Medalists, who included Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, singer Pete Seeger, Riverside Church's Reverend James A. Forbes, Jr., filmmaker Ken Burns and civil rights attorney Morris Dees, received the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service at the first double-ceremony master's convocation held by the College.
The graduating class of 2002, at all institutions, completed its term under the shadow of September's terrorist attacks. Inevitably, many commencement addresses focused on how those events will affect the future for the graduates and for us all. Teachers College chose, instead, to emphasize the struggle for equity in education by honoring four people who played an important role in shaping America's civil rights policies.
A day after a noose was found hanging on the doorknob of Professor Madonna Constantine's office, the Teachers College community rallied to her support in decrying the incident as intolerable. A message sent to the Teachers College Community from President Susan Fuhrman, explaining why police were on campus, denounced the incident as a "hateful act, which violates every Teachers College and societal norm." Columbia University President Lee Bollinger also issued a statement saying that "This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us."