Alums Help TC Students Make a Difference
Published in TC Today - Volume 28, No. 1
By tc today
Endowed scholarships allow donors to make a gift in perpetuity while ensuring that Teachers College will be able to bring the best and most diverse students to campus. Our students enter TC with a multitude of goals and aspirations, but all of them come with the vision of making a difference. Scholarships help make their visions possible.The following four alumni are examples of donors who have made such gifts. If you would like more information about endowing a scholarship, please call the Development Office at 212-678-3231.
Amity Pierce Buxton
Amity Pierce Buxton received her master's degree in Language, Literature and Social Studies in 1952 and her Ph.D. in this same area in 1962. She has endowed a scholarship called "The Amity Pierce Buxton Scholarship," with preference for a minority student to be awarded in the fall 2003 semester.
Buxton, who has a daughter, Felicity, who is a first grade teacher, and a son, Pierce, who is an entrepreneur, spent years in the public schools in Northern California teaching and training teachers. She has been involved with education and research throughout her career.
"I got involved with schools right after they were desegregated, and it was quite a challenge," said Buxton, who spent 22 years teaching in ethnic and urban districts. "To let each child reach his or her potential, you have to factor in cultural, ethnic and learning differences."
Just as she did in teaching, she appreciates individual differences and works to find a common ground in her organization, Straight Spouse Network (SSN). It is the first international organization of heterosexual spouses or partners, current and former, of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender mates.
The Network, whose Web site is www.ssnetwk.org, provides confidential support and resource information to spouses and couples nationwide and abroad. The network also offers information about spouse issues and resources to other family members, professionals, and community organizations. She has written two books, The Other Side of the Closet and a revised and expanded version of it called, The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Families and Spouses. She has also written articles about child custody issues, strategies to maintain a marriage after disclosure, and unique problems faced by straight spouses.
She hopes that through her organization, she can spread the word and help to make people more accepting of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender people. It's all about accepting and working with individual differences, which she found is also important in the classroom. She said that teachers need the flexibility and a repertoire of ways teaching to reach children, especially in urban and diverse schools.
"I would like to help teachers get better training and I can think of no better place for that than TC," said Buxton. "Also, I'd like to inspire people to give back to TC to make sure we get better teachers and so that TC retains its quality level."
It was in her early days as a teacher, Susan Diamond recalls, that she realized she could play a role helping students talk through their problems, and encourage them to stay in school. "They would hang around, asking advice," Diamond said. "These were kids who had different kinds of problems, kids who might have been in danger of not finishing school. It really motivated me to get a Masters degree in counseling."
Diamond earned her Masters from Teachers College in 1972, and her experiences led her and her husband, Robert, to establish the Robert S. and Susan A. Diamond Scholarship in 2000. "It seemed to me that by contributing towards scholarships, it actually serves a purpose a little higher than just helping out graduate students. They are trained at Teachers College, and they go out into the world to work at schools and with young people. Hopefully, they will be inspiring those students to continue in their education, which I think is the key to just about everything. It's the key to the strength of the individual," said Diamond.
When Diamond first applied to college, she was asked what she'd like to do in the future, and she replied that she'd like to work at the United Nations. But having grown up in Portland (OR), and eventually becoming a teacher, it seemed like a faraway dream. One day, shortly before her retirement in 1997 as a counselor for Scarsdale, NY public schools, she looked outside her office door. "I looked around at the people who were waiting for me for me - there was a mother in an African dress with her little children and a high school-aged child, and there were people from other countries, too. I saw that my experience at Scarsdale, in terms of the community, had changed over the years and as I left it was much more diverse, and very enriching. I laughingly said to someone, -'You know I kind of have my own United Nations right here.'"
Diamond said that during her tenure at Scarsdale, she realized the importance of scholarships - she noted that the Scarsdale PTA offered scholarships on a "need" basis rather than a "merit" basis to help graduating seniors attend college. That scholarship model inspired Diamond's father to establish a scholarship (with her help) in the 1990s for graduates of his hometown high school, in a rural logging and mining area of Washington.
