ForeverMissed
Linda's passing  on the morning of April 1st leaves us with great sorrow, and also with memories of a strong woman, mother, teacher, intellect, writer, and leader.  Linda's legacy, through her writing and teaching, her leadership of the Rice Center for Education, and her unfailing advocacy for children has inspired so many of us, planting seeds for educational progress, and encouraging us to speak truth to power, as Linda never failed to do.  Her generosity and love, her intelligence and commitment to making education fair and equitable, lives on in many of us.  

On behalf of colleagues at Rice University, several of us have opened this site to tributes and memories of Linda, who sadly passed away following a battle with brain cancer.  Please contribute stories (Linda loved stories), tributes, and photos as you would like, freely and without formality.  Through this site, we wish to remember the many ways that Linda influenced our field and our lives.

If you would like to contribute,  this site will request you to create a username and password. Thank you for your understanding.
Posted by Angela Valenzuela on December 5, 2021
Hi Linda. I reached out to your daughters in the morning before the Commencement Speech I delivered. Very honored, of course, to be the featured speaker yesterday, your birthday. It came off really well and I felt your presence strongly. Your memorable warmth and smiled buoyed my own spirit.

The other day, Luz mentioned that she missed you and how you were such a good person. You made an impression and enduring impact on our lives and for that we are eternally grateful. We miss you so much! Thank you for all the love and light you brought, and continue to bring, to the world.
Posted by Pansy Gee on December 4, 2021
December 4, 2021
Happy Birthday dear Linda!
Your smile, your energy, your love remain an inspiration in my life!
Posted by Laurie Hammons on December 4, 2021
I have been gifted with some wonderful friends in this life, but one of the most exceptional is Linda McSpadden McNeil. It was such a privilege to spend time with her and to see her amazing mind at work. She was so talented in seeing connections between disparate events, in realizing the underlying motivations behind some of the harmful issues Texans observed as politics and money took aim at our students. Her first book, Contradictions of Control, examined what happens when issues of control overshadow the education of students. Her second book was originally titled Contradictions of Reform: Educational Costs of Standardization, and was written to compare a standardized curriculum with what was possible when schools and teachers are free to innovate and provide students with a creative, challenging, engaging curriculum. (The title and subtitle were changed by the publisher because of the testing craze.) At one time when I was assisting with her book I remember telling her that her skill as a writer had demonstrated to me that prose could be art, like any other medium. She was not afraid to stand up and speak publicly for “our children,” even though it cost her through harassment and some kinds of prestige.

Linda did receive many honors throughout her career, one that I participated in was her editorship of the Social and Institutional Analysis section of the American Educational Research Journal. She drew upon her wide circle of academic friends and associates to create an exceptional advisory board and pool of reviewers. She was very creative in recommending reviewers that were not only experts in the field, but also some who had interesting insights to offer, which strengthened the final version of the articles. Her special issue on Education and Democracy brought a flood of articles seeking to be included.

Linda wrote many articles and book chapters, too. I was privileged see them being put together masterfully. She had wanted to gather many of these into a final, book, but writing was very difficult for Linda. She suffered from a serious case of writer’s block at times, and I wish I could have helped her get past that. Just this morning, I thought of an angle to take on this book, and maybe I could have convinced her to do it, but then I remembered once again that Linda is not here to work her magic with words.

Not only did Linda have a powerful brain, but she also had a magnificent heart. She supported immigrant rights, marched for peace, blogged for children, and was a special friend to many. She was there for her students, meeting with them whenever they needed help, and guiding them in their future careers. She co-founded the Center for Education at Rice, giving a home to many programs that went on to enrich the skills of teachers and the students they taught. She gave me a chance when she asked me to coordinate the research journal, allowing me to experience how research functions, and the workings of the academic life. Before that, my time as an accountant and homemaker had done little to stretch my mind, and it was exhilarating to be in a world where ideas were discussed and debated.

As a personal example of her caring nature, Linda knew I had an artist’s heart, and she encouraged it whenever possible. She bought me my first membership to the Museum of Fine Arts, and I think of her gratefully whenever I now attend, feeling her there enjoying it with me. When I took up painting after my mom died, after concurrent cancer treatment, she was my biggest fan. She asked me often what I had been painting, and I knew I could cheer her if I brought some recent works. She wanted to know when I had work on display at the watercolor society, and if I won an award she would either be there or be cheering me on. I have missed so much that encouragement and have wished so many times over these months that I could share what I’m learning. She would have loved hearing about my latest discoveries.

We are lucky to have had the time we did with Linda, and her gifts have helped shape the lives of so many people, which in turn will shape the lives of generations to come.
Posted by Alexandra Whittington on June 9, 2021
I feel so lucky to have known Linda McSpadden McNeil. I am reminded of her generosity every day when I use the beautiful leather portfolio case she gave me as a graduation gift. I've used it for almost 20 years! It represents the durability of other, intangible gifts she gave me: friendship, great advice, and warm memories of fun times together. I learned a lot from her stories and she inspired me in many ways as a professional, a woman, and a mother. She wasn't my professor but she taught me about the interesting things she knew. I loved how she shared her knowledge. And her books! For years, I was the recipient of her already-read New Yorker magazines. She probably had no idea how much those magazines opened up my world! Or maybe she did. That was the magic of Linda.
Posted by Debbie Hansen on May 29, 2021
I was so very sad to hear of Linda's passing. I knew Linda from living on Terry Place in Madison WI. 
Linda & Ken lived across the street from me. My very first babysitting job was watching their first daughter Kathryn. I will never forget how wonderful Linda was to me. Her and I would have tea in the kitchen she treated me like a grown up we would have wonderful talks. I am almost 61 years old and still have a book she gave me for one of my birthdays, Linda made a big impression on me as a young woman. When they moved to their house on Gregory Street I would ride my bike from Terry Pl. to their house to watch Kathryn who I called "Kat" while Linda was on bedrest pregnant with Carrie. I would bring her tea and toast while she rested.....I was so sad and remember crying when they decided to move back to Texas. I never forgot them....esp little Kat. My deepest condolences to Kathryn and Carrie and friends ....Linda was such a warm and kind person....May she rest in peace. 
Posted by Linda Spiro on May 4, 2021
Linda McNeil was an educator's educator. No matter if you were a colleague, college student or younger student, she was always willing to interrupt her busy schedule to provide sage advice and promote sound educational practices. When I was education librarian at Rice University, she helped me spend education funds wisely by inviting me to talks by experts in the various areas of education, commenting on specific authors and providing contacts for further information. Her intellect, compassion, collegiality, commitment and sheer good sense will be sorely missed. She made this world a better place. May the angels lead her into paradise.

Posted by Patricia Graham on May 3, 2021
Linda McNeil was a courageous, dedicated, and effective educator, one whose work and whose life commanded admiration from those who were fortunate to know her. I was fortunate to know her in three different settings, at Harvard, at Rice, and at Spencer/AERA. Her emphases at these three places
were different, but in each her commitment to the educational needs of all, particularly those who had not grown up with lots of educational advantages , was vibrant and effective. Let us hope that this commitment will continue with those who follow her. Patricia Albjerg Graham
Posted by jay-jiguang zhu on April 30, 2021
Kathryn, Carrie and families,
Please accept myself and our brain tumor treating team members condolences to you and your families.

Linda,
Your memory is a blessing and inspiration to us. You are a brave fighter against the brain cancer. As your neuro-oncologist, I am impressed by your courage and resilience when facing the diagnosis and subsequent treatments of the brain cancer. I have fond memories of your visits to clinic (well dressed with matched color of cloths) and our interactions during your hospitalizations. You always welcome student doctors visiting you and examining you. Many of them learned the "cogwheel" rigidity first time in their life times while examining you. Thank you for being a teacher while as a patient! The many students who met you and I are forever grateful.
During your last birthday, I joined the celebration with your care team, Kathryn and Carrie at your home. You showed me your nice home and nice collections of antiques and paintings.
I will forever remember you, Linda, a hero fighting against brain cancer, a great teacher and a generous and compassionate human being! I will be a lifelong member of Team Linda, continuing your legacy to help others, finding a better treatment for brain cancer.
Rest in peace!
Love
Posted by Andrew Johnson on April 26, 2021
Rest in peace, Linda. Your memory is a blessing for many, as it surely is for me. I was friends with Carrie when we were in high school, and even through the foggy lenses of adolescence, I could see and admire your energy, commitment, and sense of humor. And you were the only person I've ever known who used to live in Notrees, Texas. There's no way I'll ever forget that.

Carrie, Kathryn, and extended family, please know that you are in my thoughts. Best wishes to you all.
Posted by Connie Floyd on April 26, 2021
I met Linda when I came to join Patsy Cooper and Bernie Mathes in the Center for Education at Rice with the Teacher's Network for Early Literacy. I was a preschool teacher, first and foremost.
I had rich and meaningful conversations with 2, 3 and 4 year olds. I did not feel prepared to enter into an academic conversation but Linda always made me feel that what I had to say was valuable.
She made me feel that I belonged at Rice.
I recall many, many conversations about educational equity and the state of public schooling and Linda was a force to be reckoned with on, passionate and informed. After I left Rice Linda would still invite me to speak at one of her classes on young adult literature. l had returned to my roots as a preschool teacher and again having conversations with little ones but Linda still made me feel like I had something valuable to say. I will forever be grateful for her belief in me.
Posted by Pansy Gee on April 26, 2021
Linda was my mentor, my friend.
I think of her with love, awe and admiration. “Dr. McNeil”, professor at Rice University, Director of her department, yet so approachable, so human. 
Her wisdom, shared freely was always treasured; always considered and because of my own stubbornness, finally followed. She nudged so gently, that I hardly noticed I was giving into her visionary ideas. She never allowed me to be afraid, to say “not me”. Her ideas moved education forward and moved me farther.
Linda’s heart for education and the want for all to have access to a quaility school was an issue that had her constant attention. She understood where and how the inequities took place. If she had more time she would have solved that.
Linda understood the value of the fine arts in education. Her involvement with the former Teachers’ Writing Project, the current Writing and the Arts and her work with Geoff Winningham and public school children highlighted her belief that creativity is at the heart of learning.
But the most cherished gift of all are the relationships she had a hand in shaping, in encouraging, a force in enriching—Bernie, Patsy, Karen, Laurie and Judy.... The sharing of her family—Luke and Carrie and Kathryn. Her friends, her family are now my friends.
I will carry these people, her lessons and the love of Linda M. McNeil with me always.

