Agnes Donohoe Rothlisberg


Honored By

Honored by: Klipp, Jane
Date submitted: February 05, 2008
Gift: Ornate Seatwall Bench

Agnes Rothlisberg was born to an immigrant Irish plumber and his wife in Jamaica, New York. She was the seventh of eight children (seven girls and one boy) and the first in her family to go to college. She was a fiercely independent woman who always lived by the courage of her convictions. She was the only member of her family to leave the Catholic church and develop her own independent religious beliefs.

She graduated from Hunter College and as a young woman worked in Pennsylvania during the Johnstown flood in 1938. She also worked in the hills of Kentucky during these formative years of her life. She married Allen Greenway Rothlisberg on August 14, 1938 in Jamaica, New York. She had three children, Allen, Peter and Jane and taught in the New York public school system in Flushing, New York while her children were young. In 1955 the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where Agnes taught gifted students, fifth grade and children with educational disabilities. She received a Masters Degree in Education from Arizona State University in 1957. The family then moved to La Mesa, California in 1959 and back to Phoenix in 1962. Mrs. Rothlisberg continued to teach in each of these cities often beginning new programs meeting the individual needs of children wherever she taught. Her husband passed away in 1962 and she continued to teach and support her three children in their academic endeavors making sure all three finished college. She moved back to La Mesa in 1964 to begin yet another new exceptional education program at La Mesa Spring Valley Junior High. It was here that she also taught adult education classes in English for the foreign born; endearing herself to her students that were struggling to learn not just the English language, but all aspects of life in America.

Agnes Rothlisberg was a woman before her time. She taught full time, was a full-time mother and a full-time wife. She was a woman of her convictions that believed in the values of independent thinking. She was consummate educator receiving numerous awards and accolades from all of her students ̱ children and adults alike. Her students were indeed fortunate because she never wavered in her belief of the inherent value of all her students ̱ across their range of capacities and capabilities. She never compromised on her ideals and paved the way for many new and exciting programs in education.

She was very proud and supportive of her family and instilled her love of learning in all of us. She would have been thrilled to know that Allen went on to earn multiple Masters degrees and Peter and Jane both earned PhDs. Her love of learning has lived on in us and inspired us to give back what she taught us to the communities in which we live.