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TC's New Campaign Leaders are Passionate, Knowledgeable and Ready to Rock


TC Trustee William Dodge Rueckert

TC Trustee William Dodge Rueckert

TC Trustee Leslie Nelson

TC Trustee Leslie Nelson

TC Trustee Marla Schaefer (M.A.’03)

TC Trustee Marla Schaefer (M.A.'03)

By Joe Levine

TC President Susan Fuhrman has announced Trustees Marla Schaefer (M.A.’03), Leslie Nelson and William Dodge Rueckert as the new leaders of the College’s $300 million campaign, Where the Future Comes First: The Campaign for Teachers College.

“We are so fortunate that Marla, Leslie and Bill are taking the helm,” Fuhrman said. “They are energized, they know the College and they care deeply about its future.”

Schaefer, a graduate of TC’s organizational psychology program, will serve as Chair, and Nelson and Rueckert as Vice Chairs of the campaign leadership team. They succeed two fellow Trustees, Laurie M. Tisch, Board Vice Chair, and E. John Rosenwald Jr., Chair of the Board’s Committee on Development, who led the campaign during its quiet phase and launch last November.

“Laurie and John did an extraordinary job of laying the groundwork for a successful campaign, and we’re tremendously grateful to them,” Fuhrman said, noting that the campaign already had raised $173.2 million as of August 1.

The new campaign leaders approach their new jobs with a wide range of experience in business, education, and private foundations. But they are united in their passion to advance TC’s positive impact and influence around the world by supporting the critical work being done every day by faculty and students. 

As Chair, Schaefer wants to turn the spotlight on TC’s rich diversity of fields and how they are changing the world. 

“Preparing teachers is obviously a hugely important part of what TC does, but there’s so much more to our story,” says Schaefer, who earned her TC  degree at a time when she and her sister were suddenly pressed into service as co-CEOs of Claire’s Stores, the business their father had founded. (They doubled profits in the first two years). “You can go to TC to get a world-class education in clinical psychology, in nursing administration, in diabetes management, in organization and leadership, in conflict resolution. It’s mind-boggling, all these things under one roof. TC has so much to teach the world.

“Just take ICCCR, for example,” she adds, referring to the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, whose headquarters were renovated last year through a gift she provided. “When you look at all the violence in the world today, and you think that there’s a resource that can actually make a difference, and it’s here at TC – that blows me away. We’re at ground zero of a phenomenal resource with the potential to make the world a better place. All of TC is ground zero for making a better world.”

Nelson, the daughter of Trustee Emerita and former board co-chair Enid (“Dinny”)  Morse, sees firsthand the critical importance of TC’s teacher preparation programs. She has been volunteering for the last five years as a teacher’s assistant at PS 198 on Manhattan’s east side, calling the experience “the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done other than raising my own children.”

“At TC, I get to see the way teachers are prepared, and then I get to see the implementation in the classroom,” Nelson says. “It’s reinforced for me that what these students are taught and how they’re taught is so important in determining the opportunities they will have for success in life. It’s also demonstrated the necessity of trying to educate the whole child. And I don’t think there is a school of education more qualified to lead this charge than TC, with its long history of outstanding faculty doing the most ground breaking research in education, nutrition and psychology.”

Several years ago, Nelson and the teacher she assists found themselves working with a particularly challenging group of students who desperately needed the support of comprehensive social services. This experience has led her to spearhead an innovative new mental health initiative at the College. Working with the consortium of REACH partnership schools, TC and Columbia faculty are designing joint training experiences for psychology, counseling and social work students to offer a system of on-site mental health services in these NYC public schools.

“My grandfather used to say that you have 86,400 seconds a day, like money in the bank. The key is to use each of them selfishly in a way that gives you the greatest happiness, and that intelligent selfishness will make you use many of those seconds to participate in helping others throughout the world.  For me, being involved with TC is exactly that.”

Meanwhile Rueckert, who has co-chaired TC’s board with Jack Hyland since 2003 and is the great nephew of TC founder Grace Dodge, sees the Campaign in more historic terms.

“I signed on because this is an opportunity to provide resources for TC to accomplish objectives that are absolutely critical for the future,” he says. “First and foremost, we can augment our scholarship funds to sustain the enrollment and excellence TC expects. We can ensure our continuing ability to recruit and retain the best faculty with compensation that’s competitive or even better than what our peer institutions are offering. And equally important, though it doesn’t always get as much attention as some of our other priorities, we can take essential steps to maintain our campus and beautiful buildings, which need a lot of attention and capital. I chair the board’s facilities committee, so I’m particularly focused on that work. But it’s not just about bricks and mortar.  There’s also a technical component baked into the campaign to ensure we’re in the forefront of how education technology will be used for the next 125 years.”

All three of the new leaders acknowledge the challenge of raising $300 million in a tough economy where competition for philanthropic support is especially fierce.

“The goal we’ve set is totally unheard of for a graduate school of education,” Rueckert says, “but TC is perhaps the only institution I can think of with the wherewithal to reach our target. Susan Fuhrman and (Provost) Tom James are fantastic leaders who are spotlighting all areas of TC and reconnecting with a broad range of alumni. Suzanne Murphy (Vice President for Development and External Affairs) and the development group have identified thousands of new potential donors. And (Vice President for Administration) Harvey Spector and his team have created a multi-year financial planning process that enables us to use real numbers in defining our long-term needs and goals.”

For Schaefer, it all adds up to “a campaign whose time has come.”

“It’s such an exciting time to be at TC,” she says. “There is so much innovation going on. So we’re rocking and rolling. We’re going to take this campaign well in hand, and achieve our goal and more.”

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