Deborah Kim Emery, researcher at Gardner Center, dead at 35

Stanford alumna Deborah Kim Emery, a research associate at the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, died Oct. 30 at Stanford Hospital after suffering a stroke. She was 35.

Emery was an educational psychologist who focused on the developmental and social aspects of learning, particularly as they relate to connecting academic research with hands-on practice in schools and the community. Craig Baker, executive director of the Gardner Center, described Emery as "the consummate, behind-the-scenes networker. She was quiet, yet she was as strong a leader as you could have."

At the time of her death, Emery was co-teaching an undergraduate course, Contexts That Promote Youth Development, in the School of Education. During the spring quarters of 2006 and 2007, she co-taught Designing Learning Spaces, a course connected to the school's Learning, Design and Technology Master's Program. Daniel Gilbert, an academic technology specialist at the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning, taught with Emery.

"People love talking at a place like Stanford," Gilbert said. "Deb liked listening. One thing I learned from her is to ask better questions and listen to the answers. That is something that endeared her to faculty, staff and students. She also knew who she was and was true to herself. That allowed her to build a lot of bridges in underserved areas across the region."

Education Professor Shelley Goldman was Emery's adviser at the School of Education, where she earned a doctorate in educational psychology in 2004. According to Goldman, Emery was interested in informal, or "off-the-record," learning environments, particularly those based in community technology centers.

"She was always interested in what opportunities youth have to learn," Goldman said. "She also looked for ways for [Stanford] undergraduates to get involved in the community," such as through the Haas Center for Public Service. For example, Emery led research focused on how Stanford undergraduates work with students at East Palo Alto High School to improve their academic outcomes and coordinated summer intern programs through the Gardner Center.

"Deb was calm, quiet and steady," Goldman said. "She was always there to help people along. It looked effortless, but a lot got done without her making a lot of noise. She had understated tenaciousness."

Emery was born in Los Angeles in 1972. Her family moved to Modesto in 1973 and to Palo Alto in the early 1980s, where her parents ran The Cookbook, a restaurant in Town & Country Village next to campus. Emery graduated from Gunn High School in 1990 and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California-Berkeley in 1994. After graduating, she worked with several nonprofit organizations, teaching and directing programs for children. Emery entered the doctoral program at Stanford in the late 1990s and, after graduating in 2004, joined SRI International as an educational researcher. She returned to work at Stanford in 2006.

Emery is survived by her husband, Brian Emery, and their daughter, Kaia Kim Emery, of Menlo Park; parents James and Agnes Kim of Palo Alto; and sister Jennifer Choi of New York City.

Services have been held. In lieu of flowers, family members request that donations be made to support Emery's daughter. Checks may be made out to Brian Emery, with reference to "Syouthsub1," and sent to Stanford Federal Credit Union, PO Box 10690, Palo Alto, CA 94303-0843.