Excellence in the Classroom Honors God
Alice V. Watkins, Ph.D., the former dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences at Azusa Pacific University, believes that excellence in the classroom honors God. She has always embraced that idea and encouraged faculty and students to do the same. “As long as we practice it, we’re moving in the right direction in higher education,” she said.
Dr. Watkins was born in Louisiana and came to Southern California as a child with her parents. She has a rich background, having grown up in south central Los Angeles, teaching her first Sunday school class when she was 10 years old, and playing the piano in the Southern Baptist church her family attended.
Her family instilled in her the value of college, and she attended Pepperdine University on a full scholarship, earning her bachelor’s degree, before completing her Ph.D. in Child Development and Reading at Claremont. Her career began with an invitation to teach in the Los Angeles city schools; she found it satisfying to work with special needs children and continued to pursue this interest by working at Lanterman State Hospital in Pomona for four years. Another teaching invitation came, this time from California State University, Los Angeles, and she became the associate dean of the School of Education and stayed at the school 25 years.
Retirement sounded so inviting after all that time because she was looking forward to being a grandmother to her only grandson. However, retirement lasted only six weeks as she was recruited to become the dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences at APU, where she served for eight years. She treasured her years at APU and believes she and the faculty in her department accomplished much, including diversification of the department—Dr. Watkins was the second person of color in the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences—the promotion of publishing, and attendance at educational conferences that provided opportunities to promote Christ-centered education and further the mission of APU. “Christians need to be educationally informed and empowered by Christ to go into the world,” she said.
One of the greatest honors bestowed on Dr. Watkins was The Alice Watkins Scholarship that was set up by the APU faculty when she retired. Since its inception, the Board of Trustees, friends, faculty, students and Dr. Watkins herself have contributed to the scholarship. Dr. Watkins’ purpose and passion for the funds is to serve graduate students, especially single mothers, who are working and trying to finish their education. Dr. Watkins relates to these students as she obtained her degrees while working as a single mother with two children after the death of her husband.
She is so pleased that her children, Stephanie, and Keith, still live in the Southern California area. She also beams when she talks about her only grandson who has just celebrated his 25th birthday and completed his chemical engineering degree at Stanford.
Her personal philosophy (“I can do all things through Christ”) and her favorite song (“It is Well With My Soul”) sum up who Alice V. Watkins is.