Pansy Gee
Posted by Michele Moses on April 23, 2021
I have known Linda since I was a doctoral student and she was assigned to me as a mentor through the Spencer Foundation. It's difficult to describe how kind and generous she was, not only with her feedback on my research, but also more personally, about life in academia as a first-gen scholar. Soon afterwards she invited me to submit a manuscript to AERJ, of which she was editor at the time. Her mentorship through the submission, revision, and publication process was incredible. I will hold Linda forever in my heart. My deepest condolences to her family. Love, Michele Moses
Posted by Christine Sleeter on April 22, 2021
I have known Linda since I was a doctoral student at UW Madison. Although I don't see her often (mainly at AERA), I've loved her work since I first began reading it. She brought a clear sense of justice and sound scholarship to her work, which I've appreciated. I've also enjoyed just talking with her as a warm, delightful human being. Although I value all that she left us, I'm deeply saddened to learn of her passing.
Posted by Sheila Whitford on April 20, 2021
I first met Linda when I joined Dr. Marv Hoffman’s School Writing Project 25 years ago. I was not a traditional teacher and often had to defend my pedagogies in the East End Houston, high needs high school where I spent the majority of my teaching career. Linda and I began talking about the academic needs of my students. She shared with me the Latinx and African American literature that I was so hungry to then share with my students. She began promoting my status with the school’s administration and encouraged professors in the Center for Education to bring their teachers in to visit my classes. Linda motivated my learning and set the environment in my East End Houston school for me to continue to engage my students with literature from their cultures, to encourage my students to write their stories, and most importantly to validate the worth and dignity of the assets that my students brought into my classroom . I was able to grow into the teacher that I am today and thus has left an imprint not only on me but all the students that I have taught. I could never find the words to thank her enough.
Posted by Richard Smith on April 19, 2021
I have very fond memories of Linda, who was such an earnest and persistent champion of meaningful school reform. She was a wonderful colleague, an effective spokesperson for many good causes, and an inspiration for all of us who believe in the value of linking our professional expertise to the needs and interests of primary and secondary teachers and their students. Linda fought hard for the things she believed in, and she was always on the side of the angels. Her presence and her passion will be sorely missed.
Posted by Mary Metz on April 17, 2021
I met Linda in 1979 when Gail MacColl, project officer at the National Institute of Education, introduced us by letter. We both had research grants for qualitative research studies and we both were young mothers with part time appointments on the edge of academia. We met and as Gail predicted had much in common both personally and professionally. I lived in Milwaukee where my husband's job was, but soon got a position at UW-Madison, so Linda and I were both in Madison, Wisconsin during the work week and had an opportunity to forge a friendship. Before long, she got her position at Rice University and moved to Texas. But our friendship lasted over the years fed by nearly annual opportunities to have long dinners together at professional meetings in cities around the country. We read each other’s work and discussed professional issues, but we also kept each other up with news of our families.

Linda was passionate about education and especially about education for children who did not arrive at the school door with advantages.  She was also passionate about education as formation for citizenship. She was able to clarify how experience on the ground, the daily mutual labors of teachers and students, is intimately affected by the larger forces of educational policy.  And she was also able to illuminate how educational formation of students has profound effects not just on individual lives but on the life of the body politic. Her work lives on and will continue to have profound effects, both through the many people she touched face to face and through those who encounter her ideas only through the printed page.
Posted by Angela Valenzuela on April 16, 2021
In Remembrance: Rice University Professor of Education, Dr. Linda M. McNeil
[posted on April 16, 2021 at: http://texasedequity.blogspot.com/2021/04/in-remembrance-rice-university.html]

Some of you may know Rice University Professor Linda McNeil. I want to let you know that she passed away last Thursday on April 1 from cancer. Remarkably, I spoke to her the evening before. Though she couldn’t talk, her caretaker told me that she was happy with all that I shared, raising her oxygen levels.

Linda was a fierce warrior in Texas against high-stakes testing and for anti-racist curriculum. She was also a dear friend who stood in solidarity with me when I was denied tenure at Rice University many years ago. You can read some of her latest writings on her blog that I and others had finally convinced her to launch a few years back. I encourage you, as well, to hear what may be her last recorded presentation on high-stakes testing at a forum sponsored by the LBJ school.

I am so grateful to have had her as a dear friend and ally in the struggle pretty much in all that I ever did in my professional life. For example, I would never have won the Outstanding Book award by AERA in 2000 since she was the one who nominated my book without my knowing about this at the time. Linda uplifted me when I was at my lowest point in those difficult years as a struggling assistant professor—and as one of only two Mexican American professors who taught at Rice in its entire history at the time.

Linda believed in me at a time when I didn’t believe in myself. Professionally, I am who I have become in great part because of her.

Though deeply saddened, I take comfort in knowing that her just, generous, and fighting spirit will be there with me and the many lives she touched over the length of her life and career.

If you knew Linda and want to honor and celebrate her life, feel free to post a comment at forevermissed.com

Also take a little time to read this wonderful 2014 interview in InspiringHoustonWomen.com upon her nomination by Pansy Gee.

