Richard & Jo Anne Vacca Scholarship

Drs Richard and Jo Anne Vacca

Drs. Richard and Jo Anne Vacca are professors emeriti of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University and have devoted their careers to literacy education. They are co-authors of two well-known college textbooks for students who want to become teachers of reading and writing. Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum is now a multi-edition text which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2015; the tenth edition of Reading and Learning to Read was published in 2018.

Dr. Jo Anne Vacca
Jo Anne, a former middle school language arts teacher, retired in 2002 after 22 years at Kent State, including 10 years as chair of the School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies in the College of Education, Health and Human Services. She also served as assistant to the university president and, for a decade, as a faculty representative on the Kent State University Foundation Board.

Dr. Richard Vacca
Richard, a former high school English teacher, retired in 2003 after 23 years at Kent State, where he served as director of the Reading and Writing Center and was chair of the Faculty Senate. Richard was past president of the International Reading Association, one of the largest professional education associations in the world with about 400,000 affiliated members.

The Need

The Vaccas realized that it is a struggle for graduate students to teach all day and attend classes in the evening, while often managing family responsibilities. They wanted to do something that would make an impact on the lives of these students. In 2001, the Vaccas created an endowment to help K-12 teachers in Northeast Ohio pursue their master's degrees at Kent State. In its current form, the Vacca Fellowship for Teachers of Literacy provides tuition scholarships for practicing teachers enrolled in the reading specialization master's program or the doctoral program in literacy education. Financial assistance for teachers who are graduate students is important as they do not qualify for traditional types of scholarships.

The Master's Degree in Reading Specialization

The master's degree in reading specialization develops attitudes, understandings and competencies that are essential for educators concerned with the improvement of literacy at all instructional levels. Students study the nature of the reading process, the interrelationships between literacy and language, literacy learning and teaching, the nature and needs of students with reading problems, reading as a vehicle for learning and enjoyment and the role of research in reading. The program meets all International Reading Association Standards for Classroom Professionals and Specialized Reading Professionals. State of Ohio Endorsement in Reading is attained as part of the core requirements of the program.


Four scholarships may be awarded:

  • We allow one scholarship for a doctoral student in literacy education per year.
  • We allow up to two scholarships for master's students in literacy education per year.
  • For the summer semester, we allow up to a 3 credit hour award.

The scholarship is a one-time, nonrenewable award. Faculty associated with the Reading and Writing Center at Kent State University will select the fellowship recipients.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. Employed as a full-time or substitute teacher in Northeast Ohio.
  2. Admitted to the master's degree program in reading specialization in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University, or enrolled in the doctoral programs with a specialization in literacy in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University.

Application Procedures

For Spring Awards: The application deadline is November 14th, by 4:00 pm. Notification will be in early January. Please send materials to Sherry Ernsberger ( with the subject line Vacca Scholarship.

For the Summer Award: The application deadline is the first Friday in March by 4:00 pm. Please send materials to Sherry Ernsberger ( with the subject line Vacca Scholarship.


Download the scholarship application here (pdf) and return it to Sherry Ernsberger, Kent State University, Reading & Writing Center, 402 White Hall, Kent, OH 44242.

Scholarship Recipients