Published: June 8, 2021

Launched program to improve language development in young schoolchildren, served as associate dean of College of Arts and Sciences

Rita S. Weiss, a University of Colorado speech and language pathology professor who developed a special program to improve language development in young schoolchildren, died May 29, 2021, in Boulder. She was 99. The program, INREAL (Interreactive Language Learning), has been used in schools in more than 33 states and several foreign countries.

Rita Weiss

Rita S. Weiss in an undated photo with her husband, Lawrence G. Weiss, also a faculty member at CU Boulder

Born in Newark, NJ on Jan. 5, 1922, she was the daughter of Joseph and Dorothy Hochberg Shapiro. She received an undergraduate degree from Simmons College and her master's and PhD  from the University of Colorado Boulder. In June 1942, she married Lawrence G. Weiss in Boston.

She moved to Boulder in 1954 and worked as a speech pathologist at the Laradon Hall School for Exceptional Children in Denver. She then played a major role in expanding the speech therapy program in the Boulder Valley Public Schools.

She joined the CU faculty in 1960 and was associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the time of her retirement in 1987.

Her INREAL program, financed by a series of federal grants, involved working with the language problems of children in their regular classrooms instead of removing them for individual therapy. Under the program, hundreds of school teachers and specialists received INREAL training in reactive teaching and therapy techniques.

She was a former president of the CU Retired Faculty Association and a member of the Advisory Council of the CU Graduate School. She served for many years as a marshal at CU commencements and was an active member of a university committee that worked to bring about improvements in CU commencement ceremonies. She was a founding member of the Democratic Women of Boulder County and a member of the Colorado Women’s Forum and Colorado Women’s Foundation. 

Survivors include: a daughter, Carolyn Judith Weiss, of Boulder; a son, Jonathan Lawrence Weiss, of Interlaken, NY; three grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband and two brothers: Eugene Shapiro, of Prairie Village, KS, and Wilbur Shapiro, of Suffern, NY.