Dear Members of the TC Community:
We are writing to share important information about Building 528. As you know, the College made the decision to remove Edward Thorndike’s name from Building 528 in July 2020. An original report that was researched by a group of TC students influenced that decision. We are grateful for their input, which helped us reflect on our history and conclude that the building’s past name significantly conflicted with our enduring institutional values.
In the process of evaluating and removing the Thorndike name, the Board of Trustees and the Cabinet recognized the need for a formal policy to guide this and future building renamings. In early 2021, a working group made up of students, alumni, trustees, faculty and staff developed such a policy, which we published on our website after approval by the Cabinet and the Board of Trustees. Most significantly, the policy states that, due to the limited number of tangible and intangible features of the College that can be named, along with the rarity of the opportunity to rename a building on TC’s 135-year-old campus, the College will in almost all cases consider naming in relation to a major financial gift to Teachers College.
We share this information to provide context for the request made in the above-mentioned report to consider renaming Building 528 after Dr. Edmund W. Gordon, Richard March Hoe Professor of Psychology and Education, Emeritus. Teachers College proudly recognizes the enormous contributions of Dr. Gordon, whose teaching, mentorship, advocacy and groundbreaking research have had such a lasting impact in the field and continue to shape scholarship and influence our culture and community. To honor his unmatched legacy, the College has renamed the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) the Edmund W. Gordon Institute for Urban and Minority Education; and established the Edmund W. Gordon Scholarship and the Annual Gordon Lecture Series. On the Centennial of his birth last June, faculty spanning the College’s many disciplines joined together with colleagues across the nation in a conference to celebrate and build on Dr. Gordon’s legacy of affirmative development and equitable education for every learner. The collected essays from this conference will continue to resonate and extend Dr. Gordon’s influence in the field for decades to come.
Even as the College leadership—the Board of Trustees and Cabinet—recognize the compelling reasons to rename Building 528 in honor of a faculty member who so deeply embodies our mission and values, the renaming policy addresses additional weighty and urgent needs that we as an institution must meet in order to meaningfully advance our values of diversity, inclusion, equity and justice. In particular, a TC education must be accessible and affordable for a wide range of students, and the Board of Trustees is committed to building an endowed fund that would increase student aid and keep tuition as low as possible. The building renaming in conjunction with a major gift would serve as a powerful anchor for this effort.
Dr. Gordon has recently expressed his shared belief in the critical importance of working to bolster financial aid and keep costs as low as possible for students: “As a former student here at TC, for many years as a faculty member; as a former administrator; as a recipient of the highest award that the College can make; and as a former Trustee of our beloved Teachers College, if the naming of the old Thorndike building for Edmund Gordon were to prevent or stand in the way of the College’s receipt of a major financial contribution to TC, I would have to thank TC for this enormous honor, but I would have to decline to accept the honor."
In closing, we want to once again recognize and thank everyone at TC who has worked on this issue. Your dedication is a reflection of the extraordinary commitment across our community to live and breathe the values of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and we are grateful to be a part of it. We look forward to continuing to honor Dr. Gordon far into the future and working together to build a smarter, healthier and more equitable world.
President, Teachers College
William D. Rueckert
Chair, Teachers College Board of Trustees