"She was a giant": Education leader Carolyn Warner died Tuesday night


Arizona education leader Carolyn Warner died Tuesday night.

Officials at Corporate Education Consulting in Phoenix, where Warner was founder and chairwoman, confirmed her death in an email Wednesday morning.

Warner served 12 years as the state’s elected superintendent of public instruction, the first non-educator to hold that post, according to Corporate Education Consulting.

She was also a candidate for Arizona governor in 1986, winning her party’s nomination but losing in the general election. She also won the Peabody Award for her work on a high school radio program.

Warner raised six children before leaving her home state of Oklahoma to move to Arizona where she was approached to run for school board, beginning her ascension to her most prominent role in politics.

“They asked if I would run for the school board in the Phoenix Union High School district. We had a family meeting and the kids said go for it,” Warner said on Arizona PBS in May. 

Warner, in turn, approached other candidates for the school board as well to encourage them and offer them advice. She met Sen. Martin Quezada as he was running for school board for the first time in 2006.

“I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pursue this race,” Quezada said. 

Warner met with him and talked about her time on the board, demonstrating her “genuine passion” for kids, schools, teachers and education. 

“Since then, I’ve always looked up to her and admired her,” Quezada said. 

She continued to attend the annual Arizona Education Association Convention and make an appearance.

Her runs for Arizona Senate and governor both ended in loss, yet she has said she held no qualms over the outcomes. She said she believes part of the reason why she lost was the state was not ready for a woman to lead.

“Often times, when there was a board meeting, Carolyn and I would be the only two women in the room,” said Athia Hardt, a reporter at the Arizona Republic in the ’70s. 

Hardt described how Warner always dressed impeccably with her hair in a bun, her great Christmas parties, and how her speeches were a source of inspiration for many in education.

“She was a giant. Everyone knew her, respected her and admired her,” Quezada said.

This story is developing. Check back at azcentral.com for updates.

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