That, in turn, got Diamond to think about establishing a scholarship at TC. "It is a wonderful institution in terms of the preparation of educational practitioners and leaders; I can't think of a better place anywhere," she said. "In the broader concept, I want to -'pay back' and do good. Teachers College changed my life, there is no question about it. It's really nice to be in a position to help other young adults, who hopefully will have the kind of experience that I've had."
When Laura Kornfeld decided to go back to school at 42 years old, the interviewing professor wanted to know why.
"Are you getting divorced," he asked, "or is your husband dying?" When Kornfeld answered "no," the professor asked her, "Then why do you want to be here?"
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, even as the modern "women's movement" was beginning to stir, the sentiments expressed by the interviewer were not unusual. Nevertheless, Kornfeld- with the support of her husband, Leo- was determined to obtain her Masters degree, and she graduated with her M.A. in Higher and Adult Education from Teachers College in 1972. From there, she formed a counseling service to encourage other women to return to academia. Kornfeld was the first female in her family to go beyond the 12th grade (her undergraduate degree is from Hunter College). Inspired by her eighth-grade guidance counselor, Kornfeld's initial studies at TC were in guidance counseling, which eventually became guidance counseling for adult women.
After graduating TC, she started the Academic Advisory Center for Adults, which provided guidance for women seeking to return to higher education. At the time, the vast majority of colleges and universities did not yet have Departments of Continuing Education, and so Kornfeld worked on forging connections with key people in the admissions departments of various colleges and universities. "I visited every admissions office, in Westchester and New York area. I introduced myself, and collected business cards from all these campuses," Kornfeld said. During counseling, she would ask prospective students about the type of work they wanted to do, and "recommend that they go and see Sister so-and-so, or Dean so-and-so at a particular college," and mention Kornfeld's name.
Her one-woman enterprise was run from her home in Rye, NY. Although Kornfeld charged a fee for her services, she would occasionally offer a scholarship to help individuals on their way. Today, the majority of colleges and universities welcome adult learners, and Kornfeld acknowledges that the need has largely diminished for the kind of pioneering service she had offered in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979, Kornfeld was appointed by New York State Education Commissioner Gordon Ambach to the state's Advisory Council on Adult Learning Services.
In 2001, Laura and Leo Kornfeld established the Laura O. Kornfeld Scholarship. "When I came to TC, I gained personal and professional friends, and gained additional confidence in myself as a middle-aged woman. Basically, the reason for the scholarship is to be able to offer opportunity to future students, because I feel grateful that it was given to me, and that we are able to pass it on to others."
Lisa Witten, TC alumna, got involved in education when her three kids started going to school. Since she did not have a great experience in school, Witten became heavily involved in her children's school to make sure they had a better one. She eventually ended up holding most of the jobs in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), but also worked in the classrooms alongside the teachers.
"I loved the classrooms and the teachers, and I got close to them," said Witten. "So, I went back to school to pursue an education degree."
One of the first classes that hooked her into TC was a philosophy and education with Nell Noddings. "It really spoke to me about the way kids should be approached in education, but often aren't," she said, who got her Master's degree in Elementary/Childhood Education in 1997.
After graduating from TC, Witten became a first grade teacher in Westchester Day School. First Grade, though difficult, is one of her favorite grades to teach. She is currently a Second Grade Reading Teacher at Mamaroneck Elementary School.
Witten and her husband, Richard, established The Witten Family Scholarship Fund in 2002 to provide general scholarship support, which means it can go to any type of student in any department, because right now schools are not in good shape. TC has a role in shaping new teachers who can change that. "If teachers are not properly prepared, it will be a disaster for both the student and the teachers," she said. "TC prepares people to become great teachers and gives them the tools that they need."previous page