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Convocation 2000

A sunny spring day marked the Teachers College master's convocation ceremony. Students, normally seen in the urban uniform of black and gray or jeans and a T-shirt, glided about Morningside Heights in pale blue gowns. Street vendors sold "Class of 2000" souvenirs, bouquets of flowers and the usual hot dogs and soda to the family members who came to Amsterdam Avenue for the festivities.

Each year, Teachers College presents the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service to Education to people who have profoundly influenced education and child development. This year, the medalists included Governor James B. Hunt of North Carolina; Ellen Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research and Professor of Humanities and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University; and Edward Zigler, Director of the Bush Center for Child Development at Yale University.

Eugene Lang and Dean Zumwalt
Eugene M. Lang receives the Dodge Medal from Dean Zumwalt.  

Professor Hope Jensen Leichter introduced Ellen Futter, noting her many "firsts"-including her role as the first woman to head a top-tier museum in New York City, the first woman to chair the board of directors of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the youngest woman to be a University president, and the first and only woman to give birth during her first year as president. Futter, in her remarks, said, "There is no more rewarding experience than working with young people and no topic of greater importance than education. It is that which drew me to education and what led to the construction of the Rose Center as a vehicle for awakening curiosity and science literacy."

Professor Robert T. Carter read the citation for Henry Louis Gates, noting that many consider Gates to be "the foremost interpreter of the black experience. That experience, you believe, is an integral piece to understanding the greater American experience. That experience does not separate the problems of African Americans from the problems of our country as a whole."

After receiving his medal, Gates, in his remarks, said, "The liberal arts thrive on diversity. Pluralism isn't about policing boundaries; it is about breaking those boundaries down." He added, "We must accept Dr. [Martin Luther] King's credo that none of us is free until all of us are free."

In reading Governor Hunt's citation, Professor Betty Lou Whitford noted his many affiliations in education, including his being chair of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future at Teachers College. She also praised his leadership by saying, "Through your efforts, you set an example that invites everyone to become involved in education."

After accepting his medal, the governor told the graduates, "Today we are making great progress in our schools, especially in public schools. I want you to help take them as far as they can go," adding, "I hope you will become Nationally Board Certified Teachers." He also joked, "I am here recruiting today for North Carolina schools. We are raising salaries, I might add." Dean Zumwalt then commented, "Wouldn't it be great if we had more governors like Governor Hunt."

Suniya Luthar warmly introduced her former professor, Edward Zigler of Yale University, Director of the Bush Center for Child Development. "You have said that we all have a stake in education, since children who do well in school are more likely to become productive members of society," Luthar read. "You have truly lived by that belief and have helped to make the lives of children better throughout your career."

Zigler in his acceptance speech noted that the availability of childcare in United States is woefully lacking, particularly in comparison to other industrialized nations and many third-world countries. "All industrialized nations and 30 third-world countries provide a paid leave from work to care for babies," he explained.

Rebecca Ford
Rebecca Ford  

The student speaker, Rebecca Ford, who received her master's in Applied Psychology, completed the ceremonial speeches by telling everyone, "I leave you today by saying good luck in achieving everything that TC has motivated you to do.

The following day, Riverside Church was the backdrop for the doctoral hooding ceremony, after the morning's commencement proceedings outside Low Library on the Columbia University campus.

Before the graduates assembled for the hooding ceremony itself, TC President Arthur Levine introduced Eugene M. Lang as this year's recipient of the Cleveland E. Dodge Medal for Distinguished Service to Education. Lang, who has offered educational incentives to students from elementary school through graduate school, was honored for these many opportunities he provides to students.

In his remarks to the graduates, Lang stressed the importance of the need for colleges and universities to provide "a total educational experience that will also inculcate an active and abiding sense of social responsibility."

Steven Markbreiter and a young fan
Doctoral Graduate Steven Markbreiter is congratulated by a young fan.  

"Random extracurricular community services are not enough," he added. "Token sacrifices on the altar of multiculturalism are not enough Rather, colleges and universities should formally commit themselves to provide for that total educational experience with their regular curricula." Lang said he foresees that in doing so, universities could involve all constituencies in new programs that would implement these commitments.

Before the ceremony ended, almost 180 students were recognized by their Department Chairperson and presented with their doctoral hoods by the Dean. For several women, it was important to bring their daughters or granddaughters with them, as if to let them know how rewarding it can be to reach such a level of accomplishment. One young toddler, pacifier in his mouth, made it up the steps where he greeted his just-hooded father with a big hug.

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