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Mount Sinai Obituaries and Services » Melvyn Semmel
September 22, 1931 - February 25, 2021
Service Information Mount Sinai Simi Valley
Service Date: Wednesday February 3rd, 2021
Service Time: 2:30 pm
Mount Sinai Simi Valley
6150 Mount Sinai Drive
Simi Valley, California 93063
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Melvyn Ivan Semmel
September 18, 1931- February 25, 2021
Melvyn, Mel, or Mirv, as he was affectionately known, passed away peacefully at the age of 89, on February 25, 2021.
Mel was first and foremost a devoted husband and an affectionate dad and grandpa. Inseparable for 67 years from wife Dorothy and children Lisa and David, he knew no greater joy than to travel, camp, learn, teach, and enjoy good food and wine as a foursome. Occasionally, if they were lucky, Mel would add a student, colleague, or friend to the family inner circle – you know who you are. For all of us under his aegis, his expectations were usually lofty, and his criticisms frank, but they were always tempered by a fierce and uncompromising sense of love and responsibility for his people.
Professionally, Melvyn Semmel was a researcher and educator who helped shape the nation’s understanding and policies relating to students with disabilities. He was a prolific author, with more than 80 scholarly articles to his name, nearly a quarter of them since his retirement from teaching in 1994. He mentored dozens of doctoral and post-doctoral students.
Mel and Dorothy Semmel both joined the faculty of UC Santa Barbara in 1978, and together founded the school’s special education program that same year. This doctoral research and teacher education program is now called the Special Education, Disabilities, and Risk Studies Program. The UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education awarded Mel Semmel the prestigious Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship for 2008-09.
He started his career as a special education teacher in Harlem and the southeast Bronx after working with street gangs as a group social worker. Following an appointment as demonstration teacher at Hunter College, New York, he earned a master’s degree at SUNY, Buffalo before graduating from Peabody College in 1963, with a doctorate of education with an emphasis in mental retardation, from the Department of Psychology and Human Development.
Upon completing his doctorate, he joined the Joint Education and Psychology Program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he was also a research scientist at the Center for Research on Language. As a professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the 1970s, he directed the Center for Innovation in Teaching the Handicapped (CITH).
Among his many career achievement awards, he was the inaugural recipient of the Research Career Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. In 1995, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Research in Special Education from the American Educational Research Association. In 2007 Mel was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. After his retirement, he devoted his professional time and energy to international policy consulting, evaluation, research, and pro bono volunteer work.
Mel is survived by his wife, Dorothy Silberman Semmel, his daughter, Lisa Sharp (Stephen Sharp), and son David (Jocelyn Bowie). He is also survived by his sister Evelyn Blustein, and grandchildren Alana and Marcus Semmel, and Michelle and Alex Sharp.