A number of individuals I love have not too long ago handed away (Bob Dole, Colin Powell, Fred Hiatt, Stephen Sondheim…), however the one one in that group who was additionally an in depth buddy is Denis Doyle, who died at eighty-one on December 2 in Los Angeles, his dwelling in recent times.
Denis and his late spouse Gloria returned to their native state late in life to be close to their kids and grandchildren and since the indomitable Gloria wanted extra medical consideration and private assist. It was the appropriate transfer, and so they had been spectacularly properly taken care of as Gloria grew weaker and Denis acquired well being challenges of his personal.
I had the chance to go to a few occasions, together with shortly earlier than the Covid-19 plague shut everybody down. Denis was bodily diminished however sharp, affable and curious as ever. Our actual relationship, although, was in Washington, the place for many years Denis and Gloria and Renu and I lived a few miles aside. It was each an expert and social connection. Our youngsters attended the identical faculty. We dined collectively 100 occasions. We had many mutual buddies. Renu was sometimes in a position to supply medical solutions, and I lapped up the recipes in Gloria’s self-published cookbooks.
Gloria Revilla Doyle, it should be famous, was one of the exceptional individuals I’ve recognized. Regardless of a degenerative state of affairs that left her a quadriplegic for many years, she was a lot greater than plucky and decided. She was regal and commanding, inquisitive, beneficiant, and kindly, pursuing a variety of pursuits with a variety of buddies—and expertly internet hosting many people—with nary a “woe is me,” no less than none that we ever heard.
And Denis was at all times there, even whereas sustaining his personal busy and productive skilled life, unfailingly supportive, affected person, loving, and accommodating, each in suburban D.C. and later within the Metropolis of Angels.
Denis’s skilled life was, in fact, spent within the schooling realm, the place we first intersected and bonded, not simply because we agreed on a lot, but additionally as a result of we stimulated one another and on a number of events had been in a position to collaborate, together with co-authored items that typically gored ungrateful oxen.
Denis began his profession as a staffer to the California legislature, then got here to Washington to work on the Workplace of Financial Alternative and Nationwide Institute of Schooling (antecedent to IES), the place he performed a big position in early school-voucher experiments. Submit-government, Denis was related to a number of eminent suppose tanks and was a prolific writer, pundit, and scholar beneath their auspices and as an impartial guide. He remained captivated with faculty alternative, notably as a vital technique to assist needy youngsters in any other case caught in dire colleges. He hated the hypocrisy of those that opposed alternative for others whereas availing themselves of it for their very own youngsters. However he was no “silver bullet” reformer. He had loads of ammunition—and loads of targets. He served on the Nationwide Fee on Time and Studying. Whereas at AEI, he (and Terry Hartle) wrote incisively concerning the strengths and weaknesses of state schooling companies. He penned a trenchant comparability of the U.S. and Japanese schooling programs. Presumably his most influential work, coauthored with the late David Kearns, was Successful the Mind Race: A Daring Plan to Make Our Colleges Aggressive. [Doyle’s article “The Knowledge Guild: The tension between unions and professionals” appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Education Next.]
Later in his profession, Denis and a few colleagues launched a profitable academic expertise agency known as SchoolNet.
As Andy Rotherham wrote of Denis, “A couple of issues stand out. First, his thoughts. You run into good individuals on this sector on a regular basis, and then you definitely run into *good* individuals on this sector. He was the latter. An actual mind, polymath, and curious individual. Second, he was humorous. He was variety, however he was hilarious.”
His affect was felt far and vast, not simply via his scholarship and commentary, but additionally via his affect on others. As Andy famous, “[U]pon his passing, it was noteworthy the quantity of people that stated issues like, ‘an actual mentor to me.’” And as Leslye Arsht and Sue Pimentel wrote, “Denis introduced a singular combine of experience and customary sense, confidence and curiosity, and understanding and good humor to charged and complicated arenas. He was one in all a sort and might be missed.”
Denis was enjoyable, too. A teller of tales, a connoisseur of high-quality foods and drinks, a gracious and open-handed host, a genial companion, and the proprietor of a grand humorousness. It will have been onerous to not be his buddy.
I’m privileged to have recognized and labored with him. However greater than that, I liked the man.