Leah D. Adams

September 13, 1932February 1, 2014


Leah D. Adams Ann Arbor, Michigan

Leah Dutenhaver Adams, age 81, died peacefully Saturday, February 1, of complications from chemotherapy. Tim, her loving husband of nearly 60 years, was by her side as well as her four children and one of her ten grandchildren.

Leah was born on September 13, 1932 to John and Elizabeth (Casper) Dutenhaver in Malvern, Ohio. She was extremely active in 4-H as a teenager and graduated from Malvern High School in 1950 as valedictorian of her class of 30 students.

Leah went on to The Ohio State University, where she made many life-long friends and met her husband, Tim when she was a 19-year-old sophomore. They were engaged a year later and married May 29, 1954, just days before her OSU graduation.

Leah graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ohio State in Home Economics Education and Communications. She was inducted into Mortarboard Honorary at OSU. This was just the beginning of her advanced education and many honors. Leah completed her Masters at Wayne State University in Human Development and Educational Psychology in 1963, by which time she was raising her four children. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1970 with a PhD in Educational Psychology and Early Childhood Education.

Between the completion of her B.Sc. and her Ph.D., Leah worked as a Public School Teacher, Adult Education Teacher, High School Teacher and Cooperative Preschool Teacher. She taught one of the earliest public preschool programs beginning in 1963, before the days of Head Start. She joined the faculty of Eastern Michigan University in 1969 as a Professor in the School of Education, teaching a wide variety of teacher preparation courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She also taught as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Michigan from 1972 to 1979. After 30 years at EMU, she retired to the position of Professor Emeritus in 1999.

Leah was a veracious contributor to the field of education. Her full curriculum vitae, listing her numerous publications, presentations, consultancies, professional organization activities, honors and awards, is more than 20 pages. Even after retirement from EMU, she continued to do research, writing, and international consulting and served on the editorial boards of several international journals. In 2006, she was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist from the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to lead a project in South Korea.

She served as president of the National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators and president of the USA Committee of the World Organization for Early Childhood. She received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children for her leadership at the state level. Leah was perhaps best known for her international activities and had given major speeches in 38 countries on six continents. She served on the Executive Committee of the World Organization for Early Childhood, as a consultant to UNESCO and USAID and had five work assignments in the Middle East.

She loved to travel and was always planning her next trip. She had visited over 100 countries and all 7 continents. In retirement, she became an accomplished weaver and spent two years as a cruise ship lecturer. Leah was a current member of the Ann Arbor Symphony Board and the Fiber Arts Guild.

Survivors include her husband, Tim, daughters Michelle (Jim) Romano of Fort Myers, Florida, Jennifer (Bill) Coon of Pearland, Texas, sons Gard (Annette) of Bloomfield Hills, Douglas (Christine) of East Grand Rapids, grandchildren Eric Duffett, Jennifer Duffett, David Coon, Meredith Coon, Steven Coon, Charles Adams, Emily Adams, Olivia Adams, Maxwell Adams and Alexander Adams. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Paul Dutenhaver.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Zion Lutheran Church 1501 W. Liberty Ann Arbor at 10:30 am on Friday, February 14. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Leah D. Adams endowment at EMU Foundation 1349 S. Huron Ypsilanti MI 48197. To sign Leah’s guest book, please visit


  • Memorial Service Friday, February 14, 2014

Leah D. Adams

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Linda Beyer

July 9, 2014

Just heard about Leah's passing. My condolences go out to the entire family. Jenny and Moo - you had a great mom. I remember putting my feet under the Adam's dinner table and it was always a wonderful event. Hugs to you all.

Rosella Bannister

June 24, 2014

I just learned of Leah's passing more than four months ago. She had a magnetic personality, was a good listener, and was always friendly and supportive.

I remember her telling me which side of the cruise ship was the best, depending on the ports one would visit. Talk about considering the details of success!

I did not know of her undergraduate work in Home Economics at Ohio State -- at the same time I was studying at Purdue. I wish we had compared notes. She was a winner in life.

Gwen Donovan

March 7, 2014

Much has been said about Dr. Adams' achievements and contributions in Early Childhood Education; they are impressive beyond words. She was a passionate advocate for young children throughout the world. But when I think of Leah.... most of all I will remember her thoughtfulness. In the months before her death while undergoing chemotherapy she sent copies of photos and personal notes to former EMU students that brought back memories of our wonderful adventure in Davos and the times we gathered at her beautiful home just so we could be together again. After receiving my Christmas letter this year, she took the time to send me a note telling me that she and Tim "loved it" along with some personal sweet words to me. Who does these acts of kindness at such a traumatic time? Only an exceptional woman...exceptional in so many ways. We will not see the like of her again.

Doris Berdanier

March 1, 2014

I am a college friend, who enjoyed many moments with her as we hurried to class, and shared our new knowledge. Leah and I were roommates for a quarter our senior year. I remember we used to checked one another to be sure our seams in our hose were straight. I loved her so very much and cherish our years together in college. She was an inspiration to me. God bless you Tim and your family. Doris Baird Berdanier.

Nancy Brown

February 24, 2014

Leah was an incredible inspiration and guiding light, especially during the early years of my career. I am so thankful for her support, her energy, and her warmth.She set the bar high for those who follow. I sincerely miss her.

V Conley

February 24, 2014

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Dr. Adams. May God bless you all.

February 18, 2014

Lowell and I extend our sincere sympathy to Tim and family. Leah was a welcoming and gracious woman. Her generatively and creativity was admirable. She will be missed by many.
Kristina and Lowell Weiner
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Alice Whiren

February 15, 2014

Dear Adams Family,
I am sorry for your loss. Leah was a great person and a strong leader on behalf of children. We will all miss her wisdom as well as her style of enjoying her retirement. Alice Whiren

Nancy Willyard

February 14, 2014

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Dr. Leah Adams. Dr. Adams was my advisor when I began working on my Master's Degree at Eastern Michigan University in 1970. It was Dr. Adams who convinced me to earn my Early Childhood Endorsement (ZA). She said it would serve me well. She became my inspiration as well as my mentor. Throughout my 44 years as a teacher, Department Chair of Early Childhood Education and Director of Michigan Head Start-State Collaboration Office, I was fortunate to keep in contact with Dr. Adams. She always was interested in what I was doing and the projects I was working on. She also encouraged me to be an advocate for early childhood education. My advisor-became my colleague!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart Dr. Adams. May you rest in peace.

Monica and Jim Gorecki

February 14, 2014

Dear Adams family, please accept our deepest sympathy and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.