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Dr. William Watson Purkey

Dr. William Watson Purkey, age 94, died on April 7, 2024 in Tallahassee, Florida. He is survived by his wife, Imogene Hedrick Purkey; their two children, Dr. William Watson Purkey, Jr., M.D. (Elizabeth) and Cynthia Purkey Norton (Jim); six grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. William and Imogene were happily married for 73 years.


William was born on August 22, 1929 to Elizabeth Reynolds Shenk and Lacurgus Watson Shenk of Luray, Virginia. Later, William was adopted by his stepfather, Richard Purkey. William grew up in Shenandoah, Virginia and Washington D.C. where he served as a United States Senate Page Boy.


After graduation from Jefferson Senior High School in Roanoke, Virginia, William joined the United States Air Force. During the Korean War he served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist. He received an Honorable Discharge in January 1955. After his military discharge, William continued his education at the University of Virginia where he received his undergraduate degree in education and his M.Ed. and Ed.D. in Educational Psychology.


Upon receiving his doctorate, William accepted a faculty position at the University of Florida. There he moved from assistant, to associate, to full professor with tenure. In 1976, William accepted the position of full professor, with tenure, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


During his 28 years of teaching at UNCG, William received the highest award for teaching given by the University of North Carolina System, The UNC Board of Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2005 William received the 2005 Excellence in Education Award, presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music for his work in encouraging learning through the arts.


William was the author or co-author of ten professional books and over 100 articles on human motivation and self-concept theory. His most scholarly contribution was to create a theory of practice called "Invitational Education." The theory is designed to create, maintain, and enhance truly welcoming schools and allied institutions. The International Alliance for Invitational Education, a non-profit organization consisting of over 500 members in 16 counties, is founded on invitational theory.


There will be no formal visitation, a private memorial will be held at a later date. Rather than sending flowers, William requested that contributions be made to the non-profit International Alliance for Invitational Education at

Help Us Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. William Purkey
by clicking on the following link to leave donations and  comments in memory of Dr. Purkey.

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International Alliance for

Invitational Education

P.O. Box 594
Nicholasville, KY 40340
United States


Tammy Baker, Business Manager


Debra Coffey, Executive Director

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