UA Inducts 5 into Educator Hall of Fame

The College of Education inducted five new honorees into its Hall of Fame on Feb. 10.  

This award is presented to those who have shown unwavering dedication and made outstanding contributions to the field of education. 

Front row, from left: 2024 inductees Beth Curtis, Honorable Joel Dubina, Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, and nominator Saudra Grace. Back row: nominators Mandy Wyatt, Honorable Scott Coogler, and Dr. Liza Wilson, 2024 inductee Dr. Kathy Wetzel, Dean Joyce Alexander, nominator Dr. Penny Davis, and Mark Childress, who accepted on behalf of 2024 inductee the late Dr. Hanna Gillion.

Elizabeth F. Curtis 

Curtis completed her Bachelor of Science in Education in elementary education in 1970 here at the Capstone. She has served her community as an outstanding educator for more than 50 years. In 1998, she served as principal for Verner Elementary in Tuscaloosa. Under her leadership, the school was one of the first to test the Alabama Reading Initiative, which led the school to rank as the No. 1 reading program throughout the state and the entire country. Throughout her entire career, Curtis remained committed to literacy and continued parental involvement. Curtis retired from the profession in 2019, but continues to serve her community on the institute, discipline, textbook, public relations, math curriculum and teacher evaluation committees for Tuscaloosa City Schools. In 2021, Verner Elementary named its library in honor of Curtis, fully cementing her legacy as a principal and a beloved leader. 

Honorable Judge Joel F. Dubina 

Dubina completed his Bachelor of Science at UA in 1970 and earned a Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1973. Dubina has an impressive legal career that includes serving as a U.S. Magistrate Judge and U.S. District Court Judge in the Middle District of Alabama. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and assumed Senior United States Circuit Judge status on Oct. 24, 2013, where he still serves today. Dubina has had an impact on many aspiring lawyers who have served under him as law clerks. He has not only been an exemplary teacher of the law, but he has served as a father figure to many young lawyers, many of whom have gone on to mentor countless others. 

Ethel Joyce “Hanna” Gillion 

Gillion earned degrees from the University of Montevallo, Troy University and The University of Alabama, where she became a professor in 1962. She was an instructor in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation — now Kinesiology. Gillion was instrumental in pioneering women’s intercollegiate athletics at the University, and in the days before the University paid salaries to women coaches or funded women’s teams, she founded, coached, and paid travel expenses for the women’s volleyball, tennis and golf teams. All of this was done without compensation. She also led the Title IX fight for equality in athletics funding, which resulted in the first federally funded women’s intercollegiate sports teams. Upon her death at the age of 70, Gillion was remembered as a driving force for women’s equality at the Capstone, paving the way for what is now an extremely successful women’s athletic program. 

Kathy Shaver-Wetzel 

Wetzel had been the associate dean for Student Services and Certification in the College of Education for more than 20 years, but her career began as a special education teacher in Tuscaloosa County Schools. She was a leader in the field of P-12 education, where she served as the coordinator for schoolwide enrichment in the Tuscaloosa County Schools and an Alabama representative in the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools. She also served the College, Tuscaloosa County Schools, and Tuscaloosa City Schools as the executive of the Alabama Consortium for Educational Renewal. Through this work, she led faculty, staff, and UA students to support P-12 schools. Her work as a gifted education specialist encouraged teachers to cater to exceptional students, and she even developed a highly effective mentorship program, matching retired local experts with students with similar interests. During her time as associate dean, her work touched students in many ways. Through countless hours, even after hours and on weekends, she worked to ensure that every student had the opportunity to learn and was supported along the way. 

Sue Brannon Walker 

Walker graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education from UA in 1961. She also earned her Master of Science in Education in 1967, and a Doctorate in English in 1979. She worked as an assistant professor in the English department at the University of South Alabama for 35 years. In 1981 she founded the literary journal Negative Capability, which later morphed into an incredibly prominent publishing house with an emphasis on poetry. In 1990, the journal was named the third-most prestigious in the U.S. Walker has authored 13 books and has been featured in more than 100 academic papers. Named the 10th Poet Laureate of Alabama from 2003 until 2012, she has been invaluable to the field of poetry and has even been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Walker is not only a critically acclaimed poet, author, and editor but a playwright, professor, and a scholar. Named in 2008, she is the Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama where she also teaches ecology and Southern literature courses.