Jean Proffitt passed away on Monday, March 16th, after a lifetime of serving in adult education. She made a difference in thousands of lives as a pioneer of the literacy movement in Virginia.
Jean began her literacy advocacy in 1977. She was shocked to learn that millions of adults in America, and tens of thousands of Richmonders, could not read well. Prior to that moment, she had not known that low literacy was such a pervasive problem.
The realization spurred her to action. In 1982, she and the women of Altrusa International of Richmond founded the Literacy Council of Metropolitan Richmond– which today is known as The READ Center. For the first four years, the organization was run from her dining room table and the trunk of her car. That did not slow down Jean! She was committed to her students, and over time, the organization grew until it had its own offices and classrooms.
Jean served on the Board of Directors for The READ Center from its founding until her death. She was unwavering in her dedication to helping adult learners. She believed that her passion for adult literacy was the place she could do the most good in the world.
Her ability to mobilize volunteers and funders to help address this issue was unmatched. They could see her passion and commitment to the cause. They wanted to be part of the solution and trusted Jean to lead the way.
Over her years of literacy advocacy, Jean received many awards and honors. These included a lifetime achievement award from The READ Center for “Dedication to Adult Literacy and her faithful labor in the founding and diligent governance of the READ Center.” The University of Richmond awards a student service award and a scholarship in her name each year. She spoke at regional, national, and international conferences on adult literacy and chaired several of them. Despite all that she accomplished, her heart for the mission always came from the students she served.
In her last message posted on The READ Center website, Jean mentioned how much her life changed because she began helping these adult learners. They left a profound impact on her, and her life’s work was dedicated to them.
Though we will miss her deeply, we know that her legacy of compassion, advocacy, and adult literacy will continue on through The READ Center.
You can read her full obituary here.