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Teachers College, Columbia University
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A Glittering Cast of Speakers for TC's Convocation

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Jill Biden

Jill Biden, educator and wife of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

Spike Lee

Spike Lee, film director, producer, writer and actor.

Richard Mills

Richard Mills, former Commissioner of Education for the State of New York.

Gail Collins

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist.

TC has announced the recipients of its 2010 Medal for Distinguished Service, which will be awarded at Convocation ceremonies on May 17 and 18 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue. More than 1,000 graduates are expected to receive Master’s degrees in two ceremonies on May 17. The number of doctoral degree recipients, who will be hooded at ceremonies on May 18th, will not be known until much closer to that time.

The medalists are:  

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist: Collins has both written about women’s history, authoring the landmark books America’s Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, and When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, and made it, serving as the first female editor of the Times’ editorial page from 2001-07. Collins has also written for UPI, Newsday and The Daily News, founded the Connecticut State News Bureau, which became the largest news service of its kind in the country, and taught at the Columbia School of Journalism. Collins will receive her medal and address graduates at the afternoon Master’s ceremony at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 17.

Spike Lee, film director, producer, writer and actor.  Lee is widely hailed as the creator of films that -- from Malcolm X, a biopic of one of the most influential civil rights leaders of the twentieth century, to Do the Right Thing, a deft, textured exploration of racial tensions in 1980s Brooklyn – have been among the most thought-provoking and enlightening of our time. His production company,  Forty Acres and a Mule, has produced a wealth of documentaries and feature films, illuminating the American experience by bringing important, often marginalized perspectives and stories to the mainstream eye. Lee also serves as the Artistic Director of the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts—and previously as a professor in the Film Department at Columbia University; has established the Forty Acres Institute, for the express purpose of “demystifying filmmaking;” and is the founder of Project 40, the non-profit arm of Forty Acres and a Mule, which has provided much-needed educational opportunities for underprivileged children by combining athletic instruction with standardized test preparation. Lee will receive his medal and address graduates at the evening Master’s ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 17.

Richard Mills, former Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, will also receive the medal at the May 18 doctoral ceremony. Mills, a TC alumnus, served as Vermont’s education commissioner under Governor Madeleine Kunin from 1988 to 1995. He then began, under Governor George Pataki, his 13-year stewardship of New York’s school system, which ended in 2009. During that time, Mills emerged as a leader of the national movement to promote standards through testing. He focused on accountability because, in his own words, “It’s not fair to graduate children without the knowledge and skills to make it in the world -- we are setting them up for failure.” During his tenure, districts were for the first time held accountable for student performance on state achievement tests; the Regents diploma became standard for all students; and the state developed a new school aid formula that allocated more money for New York City and other high-needs districts. By the time Mills stepped down, New York had significantly raised its high school graduation rates. Mills will receive his medal and address graduates at the doctoral ceremony.

An additional honoree will be Jill Biden, educator and wife of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden. Dr. Biden is founder of both the Biden Breast Health Initiative, through which more than 10,000 young women in Delaware have learned about the importance of early detection of breast cancer, and co-founder of the Book Buddies, a program that encourages reading among children from low-income families; community college instructor (she has taught at both Delaware Technical and Community College, and Northern Virginia Community College). She also is the Obama administration’s point person on community colleges, earning her the sobriquet “the most famous community college professor in the nation.” Biden address graduates at the doctoral ceremony on Tuesday, May 18, at 2 p.m. at which 200 candidates are scheduled to receive the doctoral hood.

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