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Teachers College, Columbia University
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The Power to Change the World

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Graduation

TC 's convocation exercises, held in Riverside Church in May, included two ceremonies for 722 master's degrees candidates, one ceremony for 230 doctoral candidates and a range of different speakers and honorees, yet the message throughout was the same: make that degree count.

" 'Life is no brief candle to me,' " said Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, quoting George Bernard Shaw. " 'It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.' "  

Hesselbein received the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, as did a list of other luminaries, including U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel; former Governor of New Jersey and 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas Kean; pediatric neurosurgeon and philanthropist Benjamin Carson; William G. Bowen, President of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and former President of Princeton University; K. Patricia Cross, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley; David Halberstam, journalist, author and social historian; Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and sex therapist and talk show personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury, was awarded the Cleveland A. Dodge Medal for Distinguished Service to Education, and departing TC President Arthur Levine was surprised with a TC Distinguished Service Medal by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger while presiding over his final convocation.

Bollinger said that since the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown versus the Board of Education, equity in education "is still a mountaintop we are struggling to climb. Some may think we may never get there, but Arthur has always pushed us higher, asking 'Why not?' often in outspoken and provocative ways."

Of course, the ceremonies ultimately focused on the newly minted graduates. Riverside Church was overflowing with the students and the family, friends and faculty who helped them on their path to graduation. Each master's ceremony included remarks by a student speaker: Elsa Chen, from the Bilingual/Bicultural Education program, and Sarah Esposito, of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.

"As Teachers College graduates, we must all be ambassadors for education because we are uniquely armed to challenge the status quo and raise the bar," said Chen.

"If allowed, education will result in the breaking and crushing of stereotypes," said Esposito. Esposito, who had lost her hearing while an undergraduate, said education helped her to accept her own deafness.

Former Governor Kean - a TC alumnus and Trustee Emeritus who credits teachers with having helped him to overcome dyslexia and a stutter - put it even more simply: "Teachers have the power to change the world."

 

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