Your powerful voice for children—always the children—will be dearly missed, Linda. Thank you for being you and for entrusting us with your extraordinary legacy.

May you Rest In Power!


Angela Valenzuela
Posted by Cinthia Salinas on April 16, 2021
I meant Linda nearly twenty years ago through her work and friendship with Angela Valenzuela. I was struck by her kindness and willingness to listen--she was a giant in the field but instead wanted to hear teachers tell stories -she wanted to support and give of herself. Her loss to our world and to her family can't be captured in words-- but what we all know is that she mattered and she made a difference for so many. May she rest in peace--and always guide and inspire us to do more.
Posted by Grace Wang on April 11, 2021
Linda, I will always remember your sense of humor and your incredible command of words! You were always able to provide insightful perspective! Thank you so much for your friendship and the opportunity to know you! Love always!
Posted by Kathryn McNeil on April 10, 2021
I am so incredibly proud of you, Mom.
You are my hero in every way- your brilliance, your compassion, your bravery inspire me every day. Your love is the biggest gift you had to give. You shared it so generously with us all.
I love you so much and I will miss you forever.
Thank you for being my M♥️M.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Angela Valenzuela on December 5, 2021
Hi Linda. I reached out to your daughters in the morning before the Commencement Speech I delivered. Very honored, of course, to be the featured speaker yesterday, your birthday. It came off really well and I felt your presence strongly. Your memorable warmth and smiled buoyed my own spirit.

The other day, Luz mentioned that she missed you and how you were such a good person. You made an impression and enduring impact on our lives and for that we are eternally grateful. We miss you so much! Thank you for all the love and light you brought, and continue to bring, to the world.
Posted by Pansy Gee on December 4, 2021
December 4, 2021
Happy Birthday dear Linda!
Your smile, your energy, your love remain an inspiration in my life!
Posted by Laurie Hammons on December 4, 2021
I have been gifted with some wonderful friends in this life, but one of the most exceptional is Linda McSpadden McNeil. It was such a privilege to spend time with her and to see her amazing mind at work. She was so talented in seeing connections between disparate events, in realizing the underlying motivations behind some of the harmful issues Texans observed as politics and money took aim at our students. Her first book, Contradictions of Control, examined what happens when issues of control overshadow the education of students. Her second book was originally titled Contradictions of Reform: Educational Costs of Standardization, and was written to compare a standardized curriculum with what was possible when schools and teachers are free to innovate and provide students with a creative, challenging, engaging curriculum. (The title and subtitle were changed by the publisher because of the testing craze.) At one time when I was assisting with her book I remember telling her that her skill as a writer had demonstrated to me that prose could be art, like any other medium. She was not afraid to stand up and speak publicly for “our children,” even though it cost her through harassment and some kinds of prestige.

Linda did receive many honors throughout her career, one that I participated in was her editorship of the Social and Institutional Analysis section of the American Educational Research Journal. She drew upon her wide circle of academic friends and associates to create an exceptional advisory board and pool of reviewers. She was very creative in recommending reviewers that were not only experts in the field, but also some who had interesting insights to offer, which strengthened the final version of the articles. Her special issue on Education and Democracy brought a flood of articles seeking to be included.

Linda wrote many articles and book chapters, too. I was privileged see them being put together masterfully. She had wanted to gather many of these into a final, book, but writing was very difficult for Linda. She suffered from a serious case of writer’s block at times, and I wish I could have helped her get past that. Just this morning, I thought of an angle to take on this book, and maybe I could have convinced her to do it, but then I remembered once again that Linda is not here to work her magic with words.

Not only did Linda have a powerful brain, but she also had a magnificent heart. She supported immigrant rights, marched for peace, blogged for children, and was a special friend to many. She was there for her students, meeting with them whenever they needed help, and guiding them in their future careers. She co-founded the Center for Education at Rice, giving a home to many programs that went on to enrich the skills of teachers and the students they taught. She gave me a chance when she asked me to coordinate the research journal, allowing me to experience how research functions, and the workings of the academic life. Before that, my time as an accountant and homemaker had done little to stretch my mind, and it was exhilarating to be in a world where ideas were discussed and debated.

