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Honoring CAEL’s First Employee, Diana Bamford-Rees

When CAEL was founded in 1974 as a research project of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Diana Bamford-Rees was CAEL’s first employee. For CAEL’s first three years, Bamford-Rees worked on the CAEL project as an employee of ETS. When CAEL spun off from the project and became its own organization in 1977, Morris Keeton took on the executive director position and asked Bamford-Rees to join him. Since then, Bamford-Rees has held multiple positions at CAEL, from executive assistant, to managing CAEL’s South Africa initiative. Most recently, Bamford-Rees was an associate vice president at CAEL, responsible for CAEL’s annual conferences, special events and workshops.

As of June 30, Bamford-Rees will be taking on a new role: retiree. As she sets out on her new journey, CAEL members who have come to know Bamford-Rees best have shared their thoughts on what she’s meant to CAEL, its mission to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need, and to themselves.

President and CEO, Pamela Tate

“I definitely remember the story [CAEL founding president] Morris Keeton told many times, and I know it was true because I was there when it happened, about the negotiations that transpired between CAEL and UAW-Ford, our first joint corporate/labor union client.  We were going back and forth on the contract, and we had reached an impasse, and Morris said that we would throw in one of Diana’s famous cheesecakes if they would agree to close the deal. That did it!  We got the agreement signed and Diana made one of the most wonderful cheesecakes I have ever had!

“I also remember having a wonderful dinner she prepared at her cottage in South Africa when she was working there for us on the Ford Foundation-funded South African project.  Diana made many friends for CAEL and of her own during the five years she was there, and she acquired so much art and clothing and silverware and other household and personal items that we could almost not afford to get them back to the states!”

Director of Member Services, Elizabeth Warner

“Diana is a genuine renaissance woman, whose passion and zeal for her work at CAEL made collaborating with her on the annual conference and membership a pleasure. Despite daunting deadlines and mounting task lists, Diana always lead conference planning with infectious positivity and palpable joy. There is nothing that makes hard work more fun than sharing it with someone who loves what they do. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from Diana.”

Associate Vice President of Research and Policy, Becky Klein-Collins

“Diana has always been, for me, the grande dame of CAEL. You see it in particular at our annual conference. She is so highly respected in the entire CAEL family – not just the staff, but also our members and the co-leaders of the movement that started it all back in the 1970s. She has always kept us centered and focused on the adult learner.”

Associate Vice President of Operations, Dorothy Wax

“I had been with CAEL just a few years when Diana came back from her assignment in South Africa to the Philadelphia office. I had never met her before and was somewhat in awe of this CAEL legend. Once she was back, and I had the chance to get to know her, I figured out she was still a legend, but also very approachable and helpful. I have learned so much from her, especially about the history of CAEL. She has also been a great travel buddy on trips between Philadelphia and Chicago. I am glad she is in Philly where we will be able to continue to see her.” 

In honor of CAEL’s 40th anniversary, CAEL also spoke with Bamford-Rees about her time with CAEL, and the future of adult learning. The interview was published in CAEL’s Members-only Forum and News publication. You can read the full interview by clicking the button below.

CAEL 40th Anniversary Interview with Diana Bamford-Rees


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