Dr. Donald Prince, the visionary leader who almost single-handedly established the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations (EAF) in 1960. Prince passed away on November 3 at the age of 94.
Before he heeded the University’s call, Prince was already quite accomplished. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, completed a doctorate in P-12 education from the University of Illinois, and was the principal for Knoxville Junior-Senior High School in downstate Illinois, where he was among the youngest educators in the building. He also served as the principal and superintendent of Princeton High School.
Through EAF, Prince started just the second P-12 education Ph.D. option in the state, and it became an attractive alternative to his alma mater’s program within a few years.
While Prince wanted EAF to be recognized for being an outstanding research unit, he was more focused on making sure the department offered a practical approach to educational leadership. This included down-to-earth professors who inspired their students. Professors like Drs. Ben Hubbard, Ed Hines, Clayton Thomas, Elwood Eggleston, and Alan Hickrod did just that.
“Dr. Don Prince was a man for all seasons,” said Hines. “His career was truly exceptional in four areas: local school principal and superintendent; founder of the Educational Administration Program, later a Department, at Illinois State University; Chairman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education for all of higher education in Illinois; and a long-time education specialist at Rand-McNally in Chicago. When I met him for the first time, I found him larger than life. Talking to him made me realize that coming to Illinois State was the best decision I ever made.”
Today, the department offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate course work in P-12 and higher education leadership. This includes a P-12 Administration Ed.D. that perpetuates the legacy of Prince’s practitioner-friendly program. It is also one of the most diverse units on campus.
Appropriately, a woman, the late Dr. Joanne Peppard Cooke ’66, was the first official graduate of EAF in 1966—at a time when it was uncommon for female educators to earn their doctorates in education. Prince had created a program that rendered such notions outmoded.
In 2019, Prince was awarded the highest honor offered by the department, the EAF Fellows award at its annual gala.
“Though long overdue, it was an honor for us to induct Dr. Prince into the community of EAF Fellows,” said Dr. Len Sutton, chair of EAF. “Our department’s important work was made possible by his tireless dedication to making a positive impact on school leader preparation. We deeply respect his accomplishments, and we work every day to match his efforts by advancing leadership, equity, ethics, and inclusion in P-21 spaces.”
Prince’s post-ISU professional career included serving as vice president of Rand McNally. When he arrived in the 1970s, the organization was known for mapmaking, but Prince helped to make it one of the three major textbook manufacturers in the U.S. throughout the 1970s and 80s. In his “retirement years” he was appointed chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He also authored the program now known as the 529 college savings plan for the state, which has helped to make higher education more affordable for millions of Illinois families.