Dr. Donald Empey

Feb. 8, 1932 – June 23, 2022


Dr. Donald Empey, longtime deputy superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District, died in Glendale on June 23. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Mary Catherine; three daughters: Elizabeth Nepsund (Randy) of San Antonio, Texas, Margaret Laning (Jim) of Hull, Iowa, Jennifer Clem (Mitch) of La Crescenta; 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren; brother Gordon Empey of Morrow Bay, California; and sister Darlene Wicks of Salem, Oregon, as well as several nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held on July 27 at 11 a.m. at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church, 2902 Montrose Ave. in La Crescenta.

Born Feb. 8, 1932 in McMinnville, Oregon to E. Warne and Anna May Empey, Don was the first of four children. Don graduated from Junction City High School in Oregon and held a BA degree from Willamette University, an MA degree from Stanford University, and a doctorate in educational administration and curriculum from the University of Oregon. Don often enjoyed sharing stories of his childhood and college experiences with family. Stories of pranks with college friends and of working on a dairy farm highlighted his undeniable work ethic and his keen sense of humor.

Don was named Glendale’s deputy superintendent in 1976 and served in that capacity until 2002. He was influential in overseeing the district’s instructional program as Glendale experienced many language and cultural changes requiring extensive curriculum revisions and teacher professional development programs. He was noted for his expertise in organization and planning and facilitated district and school strategic planning efforts. He was instrumental in the planning leading to the opening of Clark Magnet High School.

After retirement, he joined the faculty of the Dept. of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Northridge, teaching classes in school administration. He was proud that many of his former students became administrators in Glendale schools. He was the author of numerous articles published in professional journals and often was a speaker at state and national educational conferences. In the summer of 2015, Don returned to the Glendale Unified School District as interim superintendent of schools. He served in that capacity for three and a half months while the board of education searched for a new superintendent.

Don was active in community life. He was a past president of the Glendale Coordinating Council and served on the board of directors of several community organizations. He was a founder of the Annual Youth Leadership Conference and a founding member and president of the Character and Ethics Project. Don was an active member and leader for many years at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church. His deep faith in God helped shape his character.


Donald’s greatest joy came when he was with family and friends. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was so proud of all of the accomplishments of his family. He was often seen on the sidelines of his grandchildren’s sports games, cheering on the team. Don enjoyed traveling to visit his grandchildren and shared important life events with them. Upon retirement he and Mary enjoyed traveling. He loved college athletics and was a big fan of the University of Oregon Ducks (Go Ducks!).

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made in his memory to the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.