As a personal example of her caring nature, Linda knew I had an artist’s heart, and she encouraged it whenever possible. She bought me my first membership to the Museum of Fine Arts, and I think of her gratefully whenever I now attend, feeling her there enjoying it with me. When I took up painting after my mom died, after concurrent cancer treatment, she was my biggest fan. She asked me often what I had been painting, and I knew I could cheer her if I brought some recent works. She wanted to know when I had work on display at the watercolor society, and if I won an award she would either be there or be cheering me on. I have missed so much that encouragement and have wished so many times over these months that I could share what I’m learning. She would have loved hearing about my latest discoveries.

We are lucky to have had the time we did with Linda, and her gifts have helped shape the lives of so many people, which in turn will shape the lives of generations to come.
Recent stories

A Wonderful Teacher

Shared by katherine merseth on May 6, 2021
I met Linda when she came to Harvard to work with me in the Teacher Education Program  Harvard was just getting back into the business and Linda was a tremendous help to me in formulating and managing the program.  She taught a great course called Teaching and Curriculum which was greatly needed for these new teachers. 
I will always remember her warmth and her Texas accent--so endearing.to someone who of course doesn't have an accent from the Midwest.
I once took her to a country fair in Northern Maine; she loved it and seemed right at home!  . 
Great person, great mother, great friend. Your contributions to our scholarship will live along with fond memories of our chats about teaching and teacher education. 

Katherine (Kay) Merseth 
Shared by Mary Metz on May 3, 2021
I met Linda in 1979 when Gail MacColl, project officer at the National Institute of Education, introduced us by letter. We both had research grants for qualitative research studies and we both were young mothers with part time appointments on the edge of academia. We met and as Gail predicted had much in common both personally and professionally.I lived in Milwaukee but soon got a position at UW-Madison, so Linda and I were both in Madison, Wisconsin during the work week for a while. Before long, she got her position at Rice University and moved to Texas. But our relationship lasted over the years fed by nearly annual opportunities to have long dinners together at professional meetings in cities around the country. We read each other’s work and discussed professional issues, but we also kept each other up with news of our families.
Linda was passionate about education and especially about education for children who did not arrive at the school door with advantages. She was also passionate about education as formation for citizenship. She was able to clarify how experience on the ground, the daily mutual labors of teachers and students, is intimately affected by the larger forces of educational policy. And she was also able to illuminate how educational formation of students has profound effects not just on individual lives but on the life of the body politic. Her work lives on and will continue to have profound effects, both through the many people she touched face to face and through those who encounter her ideas only through the printed page.

Shared by Patsy Cooper on May 2, 2021
I first met Linda in the Spring of 1990 to discuss the possibility of my creating a teacher education project in early childhood language and literacy under the auspices of the Center for Education.  I'm not only extremely proud to report School Literacy and Culture is now in its 31st year at Rice, I'm proud to call Linda its godmother.

I want to also share how struck I was upon meeting Linda back then—as I continued to be in the three decades thereafter—what an incredibly agile and far reaching mind she had.  There wasn't a subject she wasn't interested in or knowledgeable of.  She viewed education, her own specialization, like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, one interlocking piece after another, no matter the number of pieces.  Critically, the finished puzzle Linda ceaselessly sought to create was a socially just education for all.  Her scholarly work in this area, including her game-changing Contradictions of Control bespoke this mission in total.

As many have testified, I count myself privileged to also have been a friend of Linda's.  She was generous beyond words with her time and attention.  And, as a persistent out-of-towner, I can say she ran the best version of a home away from home I have ever been in.  

She will be truly missed.

My thoughts are with her beloved daughters, Katherine and Carrie, and most precious grandson, Luke.

Patsy Cooper