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Tooker Chair appointee to focus on improving STEM education

Kurth VanLehn portrait
April 04, 2013

Kurt VanLehn has been appointed as the Diane and Gary Tooker Chair for Effective Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

VanLehn, a professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, is widely recognized as a pioneer in the development and deployment of artificial intelligent systems as digital tutors for STEM education.

His international reputation in the field was established well before coming to Arizona State University. Since arriving at ASU in 2008, he has built a strong and enduring research program, continuing to make significant advances through collaborative work blending computer science, cognitive psychology and educational technology.

He has helped ASU become a national leader in this multidisciplinary field, focusing on using science and engineering to improve education.

“Kurt is a highly accomplished researcher and educator and remains at the forefront in the field of computer-assisted learning and teaching. His work is helping to achieve measurable advances to engage and motivate learners and to improve student outcomes,” says Paul Johnson, dean of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Gary Tooker and his wife Diane, both ASU alumni, donated $4 million to ASU to endow five faculty positions – one faculty chair and four professorships – in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Diane Tooker is a former elementary school teacher, and Gary Tooker is the former CEO of Motorola. Both are passionate about creating exciting learning environments that attract students to and retain them in STEM fields.

“I believe the groundbreaking work that Kurt is doing has the potential to radically change the way STEM subjects are taught and assist teachers of these subjects in stimulating the minds of young students,” says Gary Tooker. “It will help students overcome the fear of math and science, help them succeed in those courses and get them excited about pursuing careers in engineering and science while becoming stronger citizens who are ready for the technological changes of the future.”

The Tooker professors will work to strengthen K-12 education in STEM areas. Amy Landis, an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and B.L. Ramakrishna, an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, were appointed as the inaugural Tooker Professors in June 2012.

Gary Tooker was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996. He has received an Engineering Excellence Award, an Alumni Achievement Award for Professional Excellence and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from ASU. He is a trustee of the ASU Foundation and a member of the board of directors of the ASU Research Park in Tempe.

Diane Tooker has taught in Phoenix and Scottsdale schools and holds a degree in interior design.

She has run her own business, Designovations, since 1982 and has also worked as a realtor. She is active in several civic organizations, including A Stepping Stone Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

She is an active ASU supporter, having helped create and run the university’s Medallion of Merit Scholarship fundraiser and served as an alumni association director.

She is also a member of ASU Foundation’s Women and Philanthropy organization. In 1999, she joined Gary Tooker as a joint recipient of ASU’s James W. Creasman Award of Excellence. The Tookers are also completing a two-year term as co-chairs of the ASU Foundation’s President’s Club.