Morton Botel, GSE

Morton Botel, Ed’46, GEd’48, Gr’53, emeritus professor of education and child development in Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) and founder of GSE’s Penn Literacy Network, died on July 6 in Ireland. He was 90 years old.

Dr. Botel was born in Philadelphia, where he attended John Bartram High School. He briefly studied naval air communications at Harvard University, then attended Penn, where he earned his undergraduate degree in education in 1946. He earned his master’s degree in education from Penn’s evening program while teaching high school math, then returned to Penn for his doctorate, which he completed in 1953 following just two years of study.

In 1955, he became the supervisor of reading and English in the Bucks County, Pennsylvania school system, where he instituted a five-year plan called “Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum.” He also taught at Penn and in 1966 was invited to overhaul GSE’s program in remedial reading, soon renamed the Reading and Language Arts program.

In 1976, Dr. Botel and several of his colleagues at Penn GSE established the Center for Research in Literacy Communication (Almanac February 3, 1976). In 1978, he received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (Almanac October 13, 1987).

From 1980 until becoming emeritus in 2004 he held the William T. Carter Research Chair as Professor of Education and Child Development at GSE.

In 1981, he founded the Penn Literacy Network (PLN), which offers long-term professional development and continuing education seminars to help teachers of all subjects and grade levels make literacy an integral part of their instruction. By 2015, more than 35,000 educators throughout the country had enrolled in one or more of these courses.  

In 1992, Dr. Botel left PLN to focus on other projects, while his daughter, Bonnie Botel-Sheppard, CGS’74, GEd’76, GrEd’81, GEd’99, assumed leadership. At the time of his death, the elder Dr. Botel was serving as PLN’s senior advisor. 

He authored more than 200 publications for children, teachers, literacy professionals, school leaders and parents in the areas of literacy education, English, reading, math, spelling, study skills and assessment. He was presented with honorary doctorates at Rider University in New Jersey and Holy Family University in Philadelphia.

Dr. Botel is survived by his wife, Penny; his children, Neil Botel, Bonnie (Bob) Botel-Sheppard, Mikel (Beverly Landstrom) Botel, Abby (Ian) Wynne, Mark (Niamh) Feldman and Gail Weston; two brothers, Gene (Julie) and Max (Nina) Botel; one sister, Kathy (Ed) Musarra-Hertzoff; his grandchildren, Lara, GEd’06 (Todd) Paparo, Adam (Maureen) Sheppard, Anna Botel-Sheppard and Gavin Botel, Megan, Joshua, Mya and Sian Wynne and Brooke Feldman; and three great-grandchildren, Gianna, Blake and Callum.

Contributions in his memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders, 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001-5004 or to American Friends Of Magen David Adom, 352 Seventh Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10001.