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William Wiersma; 1931-2014: UT professor emeritus founded education center




William “Bill” Wiersma, 83, of Holland, a former University of Toledo professor of research and statistics in the college of education, who wrote or collaborated on seven textbooks and was recognized for his knowledge in research and statistics, died on April 25 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township.

His death followed a stroke he suffered while in hospice, said his wife, Joan Wiersma.

Mr. Wiersma retired from the university in 1987, when he was named professor emeritus, but continued teaching part time for 14 years.

Following his retirement and until 2005, he was active consulting for program evaluation and statistical work for educators, hospitals, and other organizations.

Born on June 22, 1931, in Friesland, Wis., to William and Jennie Wiersma, his upbringing on a farm gave little hint to his rise as an author, professor, and expert in statistics and teacher development.

He was the only member of his family to attend high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin State College in 1953 and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1957 and 1962.

“He did it on his own,” his wife said. “In those days, most people didn’t even think about going to college.”

When he graduated from high school, his principal suggested to his father that the younger Wiersma should attend college, a notion the elder Wiersma rejected, saying “That’s not what we do here,” Mrs. Wiersma recalled.

“He was determined he was going to go to college on his own. He got no encouragement,” she said.

He joined the University of Toledo in 1963 as an assistant professor and four years later became a full professor, spending 24 years on the faculty before retiring.

He was named an outstanding professor in 1979. When named professor emeritus, his citation noted his work “on the international level has set a standard which long will guide those on the faculty now and in years to come.”

One of his significant contributions to the university was his founding of the Center for Educational Research and Services, for which he served as director for 22 years.

The center served as the university’s outreach program, primarily for area school districts, said Ed Nussel, a former colleague and associate director.

“I did the services part of it and he did the research,” Mr. Nussel said. “It was his baby.”

“Almost every school district joined the center,” he added, including the Diocese of Toledo.

The Toledo Police Department sought help in formulating policies and procedures.

UT faculty’s expertise tackled various issues presented by the center’s 20 members, whether it was helping a school deal with disciplinary issues, teacher assessments, or for delving into statistical research.

“School districts found they had unlimited support from the college,” Mr. Nussel said.

With the retirements of Mr. Wiersma, Mr. Nussel, and George “Ed” Dixon, the college dean and its primary backer, the center eventually was dissolved, Mr. Nussel said.

Mr. Wiersma wrote or was co-author to seven textbooks and 30 professional publications. His Research Methods in Education, written with Stephen Jurs and published in 1968, is in its ninth edition.

Mr. Jurs said he and Mr. Wiersma collaborated on five textbooks, several of which remain in use.

“He would always do things right the first time,” Mr. Jurs said. “He had very, very high standards for himself and his students.”

As director of the Center for Educational Research, he was selected to participate in a national symposium for professors of educational research in 1967.

Two years later, he was one of 18 winners from 100 national competitors for special postdoctoral fellowships in education sponsored by the predecessor of the U.S. Department of Education.

He used his 1969 fellowship to study techniques of analyzing data by computer.

Mr. Wiersma is survived by his wife, Joan; daughters, Dr. Susan Wiersma and Lisa Wiersma, and one granddaughter.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Epworth United Methodist Church. The family will receive friends at 10 a.m.

Walker Funeral Home handled the arrangements.

Memorials are suggested to the William Wiersma Foundation, a scholarship program for prospective college students from his former high school in Friesland, Wis.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at 419-724-6050 or

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