For ECU doctoral candidate, it was Science She Wrote
(Apr. 24, 1996)
At an age when many people retire, Lucille H. Daniel of Rutherfordton, an East Carolina University student, is getting ready to pick up her new doctoral degree.
Daniel -- everyone calls her Lucy -- is a 65 year-old graduate student in ECU’s doctoral program in education. She and five other candidates will be awarded the EdD at the Spring Commencement on May 4.
But for Daniel, whose career includes 35 years as a public school science teacher, slowing down and taking life easy is still a long ways off.
“I enjoy what I do so much that I can’t see doing volunteer work at a hospital or at a church as long as I have ideas for improving education,” said Daniel. “I feel like that’s my calling and I should use it to help people -- teachers and kids.”
The help will come in the form of consultant work and teaching part-time near her rural western North Carolina home. She also plans to continue to write books, an activity that casts her in a character much like TV’s Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury, on “Murder She Wrote.”
Unlike Jessica however, she doesn’t write murder mysteries. Instead, her books are about the mysteries of science. She has written nearly 100 volumes including a series of textbooks for school kids. Her 7th grade life science book from McGraw Hill Publishers is still in print after going through five complete revisions.
She said she was one of the first public school teachers in North Carolina asked by a major publisher to write a textbook. That was back in mid-1970s. At the time, she taught in Cabarrus County where she got national attention from science educators for a laboratory she developed to culture living organisms for experiments.
Her superintendent, Jay Robinson, now the head of the North Carolina State Board of Education, sent her to a meeting of the National Science Teachers Association to give a presentation on her project. While at the meeting a textbook publisher offered her a book contract.
“I told them I didn’t think I could do it,” she said. “I thought I was a pretty fair teacher but I had no idea that I could write anything that people would want to use.”
When she got home she told Robinson about the offer. “He told me ‘you are going to do it,’” she said.
“When I finished the book I owed a third of $100,000 which is what the art work cost and I could not foresee that I could ever make $33,000 off of it. But the book is still selling today and I’m still getting royalties.”
For the past three years as a graduate student at ECU, Daniel has taught courses in elementary science education and has worked with the school’s dean, Dr. Charles Coble, to coordinate a nationally funded study of how the culture of a school affects innovation. She took a four-months leave last summer and fall while she finished another textbook.
But all of her writing assignments, she said, were not nearly as difficult as her doctoral dissertation on “Field Testing Science Curriculum.”
“It is a lot easier to write books,” she said. “In a dissertation you have to please so many people.”
As for her decision to become a student again, Daniel said it has been one of the greatest experiences of her life.
She and her husband were living comfortably on a farm in Rutherford County between Charlotte and Asheville, but she knew she had always wanted her doctorate. She holds an undergraduate degree from UNC