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A Festival of Leaders

TC's second annual Academic Festival - themed "Leadership: Defining the Next Decade" - drew some 500 alumni, faculty, students, staff and friends of the College. Highlights included awarding of the first-ever TC President's Medal of Excellence to Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Ulysses Byas, a former principal at an all-black school in the segregated American South. Four additional alumni - Raphael Montanez Ortiz, Vivian Oto Wang, Viola Vaughn and the Reverend Lesley George Anderson - were honored with the College's Distinguished Alumni Award, and a fifth, Luis Rios, received the Early Career Award. The College also paid tribute to alumni and long-time trustee Joyce Cowin, formally dedicating the Cowin Conference Center. Click here to view video. (Large File Size)
TC alumni, faculty, students, staff and many friends converge for a day focused on defining the next decade

“This is going to be an absolutely fabulous day that showcases everything that is most wonderful about TC. I always talk about our incredible breadth of ideas and disciplines, but that’s only a starting point. The careers our graduates pursue, the research they conduct, the worlds they inhabit and shape, are amazingly diverse – and they bring all of that back to Teachers College to inform and broaden our work in a continuous feedback loop that makes us bigger and better every year.”

With that greeting, President Susan Fuhrman, speaking in TC’s Cowin Conference Center, opened the College’s second annual Academic Festival, held this year on Saturday, April 24th and themed “Leadership: Defining the Next Decade.”

The event, which drew some 500 attendees, was highlighted by the first-ever presentation of the TC President’s Medal of Excellence to two alumni: His Excellency Nahas Angula, the Prime Minister of Namibia and the architect of that nation’s education system following its independence from colonial rule, who delivered the day’s keynote address; and Ulysses Byas, a former principal and superintendent who led the fight for better resources for black schools in the American South during the segregation era.  

“This is a celebration of the victory of the Namibian people over apartheid and colonialization,” said Angula, who took the stage to the strains of Namibia’s national anthem and told the story of how he left TC in 1979 midway through a doctoral degree to participate directly in the fight for independence at home. “I thank TC for recognizing my humble contributions, and my professors here for sharing their knowledge with me.” Click here for Nahas Angula story and video.

Byas, now in his 80s and living in Georgia, was unable to attend because of poor health, but he was represented by his son, Eric, and by Vanessa Siddle Walker, an Emory University professor who has written a book about him called Hello, Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South. A pretaped talk by Byas was also shown later in the day at a special panel, led by Walker and TC Emeritus Professor Edmund Gordon, devoted to his life and work. Click here for Byas pretape.

There were also panels, presentations and performances by TC faculty, alumni, staff and students throughout the day, on topics that included what it takes to found or lead an innovative school in New York City; advances in technology to support teaching and learning; executive coaching for leadership effectiveness; helping adults learn and grow; nutrition and fitness in schools; and – for parents – how to get kids into college.

The College also paid special tribute to alumna and longtime trustee Joyce Berger Cowin, who funded construction of the Cowin Center and also helped launch the Heritage School, an arts-themed high school in East Harlem created a decade ago by TC faculty member Judith Burton.

“Joyce does incredible work for many institutions around the city, but she has truly given her heart to TC over the years, and we want to let her know today how much that’s meant to us,” said Fuhrman.

Fuhrman began by leading the formal dedication of the Cowin Center, which, among other events, has been the scene of the Fall 2008 debate between the education advisors of Presidential candidates Obama and McCain; an address to the Children’s Aid Society by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; the nation’s first research symposium on the use of federal education stimulus funds at the state level; and a national education summit held by the National Conference of State Legislatures. She then showed a video of testimonials from Cowin’s family and friends – including the financier and philanthropist Warren Buffett; TC alumna Laura Parsons, who serves as President of the Board of the American Folk Art Museum, where Cowin is also a trustee; and Cowin’s fellow TC trustees, Ruth Gottesman and Board Co-Chair Jack Hyland. Click here to view Joyce Cowin video.

Still another admirer sent written tribute.

“For the past 30 years, Teachers College, Columbia University has benefited from Mrs. Cowin’s consummate talent and professionalism,” wrote New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a special message that was read aloud by TC Board Co-Chair Jack Hyland. “From her founding of the Heritage School to her work as a Trustee on multiple boards, Mrs. Cowin has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to improving the lives of young people. I am delighted to join her friends, family and colleagues in applauding her exemplary service.” 

A beaming Cowin then thanked the TC community and recounted the long road to creating the Cowin Center. The process began 13 years ago and was interrupted at several points, including, in one instance, by an inability to drill through solid rock at another site near campus.

“But love conquers all,” she said, to loud applause. “And for the calendar year, the auditorium has been booked for 146 days, and we are really just getting started. With joy and hope, it will be used even more frequently to discuss how best to educate our children and to create a better and safer world for all of us.”

Attendees were also treated to a preview of a forthcoming videotaped oral history of Teachers College’s past 75 years, which is being prepared for the College’s 125th anniversary in 2012. A brief segment dealing with the College’s future, shown during the Cowin Center ceremonies, included excerpts from interviews with emeritus professors Leonard Blackman, Morton Deutsch, Edmund Gordon and Maxine Greene, as well as TC Board Co-Chair William Rueckert. Additional segments, in which the four faculty members summarized some of their own most enduring and provocative ideas, aired throughout the day in Everett Lounge.

The College also bestowed its annual Distinguished Alumni Award on a group of particularly diverse and accomplished recipients. Honored during lunchtime ceremonies in the TC dining hall (emceed by Robert Weintraub, President of TC’s Alumni Council)  were Raphael Montanez Ortiz, the noted sculptor and founder of Harlem’s Museo Del Barrio; Vivian Ota Wang, Program Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; Viola Vaughn, founder of 10,000 Girls, which provides education and business training to girls throughout Africa; and the Reverend Lesley George Anderson, President of the United Theological College of the West Indies. Another alumnus, Luis Rios, Education Consultant at the California Department of Education, who provides assistance to family literacy programs, received TC’s Early Career Award.

“We chose, as our theme for this year’s festival, ‘Leadership: Defining the Next Decade’ noted Fuhrman, in introducing the awardees. “And that is exactly what our graduates are doing,”

Published Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010


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