Education school welcomes endowed professor

Dyslexia research means a lot to Ruth and Louis Harris. After their son exhibited persistent trouble with reading, writing and spelling in the third grade, Ruth Harris, who has a master's degree in special education, dedicated her life to helping others with learning disabilities.

At a fall 2010 ceremony, with her husband and son looking on, Ruth Harris draped a black and gold ribbon holding a bronze medallion — emblematic of a Virginia Commonwealth University endowed professorship — around the neck of Paul J. Gerber, Ph.D., a professor in the VCU School of Education's departments of Special Education and Disability Policy and Foundations of Education.

The ceremony marked the investiture of Gerber as the Ruth Harris Professor of Dyslexia Studies. The endowed professorship, the first in the School of Education, was created with a generous gift from the Harrises.

The endowed fund will support Gerber's research and work with doctoral students pursuing careers in the field and will sponsor an annual lecture by nationally prominent researchers in the area of dyslexia education and related fields.

"It is both a crowning achievement and tremendous honor to be recognized for my contributions to the field of dyslexia research," Gerber said. "This is my life's work."

During the past 33 years, Gerber has written an array of chapters and articles and has co-authored four books in the area of adults with learning disabilities, one of which was chosen as a top-20 resource for libraries by the American Library Association.

The Harrises are longtime supporters of VCU. In addition to the School of Education, they have made gifts to the schools of Medicine and the Arts and the Massey Cancer Center, among others. Louis Harris is a faculty member and former chairman of the VCU Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

To learn more about the School of Education, contact Magnus H. Johnsson (M.P.A. '10, Cert. '10), executive director of external affairs and development, at (804) 827-1363 or