Dr. Joyce Margaret Murray Huggins, a Fresno State professor emerita of teacher education and the namesake of Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center, passed away Oct. 5 at her Fresno home. She was 97.
Fresno State President John D. Welty said: “Although Dr. Huggins had retired before I came to campus, I got to know her as a tireless advocate for the early education of our children. The passion she brought to campus laid the foundation for our innovative programs in early childhood education and continues to inspire our faculty and students working in this pivotal role in human development to ensure our future.”
She was born in Onalaska, Wis., and remembered she “taught school to all my dolls when I was a youngster.” After earning a degree from Baptist Missionary Training School in Chicago in 1936, she taught descendants of slaves in South Carolina before marrying Morris A. Huggins.
She stayed home to rear their two sons and then moved to New York during World War II, where Dr. Huggins taught in a housing project’s cooperative nursery school, was a dressmaker and market researcher and earned her master’s degree in education from New York University.
She earned her doctorate from Arizona State University and put her academic training to work developing a nursery school, starting a diagnostic program for children with learning problems and helping establish cooperative preschool programs for handicapped children.
After serving as director of federal Head Start programs for Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, Dr. Huggins joined the Fresno State faculty in 1970 charged with developing a graduate program in early childhood education.
Dr. Shareen Abramson, the D. Paul Fansler Chair for Leadership in Early Childhood Education and coordinator of Fresno State’s specialist credential and master’s programs, said, “Joyce was a ‘live wire’ of ideas, plans and possibilities, who had a to-do list for each of us.” Dr. Huggins “believed that everyone, in whatever their capacity, should work to create a better, more peaceful world for children and families,” said Abramson.
Dr. Huggins was a founding member of the California Professors of Early Childhood Education and served as its president. She helped obtain funding to open the first of four Fresno State children’s centers, providing childcare for student-parents to enable them to continue their education. In 1995 – a decade after she retired — the fourth on-campus center was completed and dedicated as the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center.
Dr. Huggins helped found what now is the Central Valley Children’s Services Network and served as president of the National Committee for the World Organization of Early Childhood Education. She promoted Fresno State’s program internationally and was an active advocate for educating young children in retirement.
Dr. Pamela Lane-Garon, a professor of curriculum and instruction and coordinator of Fresno State’s Mediator Mentors conflict resolution program, said Dr. Huggins taught her “that passion doesn’t have to end when employment does. She firmly believed, as do I, that making a difference in the future means thoughtful and energetic teaching of the youngest members of our society.”
Dr. Huggins is survived by her sons and three grandchildren.
A Memorial Service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her memory to the Unitarian Universalist Church the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center, 5005 N. Maple Ave., M/S Ed501, Fresno, CA93740