Teachers College is launching the Abby M. O’Neill Teaching Fellowships, which instantly takes its place among the nation’s largest, most prestigious and most competitive private teaching fellowship programs.

The new program is being funded by an $10 million gift made in 2013 by Teachers College Trustee Emerita Abby M. O’Neill, who died this past spring. O’Neill was the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller and was known for her leadership of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Financial Services and Rockefeller & Company. She helped rebuild education systems in former Eastern bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The College has previously run a pilot version of the Fellowships, but is taking the program to scale now as it receives the bulk of Ms. O’Neill’s gift.

The O’Neill Fellowship provides $40,000 in tuition assistance per student. To be eligible, students must intend to enroll in an elementary or secondary teacher education master's degree program, leading to initial certification. Incoming students who are eligible for the O'Neill fellowships should contact the Office of Financial Aid for information about applying.

“Too many teachers are strapped by debt from graduate school and the high cost of living in metropolitan New York City. Abby was determined to improve those conditions to keep the best teachers right here in our backyard.”

— Susan Fuhrman, President of Teachers College

“Too many teachers are strapped by debt from graduate school and the high cost of living in metropolitan New York City,” said Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman. “Abby was determined to improve those conditions to keep the best teachers right here in our backyard.”

“The Abby M. O’Neill Teaching Fellowships Program reflects the best efforts of Abby O’Neill and Teachers College to use our social, moral and pedagogical imagination to create better teaching and learning that’s more relevant to students lives and careers,” said Thomas James, Provost and Dean.

“We want a Teachers College education to be affordable and accessible for all students, and for nothing to prevent TC from being the top choice for everyone we admit,” said Suzanne M. Murphy, Vice President for Development & External Affairs. “That’s what Abby wanted, too, and thanks to her, we’re making it possible.”

Supporting student scholarship is the highest priority of Teachers College’s historic Campaign, Where The Future Comes First. Over the past several years, the College has created 159 endowed scholarships and raised $90 million in scholarship support. The O’Neill Fellowships program is the piece de resistance of that effort.

“When you think of the ripple effect from even one great teacher – the number of lives touched, radiating outward through students and parents and future apprentice teachers mentored year after year in the classroom – you realize what a truly visionary gift Abby gave us, and how it will keep on giving for a long, long time to come,” Murphy said.

Past O’Neill Fellows say the Fellowship made a critical difference in their ability to attend Teachers College and have experiences that stand as turning points in their careers.

“I would have had to make sacrifices to attend TC because of my belief in teaching in public school,” says Sarah Duer (M.A. ’15). “But because of the Abby O’Neill Fellowship, I came out with significantly less debt, which was wonderful.”

Duer particularly appreciated the chance to work with Lisa Wright, Adjunct Associate Professor of Education and Director of Teachers College’s Hollingworth Center, who taught a class titled “Nature and Needs of Gifted Students.” 

“I remember she made me feel important, that my experiences mattered, and that I was a special part of the community,” Duer says. “And that’s what every teacher wants his or her students to feel.”

Upon graduating, Duer joined a new public school in Astoria, Queens, the neighborhood where she lives. “The opportunity to be a founding member of a brand-new school has been magical,” she says. “I was creating a vision with a team of teachers who – just like the Abby O’Neill Fellows – were willing to take on a daunting challenge.”

View more Donor Profiles >