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ODU PIONEER A. RUFUS TONELSON DIES

Alan Rufus Tonelson, a former Old Dominion University administrator, died Aug. 6 at the age of 94 in Norfolk.

Tonelson's affiliation with Old Dominion dates to 1930, when he was one of the first three students to enroll and attend the university, then known as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary.

He received his bachelor of science degree in biology in 1933 and his master's degree in guidance and personal work in 1953 from William and Mary. In 1963, he earned a doctor of philosophy degree in education administration from Michigan State University.

Tonelson was a teacher, coach and administrator in the Norfolk Public Schools for more than 25 years, serving as principal of Maury High School from 1955 to 1966.

In 1966, Tonelson joined the faculty of Old Dominion as a professor of education. He was later named dean of the Darden School of Education. In 1972, he assumed the position of assistant to the president for school and community relations and a year later was named the university's affirmative action and equal employment opportunity officer.

Tonelson served as past president of Phi Delta Kappa, and he organized the Old Dominion chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, both national honor societies in education. He also served as president of the Norfolk Education Association.

In 1970, Tonelson received the Old Dominion University Distinguished Alumni Award. The school's alumni association named its outstanding faculty award the Alan Rufus Tonelson Award, and because of his generosity, the university named the garden in Webb Center, the Tonelson Garden, in his honor.

Tonelson received numerous community service awards including the Kiwanian of the Year, Optometric Society's Humanitarian Award and awards from the United Jewish Federation and the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Tonelson is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Sara Hamburg Tonelson, and two sons Louis O. Tonelson, the retired former principal of Kempsville High School, and Stephen W. Tonelson, professor of early childhood, speech-language pathology and special education at ODU. Survivors also include numerous nephews and nieces.

A funeral will take place Congregation Beth El in Norfolk Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the A. Rufus Tonelson Athletic Scholarship at Old Dominion University or a charity of the donor's choice.

This article was posted on: August 7, 2006

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.