The Ben and Grace Wood Legacy
Ben D. Wood, Professor of Collegiate Educational Research at Columbia University.
Grace Wood and Hope Leichter, who holds the Elbenwood Chair in Education, at a College Dinner in 1987.
John Black, Professor of Computing
The late Dr. Ben and Grace Wood were among the greatest friends and supporters of Teachers College. Their legacy lives on in the form of the endowments they established-the Elbenwood Fund for Educational Research; the Ben D. Wood Fellowship Fund; and the Institute for Learning Technologies Fund. In the last four months athe estate has released an additional $2.82 million in gifts to the College to enhance TC's Capital Campaign.
On hearing of the recent passing of Grace Wood, President Arthur Levine said, "I am saddened to hear the news of Grace's death. Though we only met several times, we wrote often. I enjoyed the correspondence and I loved watching and hearing about her meetings with the students. We are all honored and grateful that Grace and Ben Wood's legacy continues at Teachers College. These endowments, which will support students and faculty at the College forever, are a testament to their tremendous generosity and their dream of making education better at all levels. I think the Woods might have enjoyed being a part of the capital campaign."
Ben D. Wood, Professor of Collegiate Educational Research at Columbia University, was an outstanding early pioneer in learning technologies. In a 1929-31 study he showed that using typewriters encouraged more and higher quality writing in addition to more cooperation in the classroom. Wood was also a key figure in the proliferation of standardized educational tests. He was awarded the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service in 1969.
Professor Hope Jensen Leichter, who holds the Elbenwood Chair in Education, worked closely with Grace Wood and became a personal friend of hers. "I have a great sense of gratitude for both Ben and Grace, for their generosity and their personal support for the work we do on families and education," said Leichter.
The Ben D. Wood Fellowship Fund was established in 1989. Each year, this fellowship fund provides a three-year full-tuition scholarship to one new doctoral student studying technology and education. John Black, Professor of Computing and Education, has collaborated with the offices of admissions and financial aid to select outstanding doctoral students interested in learning technologies as awardees, so a total of 12 students have been supported for three years each. The 13th Ben D. Wood Fellowship recipient is now working towards a degree in technology in education. Former Fellows are already making their mark as leaders in education. The 1990 Ben D. Wood Fellow Dan Schwartz is now a tenured professor at the Stanford University School of Education.
Professor Black spoke about the impact of the new funding on the Ben Wood Fellows. "The fellowships are for students who are interested in some aspects of learning technologies. They come from a variety of fields and departments, and have in the past. The donors, Ben and Grace Wood, initially gave some amount of money just to cover the fellows that we started out with, and they were pleased with the results and gave an initial endowment."
Interview with John Black
"An increase of $1.9 million to the Wood Fellowship Fund means that I will be able to offer one-year fellowship awards to six more students every year, or this amount could also support two particularly outstanding students for three years. Either way, this endowment is now significant enough to truly have a national impact on recruiting the best and brightest doctoral students to the field of technology and education."
The Elbenwood Fund for Educational Research was the first endowment that Ben and Grace Wood established at the College. This endowment was given to the College for the purpose of establishing the Elbenwood Center for the Study of the Family as Educator. The Fund supports the Center's operating costs for research and outreach activities, fellowships for graduate students studying the role of the family in education, and, perhaps most importantly, the Elbenwood Chair in Education, a faculty position that also serves as the Director of the Center. Professor Hope Jensen Leichter, has held the Elbenwood Chair since the establishment of the endowment.
The Fund provides an invaluable opportunity for the College to pursue an agenda of research on some of the most critical issues facing education today: the role of immediate and extended families in all levels of education; the connections among families, schools, and other institutions; migration and immigration; and the impact of technology and the information age on families and schools.
This research has immediate practical applications. Professor Leichter estimates that over 1,000 TC students from various academic departments have been exposed to the Center's research through the courses that she and other faculty teach. With an additional $700,000 from the Wood estate, the endowment will be able to offer more fellowships and sustain its research.
Leichter feels that the Elbenwood Center has a unique role to play. "The Center addresses the most basic question about families and education, and that is how can we learn to get a complicated enough view about what is happening inside the family. We want to go beyond the rampant stereotypes that we have about the family. I regard our line of research as fundamental. We work on issues that are not necessarily taught-for instance, family memories, grandparents as educators, immigrants. But the major point is that the funding has given us an opportunity to set a critical agenda."
According to Leichter, the new funding will enable the Center to pursue new directions. "One of the issues that is particularly significant is immigration and migration. The challenge is trying to understand the experience of families who are moving from one part of the world to another and how that kind of experience ties in with the lives of their children. We intend to work with museums on this project and build an archive of interviews and observations-documents about lives."
The gift to the Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT) Fund helps TC provide much-needed operating support for ILT to continue its research and outreach activities in local Harlem schools.
Published Thursday, May. 16, 2002