Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Provide Leadership Support to the Teachers College Peace Corps Fellows Program
Published in Inside - Volume IX, No. 3
By External Affairs
Elliot S. Jaffe, who is Chairman and CEO of Dress Barn, a Teachers College Trustee and a philanthropist, and his wife Roslyn, have presented the Peace Corps Fellows Program with a gift totalling nearly a half million dollars to perpetuate the program at the College. Additionally, income from a separate $900,000 scholarship endowment established by Mr. and Mrs. Jaffe will be designated each year to Peace Corps Fellows.
Until the Jaffes' gift, various annual grants and a portion of the College's budget supported the program's staff and operating costs and funded the Peace Corps Fellows Program. Unfortunately, the program lost some of its best potential Fellows each year because it could not offer as generous a scholarship package as needed.
The Peace Corps Fellows Program began in 1985 in response to "A Nation at Risk," which warned the nation that an entire generation of children in the United States was being raised scientifically and technologically illiterate. In the 18 years since the Peace Corps Fellows Program was founded, it has become Teachers College's most important effort to recruit, prepare, and retain outstanding teachers to rebuild New York City's teaching corps. Almost all graduated Fellows are now working in the City's hardest-to-staff schools teaching subjects for which there are critical shortages of qualified teachers. They are changing the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children, giving them access to the kind of teaching and learning that too few urban children have.
At a ceremony held at Teachers College on September 24th, President Arthur Levine, with the assistance of the Jaffes, unveiled a plaque in their honor. The plaque reads: "In recognition of Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe, whose founding support and vision provided for the development of the Peace Corps Fellows Program. The program recruits and educates outstanding teachers for the children of New York City. Loyal friends since 1989."
Levine said of the Jaffes, "They know what a difference excellent, caring teachers can make for children who come largely from impoverished backgrounds. In my religion, it is said, 'If you save one life, it is equal to saving 1,000 lives.'" Elliot, based on this, you and Roslyn have saved thousands of lives. Not only are you saving the lives of children in places like Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and the South Bronx, but also the lives that they will in turn touch."
Vicki Bernstein, the Director of Alternative Certification at the New York City Department of Education, who called the Peace Corps Fellows Program the largest alternative certification program in the New York City schools, read a letter from Chancellor Joel Klein to the Jaffes. It is a great pleasure to congratulate you and Teachers College for the accomplishments of the Peace Corps Fellows Program. Thanks to your generosity, this unique and effective program will be preserved," wrote Klein.
The Department of Education is a strong supporter of the fellowships, said Reed Dickson, the new Coordinator of the Program at TC who took over from the first coordinator, Daniel Tamulonis. "My contacts at the Board continue to be impressed with the caliber and level of dedication of the Fellows. They are so proud of those who successfully teach for two years and they wax more and more effusive when they mention those who continue on to teach."
The Program recruits up to 50 returned Peace Corps Volunteers each year to the College to pursue master's degrees. Peace Corps Fellows, as they are called, work towards degrees in one of five subject areas-bilingual education, math, science, special education, and teaching English for speakers of other languages (TESOL). These are all subjects for which there are critical shortages of qualified teachers in the New York City public schools. Over the last five years, the yearly incoming cohort of Fellows has grown from 20 to 50. The program has been so successful that it has now been replicated by 15 other universities around the country to strengthen the pool of teachers in their cities.
As Fellows are accepted to the program, the College works with the Department of Education to assign them to full-time teaching positions in hard-to-staff schools that have teacher shortages. Most of these schools are in areas such as Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant, that serve poor, minority children. Taking classes in the evenings and during the weekends, Fellows complete the degree program in two years. Before beginning the program they also commit to remain in their teaching positions for at least two years after receiving their master's degrees.
Fellows are in fact committing to four years of full-time teaching in the same school. This is critical in a City in which the turnover rate of first-year teachers is over 50 percent and the best teachers flee to suburban schools. To date, over 450 Fellows have graduated from the program and are currently teaching in 43 schools that serve the City's poorest neighborhoods.
ELLIOT S. JAFFE
Jaffe grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, at a time when many doors of financial opportunity were closed to him because of his ethnicity. That changed after a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II made it possible for him to go to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania on the G.I. Bill.
After graduating from Wharton in 1949, he went to work for R.H. Macy where he eventually became a merchandising manager. In 1962, he was ready for a new challenge and launched Dress Barn with his wife Roslyn, who is a trustee at Simmons College. Today, the chain has 752 stores in 47 states.
Business awards adorn a wall in his office at Dress Barn's headquarters in Suffern, New York. But they do not dominate the office, which is a reflection of the man who is as interested in philanthropy as he is in business.
Over the years, he has given to his alma mater, the arts, medical research, health education and environmental conservancy. In the late 1980s, he was introduced to Teachers College and a fledgling program-the Peace Corps Fellows-and has never forgotten its importance.previous page