Dear Members of the TC Community,
It is my honor to announce that Leslie Morse Nelson, a dedicated member of the Teachers College Board of Trustees since 2010, and Vice Chair since 2016, has been elected as the new Chair of the Board. Leslie succeeds William “Bill” Dodge Rueckert, who joined the Board in 1997, served as co-chair beginning in 2003, and was named Chair in 2017.
Bill has been a fearless leader, trusted advisor, and generous supporter of the College during his years of steadfast service to the Board. I am incredibly grateful for his deep commitment to TC, and, although he is stepping down as Chair, I am pleased that he will continue to serve as an active member of the Board and as Chair Emeritus.
There is no doubt that the institution will continue to flourish under Leslie’s leadership. A passion for Teachers College runs in Leslie’s family; her mother, Enid “Dinny” Morse, served on TC’s Board from 1988 through 2001, including three years as Co-Chair (1998 to 2001). Like Dinny, Leslie has dedicated herself to enhancing TC’s fundraising, outreach and operations. In addition to her role as Vice Chair, she has served on the Audit, Compensation, Development, Executive, Strategic Innovation and 125th Anniversary Gala Committees, as well as the Committee on Trustees and as a Co-Chair of the School Partnerships Committee. And along with Bill, Leslie was Vice Chair of TC’s successful “Where the Future Comes First” campaign that raised $300 million for the College—a milestone in our institution’s history.
Leslie brings a keen and thoughtful understanding of institutional needs to the Board. During her service as a volunteer public school assistant teacher, she was inspired to spearhead the School-Based Mental Health Collaboration, an innovative partnership to provide on-site mental health support in New York City public schools. Recognizing the need for rich school arts programming, the Morse family has generously supported a robust, K-8 music program at the Teachers College Community School, and in honor of their mother, Leslie and her siblings established the Enid W. Morse Fellowship for Teaching in the Arts. Joined by her brothers Douglas and Andrew Morse, Leslie also funded Teaching Artists @ TC, a one-of-a-kind certificate program for working artists to build classroom skills. She and her husband Mitchell have been frequent hosts of TC regional events to engage the broader TC community.
I am also grateful for the depth of experience outside of TC that Leslie brings to her role. As a longtime advocate for education and equity, she has served as a member of numerous boards of directors, including: Girls Quest, Inc., which provides girls from low-income families with year-round enrichment programs; the Juilliard Council, an advisory board of the Juilliard School; and the Board of Trustees of the Collegiate and Chapin Schools. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Education Committee of the Board of WNET. She enjoyed a successful 20 year career in interior design and retired in 2012. Since then, she has been a teaching assistant in a NYC public elementary school and currently is a substitute teacher with the NYC Department of Education. Leslie's energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to TC are undeniable, and I am so thankful for all of the thoughtful contributions she has already made to the College on multiple levels. I look forward to continuing to work with her to build on our strengths for many years to come.
Like Leslie, Bill has deep personal connections to and a reverence for Teachers College. In fact, one might say he has TC in his DNA. The College’s founder, Grace Dodge, is Bill’s great aunt and his grandfather, Cleveland E. Dodge, served on the Board for 67 years, including 32 years as chair. During Bill’s tenure as chair, he has carried on the family legacy by steering us into the future. We have seen the preservation of 19th-century architectural details on campus, the completion of Cowin Auditorium, updates to Russell Courtyard, the transformation of smart classrooms, the creation of the Smith Learning Theater and the dedication of TC Way.
These projects would not have been possible without Bill’s dedication to TC’s financial health and future vitality. He was a tireless fundraiser, and played an instrumental role in leading two successful capital campaigns. In addition, he cultivated a robust and committed board, helped to secure two TC presidents, and provided guidance through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. He also secured a $10 million gift from the late philanthropist Abby O’Neill in 2011 to establish the Abby M. O’Neill Endowed Fellowship Program and support campus facilities.
Throughout his leadership, Bill has served on multiple Board committees, including the Executive, Audit, Business & Finance, Compensation, Development, Facilities & Public Safety, Investment, Library and Strategic Innovation Committees, as well as the Committee on Trustees. He was the Trustee Representative to the Grace Dodge Society, TC’s planned giving recognition society. As the president and a trustee of his family’s Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, he has advanced many generous grants to TC, notably: the Foundation’s 2015 grant for renovations to expand the capacity of the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center; a 1997 grant to support renovations of Grace Dodge Hall; grants to the Reading Buddies Program, the Cleveland Dodge Professorship, Dodge Fellows, the Phyllis Criscuoli Endowed Scholarship, and the Susan H. Fuhrman Endowed Scholarship; and numerous gifts for general operating support.
Bill has been active in business and philanthropy for most of his life, and TC has benefited greatly from his acumen and expertise. He is president of Oyster Management Group, LLC, a fund that invests in community banks, and serves on the Board of Fairfield County Bank. He is also chair of the board of trustees of the YMCA Retirement Fund, a trustee of International House, a trustee of the American University of Beirut and director emeritus of both the YMCA of Greater New York and Wave Hill, Inc.
As Bill passes the torch to Leslie, let us all take a moment to reflect on how fortunate Teachers College is to have such capable stewards leading us into the future. Please join me in thanking Bill for his service as chair, and congratulating Leslie on her new role!
President, Teachers College