Literacy and Legacy: The Tale of Ann Reiser

As Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

Wise words that were daily lived out loud (and often read aloud) by one of Valpo’s most beloved Wonder Women, Ann Reiser, Ph.D. 

Born on March 7, 1939, in Lansing, Michigan, Ann attended Concordia University Chicago to prepare for the teaching ministry of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. After graduating in 1962, she taught first grade at Peace Lutheran School in Detroit for six years then attended Michigan State University where she received a master’s degree with a specialization in reading. Upon returning to Concordia University Chicago as an assistant professor of education, she taught until 1974 before returning to Michigan State University where she received her Ph.D. with a specialization in the teaching of reading. 

Ann Reiser smiling and posing for the camera.

In 1977, Ann joined the Valparaiso University faculty where her love for literacy was only exceeded by the love she had for her students – a love that was reciprocated in full and remains to this day. 

An avid reader and a natural leader, Ann’s lasting impact on our community is not only seen but felt as her love for literature and learning lives on, specifically through the recently established addition to Valpo’s Literacy Institute located in Wesemann Hall – the Ann Reiser Children’s Literature Library. 

Upon her passing in 2009, just one year after retirement from her 31 years at Valpo, Ann endowed funds to support faculty professional development, literacy enrichment, other education department programming, and the development of education facilities. In honor of her life and legacy, the Ann Reiser Children’s Literature Library is a space where student-teachers and teachers in our community can check out children’s books to use in their classrooms.

Although this generous gift will serve countless members of our Valpo community in the years to come, the years Ann gave the even more precious gift of her presence on campus have impacted countless more, inspiring all learners and educators to wonder what they can do, too. Just two of the many are Lois Neimier ’78 and Leslie Cefali ’79, ’86 M.Ed., who had this to say…

“I am grateful to have been a student of Ann’s and was privileged, as a professional, to be provided with workshops in her educational classes at Valpo. Ann always encouraged a love of reading by sharing books from her personal library and emphasizing how literature can come alive. Through the years, I visited her home where she displayed books for neighborhood children and anyone in her community who loved to read! Beyond reading, Ann’s positive teaching style and circular seating pattern in her classes engaged students by encouraging oral expression and spurring related ongoing discussions. I developed special wisdom witnessing Ann call upon her unique educational gifts, but my personal gain was the joy associated with teaching. It now fuels my passion for a career in learning disabilities with a focus on reading.”

– Lois Neimier ’78

“Ann was a mentor. To so many. She gently guided, prodded, and stretched her students to not only embrace learning but to pursue the goal of becoming lifelong learners. Ann herself, never content to teach the same each year, sought out innovative ways of teaching and reaching students. Ann always attended children’s literature conventions and would bring back new books to read aloud and share with her University students. She believed in the power of reading aloud, no matter the age of the listener. Ann was an encourager, too. She spent a sabbatical year in my local elementary classroom, supporting and encouraging both me and my class of first graders. Early on, in the new computer age, Ann worked on keyboarding with some of my young learners. Ann knew first-grade students could learn computer literacy, long before computers became commonplace in elementary classrooms. She was one of the first to pioneer computer competency for teachers, as well as young students in the early 1990s.”  

– Leslie Cefali ’79, ’86 M.Ed.

Ann Reiser smiling and posing for the camera.

Although Ann dedicated her life to literacy and education, her work and influence did not end or begin in any classroom. When not teaching at Valpo, volunteering for educational organizations, attending and presenting at conventions, or working with and observing teachers in the field, Ann was active at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso. Ann’s service to her faith included serving on many church and University committees, in addition to regularly tutoring both struggling and gifted students from Immanuel Lutheran School and teaching weekly catechism classes as well.

Yet, beyond all of Ann’s contributions to her community and her field, her character is what shines through most. A beacon for those on the journey of discovery, Ann’s curiosity and generosity continue to guide and inspire so many. As the members of Valpo’s education department turn the page to the next chapter of Valpo’s bright future, they cannot help but look fondly on the many individuals who have been a part of Valpo’s past. Ann Reiser is one such individual.

Although many of our community may not have met Ann personally, her story continues to unfold as the bright, curious, and caring educators who carry on her legacy live and read her values, our values, out loud every day.

Ann Reiser smiling and posing for the camera.