As both an educator and a philanthropist, Teachers College Trustee Dawn Duquès (M.A. ’76) has given gifts that reflect what she has received. 

“I thank every child for what they’ve taught me,” says Duquès, a former teacher and school head who, with her husband, Ric, has generously supported several colleges and universities.

Take, for example, her current project at TC: funding and personally overseeing the renovation of Thompson 136, a classroom where she once took an exam and, to put it gently, found the atmosphere wanting. Dawn credits her mother for passing on an innate talent for interior design that she, in turn, has applied to the Duques’ beautiful Madison Beach Hotel in Madison, Connecticut (part of the Hilton Curio Collection of boutique hotels), where she’s had sole responsibility for initial interior design and subsequent refurbishing. She’s also designed the interiors of her family’s homes and provided design support to friends. But in tackling Thompson 136, Dawn has made it a point to “talk to a lot of TC students about what would work best for them” – and also applied some hard-won knowledge about “durability and practicality” gained from serving as matriarch to four children (including triplets) and 11 grandchildren.

In a sense, Dawn has always blended the theoretical with the practical. In addition to her M.A. from Teachers College, she holds associate degrees from Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale; a B.A. from The George Washington University; and an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University.

She launched her teaching career at a suburban Washington elementary school and a District of Columbia business school while Ric pursued his business degree. When the couple and their first child returned to Dawn’s hometown of Tenafly, New Jersey, she took on the co-directorship of a Tenafly preschool and then responsibility for coordinating the Tenafly school district’s continuing education program. At one point, she was running eight childcare programs and 163 courses for children and adults, ranging from English as a Second Language and SAT prep to martial arts and how to read The Wall Street Journal. She managed room schedules across six buildings, negotiated contracts with teachers and, for more than a decade, raised considerable funds in annual revenue for the school district.

“I’ve always tried to figure out the best way I can help, that empowers people in the long run. And I really believe that you do that primarily through education.”

“I’ve always tried to figure out the best way I can help, that empowers people in the long run,” she says. “And I really believe that you do that primarily through education.”

To that end, the Duquèses have also supported students with learning disabilities at Mitchell College (where Dawn served as a Trustee) and funded construction of the Duquès Academic Support Center and Library; underwritten the Ric and Dawn Duquès Hall, home of The George Washington University School of Business; and, at Teachers College, supported TC’s REACH partnerships with public schools in Northern Manhattan and created the annual Duquès Social Justice Scholarship, which supports students’ community engagement and outreach in a school-based setting or community organization.

“Mrs. Duquès believes in the idea of youth empowerment, and she gave us the freedom to design and implement our project with Harlem youth the way we envisioned it,” says Duquès Social Justice Scholar Matt Kautz, a Ph.D. candidate in History & Education, who is part of a TC team facilitating the Youth Historians of Harlem.  

For her part, Dawn simply says that education “will always be part of my life.” She and Ric continue to learn through reading, travel, attending symposia and presentations, and – of course – through Dawn’s lifelong commitment to Teachers College.

“I’ve always told our kids that life is a field trip, whether you’re visiting some exotic part of the world or going to the grocery store,” she says. “Maybe especially the grocery store, with all the different brands and pricing and nutrition information these days. But wherever you go – if you’re not learning, you’re not living!”