2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients | Teachers College Columbia University

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Alumni Awards

2016 Distinguished Alumni & Early Career Award Honorees

Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Randy Bennett (Ed.D. '79) holds the Norman O. Frederiksen Chair in Assessment Innovation at Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ. His research has focused on using advances in the learning sciences, technology, and measurement to design approaches to educational assessment that have positive impact on teaching and learning. His series of studies for the National Center on Education Statistics were the first to deliver performance assessments on computer to nationally representative samples of US students, and to use "clickstream" data in such samples to measure the processes used in problem solving. Those studies effectively laid the groundwork for moving the National Assessment of Educational Progress to technology delivery, which is to occur by 2017.

Dr. Olivia Hooker (M.A. '47) taught third grade before enlisting in the United States Coast Guard during World War II, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in active duty in the Coast Guard. She earned the rank of Yeoman, Second Class and went on to earn a master’s degree in Psychological Services at TC and a doctorate from the University of Rochester, where she was one of two black female students. She served in the Coast Guard until her unit disbanded in mid-1946. The 100-year-old pioneer was honored for her service in March 2015 in Staten Island at the USCG station where a dining hall in the facility was named after Dr. Hooker, along with a training facility at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Dr. Hooker is also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.

Dr. MaryEllen McGuire (Ph.D. '02) is the founder and President of the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), the leading source of professional development for Congressional staff who work on higher education issues. Prior to creating PNPI, MaryEllen served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as President Obama’s senior advisor for education. In this capacity she was tasked with developing and advancing the President’s higher education agenda, including the 2010 passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA). Prior to her work at the White House, MaryEllen worked in the U.S. Senate on the Heath, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee where she was the staff director for the Subcommittee on Children and Families and played a lead role in the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In addition, she directed the Educational Policy Program at New America where she oversaw policy studies on a wide range of education issues. Through her work in and outside of the federal government she has been instrumental in moving the federal postsecondary policy agenda based on her own scholarship and political expertise. 


Dr. Lida Orzeck (Ph.D. '72) is the co-owner of the beloved lingerie brand, Hanky Panky, which she founded with Gale Epstein in 1977.  Manufactured entirely in the US, it has a worldwide following. A Brooklyn native, Lida graduated from Barnard in 1968 and received her PhD from Teachers College in Social Psychology in 1972. Early in her career, she directed research for the NYC Police Department and Health and Hospitals Corporation. She serves as a Barnard Trustee and is on the board of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg (Ed.D. '61) is an expert in the areas of adult transitions, retirement, career development, adults as learners, and intergenerational relationships. She is the past President of the National Career Development Association, Co-President of a consulting group TransitionWorks. She is a Professor Emerita, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, College of Education at the University of Maryland. Nancy was the first woman executive at the American Council of Education (ACE) where she established the Office of Women in Higher Education (1973).  She has been noted and quoted within multiple publications and in television.

Dr. Yupha (Sookcharoen) Udomsakdi (M.A. '60) has spent her life ignoring limitations others have sought to place on her. She founded Thailand's first bachelor’s degree program in health education at Mahidol University, employing a “problem-solving process” in which health workers traveled to villages to “help people help themselves.” Graduates integrated health education into primary and secondary school curricula across Thailand. Dr. Udomsakdi established a faculty of Social Sciences and Humanity to teach social, economic and political education as well as helped establish the first Institute of Population in the country. With her track record, she was elected as a member of parliament for 4 terms and subsequently became the country's first female Minister of Education and the first woman MP to be appointed as a Minister in the Thai cabinet.  After her retirement from politics, she was elected to serve as a member and the Vice Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Assembly, leading to the creation of Thailand's most democratic constitution in 1997. She also worked as a consultant for UNICEF on women's and children's health.

Early Career Award

David J. Johns (M.A. ’06) is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative works across federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students. Prior to joining the Department, Johns was a senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) under the leadership of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Before working for the Senate HELP committee under Chairman Harkin, Johns served under the leadership of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Johns also was a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow in the office of Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. Johns has worked on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth and early childhood education and with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His research as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow served as a catalyst to identify, disrupt and supplant negative perceptions of black males within academia and society. Johns is committed to volunteer services and maintains an active commitment to improve literacy among adolescent minority males. Johns obtained a master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he graduated summa cum laude while simultaneously teaching elementary school in New York City. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 2004 with a triple major in English, creative writing and African American studies and was named to the Root100 in both 2014 and 2013.