College mourns loss

Debi Jenkins, Lora Whitfield,Michelle Mallory, Sarah Theberge
Lora Whitfield, second from left, celebrates receiving tenure in 2017 with her Early Childhood Education colleagues Debi Jenkins, Michelle Mallory, and Sarah Theberge. Whitfield passed away in July 2019.

Clark College lost a beloved member of their community on July 9, when early childhood education professor Lora Whitfield passed away.

“She was kind, warm, and supportive of those around her,” said Vice President of Instruction Sachi Horback.

Whitfield’s connection to Clark went back to her own days as a student, when she attended the college to earn her associate degree in early childhood education in 2002. Whitfield went on to have a successful career in the field, working for both the Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium and Albina Early Head Start. She earned her master’s degree in human development with a specialization in early childhood education and bicultural development from Pacific Oaks College in Seattle.

Lora Whitfield, second from right, stands with students and colleagues at this year’s Commencement. Photo courtesy of Rashida Willard.

In 2014, Whitfield returned to Clark College to teach. She received tenure in 2017. At the time, she offered this statement on her teaching philosophy: “As an educator, I am committed to treating each individual with respect. I believe respect is paramount in creating environments that promote students’ ideas, passions, and interest in a meaningful and organically wholesome way. I strive to provide settings where everyone can share their ideas without bias and be included in all aspects of learning.”

Rashida Willard and Lora Whitfield at Commencement in caps and gowns, smiling
Lora Whitfield, right, celebrates at Commencement with Interim Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rashida Willard. Photo courtesy of Rashida Willard.

Whitfield, who identified as Afro-Caribbean, was the second Black woman to receive tenure at Clark College. She actively worked to create networks of support for colleagues and students of color, participating in both the statewide Cross-Institution Faculty of Color Mentorship Program and Clark’s Black Employees United Employee Resource Group. “She was an absolute joy to be around,” recalled Interim Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rashida Willard. “She had a hilarious sense of humor and always made her work family laugh.”

In addition to her work fostering inclusion, she was an active leader in her field, participating in the Clark College Early Childhood Advisory Council, the Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Council, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

On his last day as president of Clark College before his retirement, Bob Knight recalled his memories of Whitfield. “Because Lora began as a student at Clark College, she could relate very closely to the student experience,” he wrote in a July 15 email to all college employees. “This made her a gifted instructor. She made Clark College a better place.”

Services for Professor Whitfield have been scheduled for Saturday, July 20, with a viewing between 9:30 am an 10:00 am. The service will be from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The location will be at City Harvest Church at 8100 NW 9th Street, Vancouver, WA 98665. Funeral information will be on the Terry Family Funeral Home website.