Editor’s note: In this piece, TIRF President Kathi Bailey interviews one of TIRF’s founding and current Trustees, Dick Tucker (pictured right). To see a video of Dick Tucker talking about the work of TIRF, click here and scroll down.


Kathi: You were part of the original committee that TESOL President Joy Reid set up in 1994-95 to explore the feasibility of starting a foundation for our field. What was that experience like?

Dick: My earliest memories are of working with “legends” in the field such as Ed Anthony (University of Pittsburgh), Jim Alatis (Georgetown University), and Russ Campbell (UCLA). The opportunity to brainstorm and think ‘outside the box’ with folks such as these about the establishment of a new kind of non-profit organization was exciting and challenging.


Kathi: What are some of your earliest memories of TIRF?

Dick: A very fond memory was the early “conference” that TIRF held, to which we invited leading members of the diverse language education associations, key researchers in second language learning, assessment and policy—the results of which really helped us to map out an agenda for TIRF’s future work.

Another fond memory was working together on the Board with such a diverse group. It included people from backgrounds ranging from CEO’s of publishing firms, folks from non-profit organizations such as ETS and CAL, representatives from diverse North American and international universities—all of whom were committed to improving the quality of language teaching and learning.

The addition to the Board of an observer from the U.S. State Department and a representative from the British Council has also proven to be enormously beneficial to our discussions, priority setting, and decision making.


Kathi: What has surprised you about the way the Foundation has evolved?

Dick: Naively, I had thought that the task of raising funds to support the continuing core mission of TIRF would be much easier than it has turned out to be. I personally had the good fortune to work in the international division of the Ford Foundation as a Program Advisor for Language Education in the late 1960’s (in Southeast Asia) and the 1970’s (in the Middle East and North Africa) at a time when many organizations such as the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and others were investing heavily in language education work—a trend that came to quite an abrupt end in the late 1980’s. To this date, we struggle to raise the support necessary to carry out the core mission of the Foundation.


Kathi: Are there any initiatives that you are particularly proud of?

Dick: I am particularly proud of the fact that early on we established a mechanism for funding doctoral dissertation grants and that this process has evolved into one in which we also place a priority (with the assistance of the British Council) on funding work by doctoral students from economically disadvantaged countries.

I am also very proud of the collaboration with Routledge that has led to the publication and broader dissemination of the work of TIRF’s grantees through a series of five monographs edited by TIRF Board members. The sixth book in the series is in progress at this time.


Kathi: What would you like to say to TIRF’s supporters?

Dick: I am excited to look back over the good things that have been accomplished by our grantees over the years, by our publications, and by the meetings that we have sponsored. But much, much more needs to be done if we are to prepare our coming generation of students to participate effectively in the emerging global knowledge economy.


Editor’s note: The citation for the piece Dick mentioned above, related to the “early” TIRF conference, follows just below:

P. A. Duff, & K. M. Bailey (2001). (Eds.). Identifying research priorities: Themes and directions for the TESOL International Research Foundation. TESOL Quarterly, 35(4), 595-616.