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Former New York State Commissioner of Education Named First Christian A. Johnson Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University

Thomas Sobol, Who Earned His Doctorate At College, Offers Practitioner's Perspective, Leads Redesign of Educational Programs

Thomas Sobol, former New York State Commissioner of Education, has been named the first Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The Professorship--endowed by a $2 million grant from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation--has been established to bring outstanding practitioners of national reputation to Teachers College to serve as faculty members.

According to Arthur Levine, president of the College, the Johnson Professor "will play a major role in bridging the gap between the research conducted at this major academic institution and those who work in the important, day-to-day life of American education."

"Tom Sobol will set a high standard for the Johnson Professors in years to come," President Levine said. "I can think of no one else who has been so instrumental in the creation of educational policy of the highest quality."

The grant is one of the largest ever made by the Foundation. "We make this award in recognition of the importance of developing sound methods of linking education theory with educational practice," said Mrs. Wilmot H. Kidd, president of the Foundation, "so that our schools of education can train administrators and teachers to deal more effectively and imaginatively with the challenges faced by our educational community today and in the future."

Dr. Sobol, who joined the faculty at Teachers College this fall as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Education, served as the New York State Commissioner of Education from 1987 until he stepped down earlier this year.

Prior to becoming the Commissioner, Dr. Sobol was the superintendent of schools in Scarsdale, New York, for 16 years.

At Teachers College, Dr. Sobol is already leading the redesign of the half-century-old Superintendents Work Conference, incorporating into the Work Conference a distance-education component that will allow superintendents from around the nation to communicate regularly with faculty members at Teachers College.

Dr. Sobol will be enlarging the scope of his work during the next few months as he plans educational forums for other individuals who are involved in making education policy, including legislative aides, representatives from community organizations, business organizations, nonprofit groups, foundations and the press.

"There are these little sub-universes of people," Dr. Sobol said, "each of them working very hard but each of them not understanding what the other sub-universes are doing."

Dr. Sobol is also teaching courses at Teachers College, both in the Department of Educational Administration and the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. He is preparing a new course on the creation of state policy in education.

He earned his Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and teaching at Teachers College in 1969.

A Boston native, Dr. Sobol attended Harvard College, where he majored in English. After he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1953, he earned a master's degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation was established in 1952 by the late Mr. Johnson, who was a director of the American Natural Gas Company. The Foundation supports several projects in education and the arts.

Teachers College, a graduate school of education, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Therefore, the institution should be called "Teachers College, Columbia University"; or "Columbia University's Teachers College," never just "Columbia University".

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