The first ‘R’

Endowment aims to enlarge the legacy of a beloved literacy educator

While growing up in St. Louis Park, the late Judy King Potts always wanted to attend the University of Minnesota and become a teacher. Her focus was the first of the “three Rs”—reading, writing, and ’rithmetic.

“She had a passion for literacy,” says her husband, Robert Potts, “and her education at the U was the launching point for that calling.”

Photo of homecoming queen Judy Potts, 1964
Homecoming queen Judy King, 1964

Bob and Judy met at the U, the night she was crowned homecoming queen in 1964. Both were members of Greek organizations and had a lot of fun participating in sorority and fraternity events. Along the way, they each also got an education that provided long and rewarding careers.

Bob, BSB ’65, studied accounting and joined Touche Ross upon graduation. After military service, he worked in a variety of finance roles.

Judy, BS ’64, achieved her dream of a teaching degree and spent her whole career in the Hopkins school district, initially as a third-grade classroom teacher at Westview Elementary. After raising their two daughters, she taught at Alice Smith Elementary, which has a schoolwide Title I program. There she found enormous satisfaction in working more closely with individual students and inspiring in them a love of reading.

About 16 years ago, the Pottses decided to give back to their respective U of M programs and established funds in the Carlson School of Management and CEHD.

“Judy felt strongly about giving to promote literacy education,” says Bob. “She saw reading as essential to children’s success in school and throughout their lives.”

Their commitment to CEHD addresses the need for current teachers to receive professional development and also builds the pipeline for future teachers and scholars focused on literacy, especially in the pre-kindergarten to second-grade levels.

Photo of Bob and Judy Potts
Bob and Judy Potts

The Judy King Potts Endowment for Teaching Leadership in Literacy provides resources for practicing teachers to receive additional training. The Judy King Potts Endowed Fellowship Fund for Literacy Education supports students who are doing graduate work in some aspect of literacy.

“Mastery of reading is a lifelong skill,” says professor of literacy education Marek Oziewicz, “and the gifts from Judy and Bob Potts have been crucial to the education and continued training of teachers who have a big impact in children’s development of that skill.”

Judy left a lasting legacy as a teacher. When she passed away in 2017, several of her former Alice Smith students wrote to Bob, sharing stories about her special influence on them.

“It’s our hope that those who benefit from the Judy King Potts endowments have a similar influence on their students,” says Bob.

Story by Ann Dingman | Photos courtesy of Potts family and U Archives | Fall 2019