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Honor Bound

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Honor Bound

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Honor Bound

New York Governor David Paterson

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, former Barnard College President Judith Shapiro, Teachers College Professor Emeritus Antoinette Gentile and New York Governor David Paterson will receive the College’s Medal for Distinguished Service at its 2009 Convocation exercises in May.

Booker, Shapiro and Paterson will receive their medals at the ceremonies for master’s degree candidates on the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, May 19. Gentile will receive her medal at the doctoral ceremony on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 20. All ceremonies will be held at Riverside Church in Manhattan.
 
Booker, who also serves as a Trustee of Teachers College, won election as Newark’s Central Ward Councilman in 1998. He quickly came to national attention not only because of what he accomplished—increased security in public housing, the construction of new playgrounds, the repeated challenging of the Council’s corrupt practices—but also because of how he accomplished it. In 1999, he conducted a 10-day hunger strike, camping out in a tent in front of the Sunset Pines Housing Project to protest blatant drug dealing.
 
In 2000, he lived for five months in a mobile home, parking on street corners where drug dealers were rampant. (He lived for a few years in one of Newark’s most dangerous housing projects and now resides in a rental apartment in the city’s tough south side.) On his second attempt, he unseated corrupt Newark Mayor Sharpe James, and has since enabled the city to lead the nation in reduction of shootings and murders; double its production of affordable housing and expand special needs housing; launch a major charter school initiative that expands offerings for high-performing students and protects students at risk; and attract new businesses to the area and increase jobs.
 
Gentile, who retired in spring 2008 after 44 years on the TC faculty, is an internationally recognized leader in movement sciences and neuromotor research. Beginning in the early 1970s, Gentile pioneered the applying of theories of brain function in movement disorders to patient treatment. Previously, treatment had been shaped largely by defining the extent of damage to patients’ brains. Gentile, whose training encompassed neuro-anatomy, movement, motor learning and developmental research, focused instead on the impact of environment on brain function and the potential for behavioral change. She was an early champion of the notion of “neuroplasticity”—the concept that the brain can reorganize following trauma, shifting functions to new regions.
 
Paterson, who is legally blind, became known early in his career for his powerful advocacy on behalf of minorities, women and those who are physically and visually impaired. The son of Basil Paterson, Harlem’s longtime champion and the first African American to serve as New York’s Secretary of State, he is recognized for his far-reaching understanding of health issues ranging from diet and exercise to stem-cell research, and for his leadership in the fight for such measures as New York State’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. He has also championed causes ranging from affordable housing and environmental issues to architectural preservation and race relations, serving, particularly on the latter front, as a voice of reason and conciliation. (Paterson was to receive the TC medal at the College’s 2008 Convocation, but was unable to do so because of a sudden illness.)
 
Shapiro—the first woman ever appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago—achieved early fame for her pioneering work on social theory and gender differentiation among the Tapirapé and Yanamamo peoples in South America. In 1994, after serving as Provost at Bryn Mawr College, she became President of Barnard, and under her leadership, applications for admission to the College soared to an all-time high, even as Barnard set ever higher standards for selectivity. The institution also dramatically increased its recruitment and retention of faculty of exceptional distinction. Under Shapiro, Barnard also refocused its curriculum with “Ways of Knowing,” a nationally praised model that, through nine linked areas of inquiry, explores the major cross-disciplinary means by which human knowledge has been constructed.
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