TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

Section Navigation

Five Education Leaders to Be Honored

The graduates at the Teachers College master's convocation will have the privilege of hearing four recipients of the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service speak at the May 16 convocation ceremony. The four medalists are James B. Hunt, Governor of North Carolina; Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute of African-American Research at Harvard University; Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History and former President of Barnard College; and Edward Zigler, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and renowned "father" of the Head Start program.

The event will take place at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16.

At the doctoral convocation at Riverside Church on May 17, Eugene M. Lang, founder of the "I Have A Dream" Foundation, will be presented with the Cleveland E. Dodge Medal for Distinguished Service to Education. At the ceremony, which begins at 2:30 p.m. following the morning commencement ceremony on the Columbia University campus, each doctoral graduate will be hooded by Teachers College Dean Karen Zumwalt.

The medalists are all being honored for their contributions to education. Governor Hunt, is considered to be a national leader on education issues. During his governorship, which began in 1977, Hunt's educational initiatives have allowed North Carolina to be recognized as the state making the most progress toward improving schools. They include setting up a primary reading program, reducing class size, and implementing dropout prevention programs among other educational reforms.

Hunt is the former chair of the National Education Goals Panel and serves as founding chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which promotes excellence in teaching through voluntary board certification. In 1997, Hunt unveiled the Excellent Schools Act, a four-year plan to raise standards and pay for teachers.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Hunt and his wife of 40 years, Carolyn, are both trained as teachers. Both have spent much of their lives working to improve education, volunteering in North Carolina's schools and encouraging citizen involvement in education.

Hunt has received many prestigious awards, including the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education for his innovative attempts to bring about effective education reform. Recently, Hunt was named co-chair of the National Commission on Asia in the Schools, an institution dedicated to ensuring that today's students are equipped with the knowledge and cross-cultural skills necessary to deal effectively with Asia.

Edward Zigler is the Sterling Professor of Psychology at Yale University, where he is also director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. He heads the Psychology Section of Yale's Child Study Center.

At Yale, Professor Zigler directs a distinguished laboratory that conducts various basic and applied studies of child development and family functioning. His scholarly work encompasses the fields of mental retardation, psychopathology, intervention programs for economically disadvantaged children and the effects of out-of-home care on the children of working parents. He headed a national committee of distinguished Americans charged with examining the possibility of making infant care leaves a reality in this country. The work of that committee inspired the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

In 1970, Professor Zigler was named by President Nixon to become the first Director of the Office of Child Development (now the Administration on Children, Youth and Families) and Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau. As Director of the Office of Child Development, he directed the nation's Head Start program, and led the efforts in conceptualizing and mounting such innovative programs as Health Start, Home Start, Education for Parenthood, the Child Development Associate Program, and the Child and Family Resource Program.

After leaving government, Professor Zigler served on presidential committees and as a special consultant to numerous Cabinet rank officers and private foundations. Professor Zigler has received numerous honors including the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education and awards from such organizations as the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research and Professor of Humanities and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University. Considered by some to be the foremost interpreter of the black experience for white America, Gates sees the African-American experience as integral to an understanding of the greater American Experience and considers the problems of African-Americans as inseparable from the problems of America.

Gates has discovered, collected, compiled and republished thousands of lost texts written by African-Americans. In 1983, he recovered and helped republish the novel Our Nig, proving that the author, Harriet E. Adams, was African-American and, in the process, pushing back the date of the first African-American novel to 1859.

As a multiculturalist, Gates promotes revising American education to include not only the study of the great works of Western civilization, but also the great works produced by non-Western cultures. He also supports the proliferation of black studies programs in the United States.

His book, The Signifying Monkey, which traced the practice of signifying, an African-American language game, to its African roots, received the American Book Award.

Gates is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and wrote a 1994 cover story for Time magazine on the new black Renaissance in art. He has been editor of such collections as Reading Black, Reading Feminist, the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, and author of books such as Colored People: A Memoir and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man.

He received a B.A. from Yale University, and was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in its 800-year history. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, Gates taught at Yale, Cornell and Duke Universities.

In 1981, Gates was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." In 1997, he appeared on Time magazine's list of "25 Most Influential Americans." President Clinton presented Gates with a National Humanities Medal at a special ceremony at the White House in 1998.

Ellen V. Futter is President of the American Museum of Natural History and as such, is also the first female, full-time head of a New York City top-tier museum. Prior to her presidency at the museum, she served for 13 years as the President of Barnard College, and was the youngest person ever to head a major university at age 31, as well as the first and only one to give birth before the end of her first year in office. In addition, she was the first woman to chair the board of directors of New York's Federal Reserve Bank.

As a student at Barnard, she was the student representative to the trustees, and was the first and only student representative to become an elected trustee, a position that she began serving while she was a student at Columbia Law School.

As President of Barnard, Futter is credited with ensuring Barnard's survival as an institution through skillful negotiations with Columbia University and fundraising efforts to make the women's college fully residential.

In her current role as President of the American Museum of Natural History, she has not only revived the public's interest in that institution but, as The New York Times reported, she has succeeded at "making science sexy." Under her leadership, the museum has opened 11 new halls, a room with tropical plants and live butterflies, offered unusual special exhibitions, and built the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space that houses the new Hayden Planetarium.

Eugene M. Lang is a man who makes dreams come true, and it all began when someone helped him to get into college. Almost 20 years ago, Lang offered a similar opportunity to a group of young people who attended P.S. 121 in East Harlem, the same elementary school he had attended 53 years earlier. In a speech to that school's sixth-graders, he told them, "Always remember, your dream is important-and education is the key to the future. Don't think for a minute that you can't go to college." He promised to establish scholarships for those students who received a high school diploma so that when they were ready for college, they could go.

At the time he made that proposal, the projection was that none of them would even attend college and only one-quarter would complete high school. Most of the students who were there that day finished high school, and more than half went on to higher education.

That scholarship program became the "I Have A Dream Foundation," which grew into more than 100 programs around the country, supporting more than 10,000 young people. Lang's contributions to higher education include a $10 million challenge grant to The Eugene Lang College at New School University. At Swarthmore College, his alma mater, Lang Opportunity Scholarships are offered to students committed to social action and community service. He established the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund at Columbia Business School to provide students who envision qualified business enterprises with the seed capital for carrying them out after graduation.

Lang founded his own corporation, REFAC Technology Development Corporation, and he is a frequent spokesperson for the interests of small business. He also sponsors economic development and education programs for inner-city communities.

Lang has been an advisor to the U.S. Department of Commerce since 1956 and worked with the U.S. Department of State and the Small Business Administration on study and policy commissions.

In 1963, his corporation was recognized with an "E" Citation for trade expansion services to small U.S. manufacturers by President John F. Kennedy. And, in 1996, President Clinton presented Lang with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country's highest civilian award.

previous page