By Claire Regan ’80
It didn’t matter whether she was working with first-graders or first-year college students. Dr. Rhoda Frumkin was a shining light in any classroom, sharing the joys of literacy and a passion for education.
Her death on Jan. 2 at the age of 74 sent waves of grief through the Wagner College Education Department, where she served as a faculty member for 19 years following her retirement from a meritorious career in the New York City public school system.
“We are grateful for Rhoda’s time, talent and energy,” said Dr. Tarshia Stanley, Wagner provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Her life will continue to impact education and each of us for many years to come.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Frumkin held a bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University, two master’s degrees from New York University and Brooklyn College, and a doctoral degree from Rutgers University, all focusing on the areas of literacy, curriculum and special education.
Her career as an educator began in the classroom in 1969 as a fourth-grade team teacher at Jericho Elementary School on Long Island. The following year, she began working for the New York City Board of Education in a variety of roles that included first-grade teacher, special education evaluator and supervisor, assistant principal and instructional support specialist.
As a tenured professor at Wagner, Frumkin trained and inspired hundreds of students who appreciated her experience and spirited teaching style. She served as director of student teaching and professional field experiences, director of the graduate literacy program, and was a former chair of the Academic Review Committee.
In collaboration with Project Hospitality, she led Wagner education majors in the Los Promotores program at PS 20 in Port Richmond, offering children in kindergarten to third grade activities to bolster their academic skills in literacy, math, social studies and science. The successful program includes outreach to parents, guiding them to promote a passion for learning at home.
Frumkin contributed in 2018 to “Community Portraiture,” an exhibit in the Horrmann Library's Spotlight Gallery featuring the work of several Wagner art and education students and Los Promotores participants.
Also an author and a frequent presenter at workshops and conferences, she received the Distinguished Award for Excellence in Teaching from Wagner in 2016.
“Rhoda created countless opportunities for Wagner students to actively engage with community members, organizations, families and schools,” said Dr. Katia Gonzalez, chair of the Education Department.
Survivors include a brother, Martin Markowitz, and his wife, Andrea Stern, numerous cousins and dear friends. Frumkin’s husband, Stanley, died in 2005. A memorial service is planned for a later date. Arrangements were handled by the Madison (N.J.) Memorial Home.
In the wake of Frumkin's death, Gonzalez and other colleagues established the Dr. Frumkin Literacy Award, which will support education students committed to culturally responsive literacy in schools. Donations in honor of Dr. Rhoda Frumkin for the Literacy Award can be made to Wagner College, Reynolds House, 1 Campus Rd, Staten Island, NY 10301. Please contact Kaitlin Girton at (718) 420-4551 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.