Pearl Rock Kane, who will step down in September after 37 years as Director of TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, received the College’s President’s Medal of Excellence at a special gala in April that also marked the 40th anniversary of the Center’s founding. 

GOLD STANDARD Kane (left), with TC Provost Tom James and President Susan Fuhrman

Pearl, for nearly 40 years, you have provided the Klingenstein Center with transformative leadership, touching so many lives and giving love to so many people – and tonight, you see that love coming back at you,” TC President Susan Fuhrman told Kane in front of an appreciative audience of 400 friends, family, colleagues and Klingenstein Center alumni at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. “You have secured your place in TC history by nurturing an institution that will endure as the gold standard in its field, training new leaders who will go on to work at thousands of schools around the world. At TC, we call this The Multiplier Effect – the vast ripple effect that a single great leader and teacher like you can set in motion.” 

“You have secured your place in TC history by nurturing an institution that will endure as the gold standard in its field, training new leaders who will go on to work at thousands of schools around the world. At TC, we call this The Multiplier Effect – the vast ripple effect that a single great leader and teacher like you can set in motion.”

—Susan Fuhrman

[Watch a special tribute video about Kane’s career.]

On Kane’s watch, the Klingenstein Center, which claims nearly 4,000 alumni, has  grown from a single fellowship program into an internationally-recognized center for preparation of independent school teachers and leaders with five different programs. Recently the Center announced that Kane, who will continue to serve as a TC faculty member, will be succeeded as Klingenstein Center Director by Nicole Brittingham Furlonge, a highly regarded independent school educator and researcher who has taught at the Klingenstein Center. But while the Center “will continue to grow and change under new leaders, its heart and soul will always remain a reflection of your own,” Fuhrman told Kane, adding that Kane will always be “a first-class citizen of the Klingenstein Center and Teachers College.”

In a citation he read aloud, TC Provost Thomas James praised Kane for having “opened the doors of independent schooling wider and wider, preparing ever more diverse cohorts of leaders” and for broadening “the concept of what a school can be.” Yet the greatest measure of Kane’s impact, Fuhrman said, has been her focus on preparing people who serve as role models for students and faculty. 

“The Klingenstein Center’s essence is captured by your famous dictum that leadership is a behavior, not a position or a title,” Fuhrman said. “Your genius, and the genius of the Klingenstein Center under your direction, have been to recognize that such work begins with preparing school leaders at all levels to model mindful, active citizenship in their communities.”

Kane herself recounted arriving at TC in 1977, on a year’s leave from teaching at the Dalton School, as a member of the first cohort of Klingenstein Fellows. “I never imagined I’d stay on to earn a doctorate, direct the Klingenstein Center and become the first female ever tenured in the Department of Educational Administration,” she said. “But in so many ways, my life has been about embracing the unexpected. That includes the moment my husband, Richard and I, learned that the new sibling we planned on introducing to our rambunctious 16-month-old son, Bradley, was in fact triplet sisters. Both experiences – with my husband and children, and with my extended Klingenstein family – all of you – have been love affairs, with all the attendant joys and challenges.”

Kane praised TC Trustee Emeritus John Klingenstein and his brother, Fred for their choice, decades ago, of Teachers College as the home for their vision of a program to prepare independent school leaders. The move was a bold one because “independent school educators often rejected ed schools as being insufficiently rigorous or too theoretical,” while education school faculty “often dismissed private schools as elitist and irrelevant to solving society’s problems.”  

“We had to demonstrate that professional knowledge such as theories of change and organizational behavior could be applied to improve schools. Our programs had to be relevant, rigorous and substantive.”

—Pearl Rock Kane

The Center thrived, however, because the Klingensteins wisely involved independent school leaders and then-TC President Lawrence Cremin in its creation – and because it set out to “break down long-held stereotypes about education schools.”

THE NEXT GENERATION WEIGHS IN Kane's grandchildren lent the proceedings an especially personal touch.

THE NEXT GENERATION WEIGHS IN Kane's grandchildren lent the proceedings an especially personal touch.

“We had to demonstrate that professional knowledge such astheories of change and organizational behavior could be applied to improve schools,” Kane said. “Our programs had to be relevant, rigorous and substantive.”

And they were. Participants have learned about brain research, child and adolescent development, curriculum design, understanding diversity in all its forms, and techniques for collaboration with colleagues, as well as ethics, law, marketing, finance, cognitive development and negotiation.  More recently, the Center has added a new program combining an education masters with an MBA. And while the various Klingenstein programs have served participants at varying stages of their careers, Kane said, all have focused on core values of improving student learning, behaving ethically, working in collaboration, committing to social justice, and incorporating reflective practice because reflection on action is what leads to continuous improvement.

At the end of the evening, Fuhrman announced the creation of the Pearl Rock Kane Endowed Scholarship Fund, funded by many Klingenstein Center alumni, for students enrolled in the programs of the Klingenstein Center. James K. Scott, President of Punahou School in Honolulu and Chair of the Klingenstein Center Advisory Committee, presented Kane with a commemorative plaque in the shape of a book, engraved with the words that are also etched in her former students' minds:  “Leadership is a behavior... not a position.” The inscription read: “With our deep admiration and heartfelt appreciation from the countless independent school educators whom you have inspired around the world.”

Read about the Pearl Rock Kane Endowed Scholarship Fund or contact Linda Colquhoun at 212 678-3679/colquhoun@tc.edu

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