Dr. Alice Paul

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building
Higher Education

Honored By

Honored by: Marshall Foundation
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: General Gift
Honored by: Desert Diamond Casinos
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Dr. Alice Paul, lifelong educator in Tucson, was the first Tohono O'odham woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Paul was born Alice Narcho in Tucson, Arizona, on July 14th 1930, into a family that valued education. Although her parents were not formally educated beyond the eighth grade, they encouraged their children to obtain a higher education (Stocek). In addition, Alice's brother Ray would make sure her homework was done and would give her a dime for every 'A' she earned (Stocek). Also, Dr. Paul took inspiration from her Aunt Christine, who was the first Native American to graduate from the University of Arizona and to become a teacher to Native Americans. Dr. Paul stated 'She was a model for me' (Stocek).

As Dr. Paul advanced from Ochoa Elementary to Tucson High, she noticed that less of her classmates were Tohono O'odham. In fact, she was one of only two Tohono O'odham students to graduate in 1948. After graduating from Tucson High, Dr. Paul entered the University of Arizona; however, financing her education proved to be difficult so she joined the Navy.

Although Dr. Paul did not speak much about her duties or experiences in the Navy, she did mention the positive outcomes. One was that during her service for the country, she met her husband, Richard Paul. The couple met while she was stationed in California around 1949, but could not marry due to Arizona miscegenation law. They went to her minister at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Paul revealed. 'He told us he could not perform interracial marriages in Arizona,' but he did advise them to go to Lordsburg, New Mexico, to get married and then 'he would marry us in my church when we got back' (Stocek). The couple married in 1952 and they had three daughters and one son.

The second advantage was the GI bill that Dr. Paul used to finish her education at the University of Arizona (Stocek). By 1958, she earned her bachelor's degree in Education. Dr. Paul then became the first Tohono O'odham woman to teach in what was the Tucson School District. She worked at Tully Elementary School for eight years, where she came to the attention of Dr. Marie Morrison Hughes, who started Tucson Early Education Model (TEEM), a program that addressed teaching strategies for language, individual creativity and intelligences of children (Stocek). Dr. Hughes's philosophy 'stressed the notion that each child was different and special,' a philosophy that matched Dr. Paul's and the Tohono O'odham's beliefs to 'value each other' (Stocek). About this same time, in 1967, Dr. Paul came to a 'crossroads' moment when in one year she lost six family members in a car accident and seven others individually. She remarks, 'I decided then that if I needed to do something else with my life, I needed to do it then' (Stocek). In 1968, Dr. Paul began what would be a thirty-three year-long connection with the TEEM Project Follow Through in which she acted as a trainer, coordinator and ultimately the head of the program (Vitae).

However, the TEEM Project Follow Through was only one part of Dr. Paul's life. She continued with her education, earning a master's degree and then in 1978 she became the first Tohono O'odham woman to earn a doctoral degree from the University of Arizona. Although her siblings had earned B.A.s, she was the first to earn a Ph.D. in her family.

Alice Paul lived in two culturally defined worlds. In one, her parents brought her up understanding Tohono O'odham practices, which included her grandmother's knowledge of herbal remedies (Stocek). In the other, she traveled across the nation to educate parents and teachers with the mindset to create a world full of possibilities for children. Paul noted, 'It's been like walking a fence to live in two different worlds. I can understand the view on one side as well as the other' (Stocek). She interlinked both cultures in her day to day life, her work and in her many published works such as, 'Cultural Aspects that Affect the Indian Student in Public Schools' written in 1983 and 'Early Childhood Education in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities' written in 1992.

Dr. Paul embraced a variety of positions at the University of Arizona. For six years she was an Assistant Professor, from the years 1986 through 1999 she worked as an Associate Professor and was the head of Teaching and Teacher Education for two years. Dr. Paul was also one of the facilitators that created the Tohono O'odham Community College (Burgman). She served on the board of Trustees for the College and worked with many of the College's presidents.

In addition, she supported the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington D.C. and served on the board of the Arizona State Museum concerning Indigenous cultural matters. She also worked on Tohono O'odham Nation committees like the Association of the Education of Young Children, which honored her contributions.

Dr. Paul would not, as she would call it 'blow her own horn,' but during her lifetime Dr. Paul was acknowledged for her achievements. One such honor was the 'Women on the Move' award from the YWCA; she also earned a place at the Tucson High Hall of Fame. She actively changed the lives of those around her by giving her time and knowledge. She worked with and supported the Desert Diamond Casino, believing that casinos could bring financial stability ending poverty conditions on the reservation. This was because Dr. Paul was motivated by children and she believed that children do not 'choose to be born,' therefore they need to be protected (Bergman). As a result, Dr. Paul gave most of her time to programs that helped parents become better parents and to groups that created mentally healthy environments for children.

Dr. Paul was a spiritual person who believed that 'it was just as important to take care of your soul as it was to take care of your life' (Burgman). Almost every Sunday she could be found at the Southside Presbyterian Church, where she was considered to be 'the matriarch and wisdom keeper' (Southside).

Dr. Paul's oldest daughter said that she was a great mom, a wonderful teacher, the ultimate grandmotherÌÐshe was always positive and calm, and that she raised her children with dignity (Burgman). Dr Paul had 'the desire to find a way to achieve something beyond what everyone else has felt is their lot and to really do something' (Stocek). Dr. Paul passed on May 3, 2005.