Endowed Professor of Education and International Studies
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Wendy Saul '68 came to Knox because she loved to read and write and
because "I had a thing for Carl Sandburg," she admits with a laugh.
She wanted to teach, and she wanted to change the world, but wasn't quite sure of the best way to go about it.
She remembers sitting in the office of her mentor and professor of English, Doug Wilson, contemplating her options, when he suddenly looked up at her with a surprised look on his face. "I get it," he said. "You don't want to be a faculty wife. You want to be a faculty member."
"It was such a novel idea," says Saul. In the mid-1960s there were few female college professors.
After graduation, Saul taught for a few years in New York City's Lower East Side, then became education director at Settlement House, which provides services to lowincome families in the area. But the idea of becoming a professor was always there, an itch that wouldn't go away. So she headed back to the Midwest, receiving her master's degree from the University of Chicago and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been a college professor for nearly 30 years and is now an endowed professor of education and international studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
In 1997, she began sharing best practices in teaching and learning through the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project. Over the years she has volunteered in Lithuania, Azurbaijan, Ecuador, and Liberia. She also serves as president of the Board at the International Book Bank, which seeks to increase literacy by distributing books to developing countries, and works with children in public schools in the St. Louis area through Springboard to Learning, which supports hands-on education.
For the past 20 years, Saul has received funding from the National Science Foundation to explore the relationship between science and literacy. Saul and her group's newest book, Front-page Science: Engaging Teens in Science Literacy, was published by the National Science Teachers Association Press in 2012. "Kids need to know how to make sense of new information," says Saul. "If we're going to prepare them for the future, it's back to critical thinking and knowing how to read and write."
Critical thinking and knowing how to read and write -- traits finely honed by her Knox experience. "That's what took me overseas. That's what brings me to science. That's what's taken me everywhere."
Saul credits Knox not only with giving her the skills she needed but with empowering her to use those skills to make a difference in the world. "Knox had an incredibly smart collection of people and books, and I had access to them. My professors were the best," she says. "All of this gave me a sense of agency that I don't think I would have had at a larger place. And that sense of agency has made all the difference in my life."