Deborah Deutsch Smith ’68, 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree

Deborah Deutsch Smith '68Deborah Deutsch Smith ’68 graduated from Pitzer College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1968. She went on to receive her M.Ed. from the University of Missouri – Columbia and her Ed.D. from the University of Washington, where she received the College of Education Distinguished Alumni Award. Deb is professor of Special Education at the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University and Director of IRIS-West, a federally funded national center that provides on-line interactive modules and other training materials for the education of students with disabilities ( She is also the principal investigator of a national evaluation effort, Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment (SEFNA) and the co-principal investigator of the IRIS Center for Training Enhancements. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funds both projects. SEFNA is seeking to determine whether the nation has sufficient special education faculty to produce an adequate supply of new highly qualified special education teachers. The IRIS Center is charged with providing the nation with interactive modules and other training materials that focus on the education of students with disabilities. These resources are designed for use by education faculty in college courses and by professional development providers seeking to upgrade the knowledge and skills of practicing education professionals. These materials are available at no cost through the Center’s website or IRIS-West, housed at CGU, serves as the national outreach component of The IRIS Center, providing technical assistance and training to faculty and professional development providers through a systematic scaling-up effort.

Deb has directed many federal, state, and local projects and has received over $30 million in funding to support those efforts. For 12 years, she directed the highly successful Alliance Project, a national technical assistance effort funded by OSEP to help faculty working at special education and related services personnel preparation programs housed at minority colleges and universities. The main purpose of that effort was to help these faculty members obtain external funding to support college students preparing to work with students with disabilities in school settings. She also served as the principal investigator of the Study of the Supply and Demand of Special Education Faculty, which is cited in the Congressional Record, in federal legislation, and in appropriations language. The study found that the nation was experiencing chronic shortage of special education doctoral graduates seeking careers in higher education. Findings also indicated that this imbalance in the supply and demand of new faculty was a major factor contributing to the special education teacher shortage nationally.

Deb has authored over eleven major textbooks, including a best selling introduction to special education text, Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference, which is in its 7th edition, and is available in Spanish, Polish, and Mandarin Chinese and is being translated into Hebrew. She has written over 31 chapters and book supplements, 50 refereed articles, and many instructional materials for children.

Deborah Deutsch Smith is the quintessential Pitzer alumna, a member of the inaugural class of the College. A true pioneer for people with disabilities and a stalwart supporter of Pitzer College, she represents all that is good about her alma mater. She is known through the Pitzer community for her vivacious spirit and fun loving personality. Since 1985, she has served on the Board of Trustees, and was recognized as an Emerita Trustee in 2003.