Sylvia Gibber Butler, a career educator and a founder of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, died Sunday, Oct. 28, a week short of her 95th birthday.
A graduate of Oneonta State Teachers College and then Columbia University in New York in 1945, she taught eight grades in a one-room schoolhouse in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., before her marriage.
She earned her master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh in 1966 at the Learning Research and Development Center.
An active Jewish community leader, she taught at Falk School and advocated literacy in her position as a clinical reading specialist with the Pittsburgh Public Schools for more than 20 years prior to her retirement in 1992.
Her prize-winning programs on gardening at Rogers School became a regular feature on TV, and her drama productions, cookbook and cooking shows articulated her broad educational philosophy to use every occasion as a teaching moment.
As a founder of Hillel Academy, she continued her involvement in teaching, focusing on strong education for women and tutoring teachers on pedagogy. She even housed Hillel’s Girls High School in her home while its building underwent renovations in 1998.
She was an active presence at Poale Zedeck Congregation and Shaare Torah Congregation for more than 65 years.
Butler was the beloved wife of the late Abraham L. Butler; beloved mother of Rabbi Yale (Bayla) Butler, Phyllis (Dr. Carl) Posy, Judge Daniel (Nina) Butler, Chana (Refael) Cohen, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of 25.
Services were held at Poale Zedeck. In recognition of her contributions to their education, the students of Hillel Academy High School attended en masse.
Interment followed in Poale Zedeck Memorial Park. Shiva concludes after 6 a.m. services. Family requests contributions be made to The Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh.