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A Tribute to Grace Hoadley Dodge

Picture New York City in the 1880s when a surge of immigration crowded the streets of the lower east side. Picture as well a generation of New York female social reformers who assumed the challenge of easing the harsh social and economic conditions under which immigrant women and children were living during this time.

A notable figure among this group of female reformers was Grace Hoadley Dodge. With the stature and influence to make a difference, Dodge gained her reputation for improving the well-being of impoverished women and children, in part, through the establishment in 1884 of the Industrial Education Association. The association, which expanded rapidly, was founded to teach boys and girls the industrial arts (including the manual arts and domestics arts) and to promote industrial education as a part of the public school curriculum.

Based on a need for trained teachers in industrial education, its expansion led in a few short years, through the combined efforts of Dodge and Nicholas Murray Butler, a professor of philosophy at Columbia, to the founding of Teachers College. Dedicated to the professional training of teachers who would directly influence the lives of young women and children, Teachers College could not have been a more fitting institutional framework to further Dodge's social reform goals and objectives.

Ahead of Her Time

In 1880, Grace Dodge founded the Industrial Education Association to train a new breed of teacher to provide newly arrived women with the practical education to take advantage of opportunities for a brighter economic future. According to Phyllis M. Criscuoli, Executive Director of the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, "Grace Dodge was a hundred years ahead of her time with her focus on the working, nutritional and educational issues of concern to immigrant young women."

That focus became more evident in 1887 when she joined with philosopher Nicholas Murray Butler to establish the New York College for the Training of Teachers. In 1892 its name was changed to Teachers College and in 1894 moved to its present location in Morningside Heights.

A Family Legacy

So began an association of the Dodge family with Teachers College that has continued with dedication and involvement to this day.

"The Dodge family's historical legacy at Teachers College is truly inspiring," noted TC President Arthur E. Levine, "No family is more tied to the College's success and history than the Dodges-Grace Dodge's co-founding of the College, Cleveland E. Dodge's long commitment as a trustee, the establishment of the Cleveland E. Dodge Medal in 1976, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professorship of Education currently held by Ernst Rothkopf, and William D. Rueckert, a great-grandnephew of Grace Dodge, with his role as a current TC trustee."

As Teachers College launched its $140 million capital campaign, the largest goal ever set for a school of education, the Dodge family once again has taken a leadership position to provide crucial support in a time of challenge and opportunity. In 1998, Teachers College received a $400,000 gift from the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation to underwrite renovations to Grace Dodge Hall and the Grace Dodge Room.

"When the Foundation Board of Directors met at Teachers College for its annual meeting in the mid 1990s," Ms. Criscuoli recalled, "we perceived first-hand the poor condition of Grace Dodge Hall and the Grace Dodge Room. That led us to respond positively to the proposal that followed from resident Levine."

Coincidentally, in 1907, Grace Dodge gave Teachers College a gift of $400,000 for the construction of a Household Arts Building. Soon named Grace Dodge Hall, it was opened in 1909 with classrooms, studios and laboratories. In 1924, a 27,000 square foot addition was made providing space for academic and administrative facilities.

The Grace Dodge Hall Renovations

With receipt of the Dodge gift, renovations have transformed the west wing of Grace Dodge Hall's ground floor, one of the College's most visible and heavily used areas. New lighting, painted hallways and resurfaced floors have emphasized the aesthetic qualities of the wood-floored corridors, wainscoting and high ceilings. Air conditioning and heating improvements lend comfort levels in the departmental classrooms, faculty offices and administrative suites housed in Grace Dodge Hall.

The Grace Dodge Room, often referred to as the College's living room, is the venue of large classes, guest lectures, conferences, dinners and major receptions. To restore it to its previous elegance, the renovations provide proper natural and artificial lighting, space for audiovisual presentations, a modern viewing screen and acoustical improvements.

An Investment in Learning

"Our support of Teachers College," Criscuoli maintained, "is nothing more than a continuation of the commitment initiated by Grace Dodge. It is to endow educators not only with the skills and knowledge to elevate the quality of learning essential in our nation's schools but to provide life-long learning opportunities for the larger community as well.

"To ensure that the best learning takes place, Teachers College has attracted a great faculty to inspire and motivate its students. For our part," Criscuoli emphasized, "the Dodge Foundation has invested in a physical environment that enhances and fosters this level of learning."

With the support of contributors like the Dodge Foundation, the $140 million campaign goal allocates funding to help make up for long-delayed attention and long-deferred maintenance to the Teachers College physical environment. It also provides the intellectual capital to transform how and where the best learning takes place. Teachers College has defined the standard of education since its founding by Grace Dodge over a century ago. It is now embarking on a campaign of renewal that invigorates and strengthens those standards into the 21st Century.

 

As Teachers College launched its $140 million capital campaign, the largest goal ever set for a school of education, the Dodge family once again has taken a leadership position to provide crucial support in a time of challenge and opportunity.


"To ensure that the best learning takes place, Teachers College has attracted a great faculty to inspire and motivate its students. For our part," Criscuoli emphasized, "the Dodge Foundation has invested in a physical environment that enhances and fosters this level of learning."

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