Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Klingenstein Leadership Award | Education Leadership | Organization and Leadership

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Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Klingenstein Leadership Award

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Klingenstein Center Director, Pearl Rock Kane's, remarks:

It is indeed an honor and a privilege to present Bill and Melinda Gates with the 2012 Klingenstein Leadership Award. Since 1991 the Klingenstein Center has granted this award annually to honor individuals whose work has influenced the lives of educators or students in enduring ways.  As the 2012 recipients you are in good company. Six previous recipients of the award have particular relevance to your accomplishments and your belief that all lives have equal value. 

  • Professor Howard Gardner, for his pioneering work on “multiple intelligences”;
  • Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum, for fostering understanding of racism as an implicit system of advantage;
  • Researcher and author Jim Collins for his work on organization leadership;
  • Psychologist Carol Dweck for research demonstrating the malleability of intelligence; 
  • Researcher Sugata Mitra,  for his work with self organized learning environments including the Hole in the Wall experiment;
  • And entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey, for spreading literacy and for building numerous schools for impoverished youth, including the Leadership Academy in South Africa. 

Bill Gates, truly you and Melinda belong among this distinguished group of honorees. 

Nearly a century ago, Dean Herbert Hawkes of Columbia University said: “in the long run a person’s accomplishments can rise no higher than his ideals.”   Fortunately for millions of people around the world you and Melinda have set no limit on your ideals.  You have insisted that we dream big, and that when we consider what education can be, and what it can do, we raise our sights higher than ever before.
Under your leadership the Gates Foundation has become the most articulate and relentless advocate for global health and educational advancement in the United States and the world. In education, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has underscored that improving the quality of education is the key to success in America and for America.  

Bill Gates you have received many awards. Included among them are awards for revolutionizing the way personal computers and Microsoft software now fit into everyday life. You received awards for improving farming and fighting hunger, and for service to youth. With Melinda, you have received honorary university degrees, awards for the impact you’ve had through charitable giving and were named Time’s Persons of the Year. But this award is different and special because it honors you and Melinda for being, first and foremost, excellent teachers. 

Underlying each of your efforts is a commitment to the education of individuals as a means for achieving larger goals. Whether teaching Tanzanian farmers methods to increase crop production, spreading information and access for vaccines in Mozambique, sharing the latest technology for the greatest global impact, providing the tools to improve schools and teaching in the U.S., or encouraging philanthropy among peers, you and Melinda model exemplary teaching.

Your tireless efforts to identify innovations in education that work best, and to make them available to all children, drive you to define issues and problems, and outline solutions for achieving a transformative impact on the greatest number of young lives. For those of us in independent schools, the work of the Gates Foundation inspires us to take a larger role in educating America’s children. 

As educators we share with you an unshakeable belief in the power of education and the potential of the human mind to transform lives. You have expressed and supported your belief that there is no limit to what a teacher with the right tools and training can do.  The Gates Foundation is refocusing the public debate over teacher evaluation reminding us that the only valid purpose of these debates is to provide teachers with the feedback they need to improve. The belief that teachers are central to educational Improvement is evident in your and Melinda’s work, and seemingly a source of energy that fuels the Gates Foundation’s educational agenda. 

You understand that your efforts will have impact on the common good, and by virtue of your success will demonstrate what others should do.  In keeping with this ideal, the Klingenstein Center is pleased to make a gift to the Rainier Scholars Fund in Seattle in your and Melinda’s honor, to assist promising students in their journey to success in college and beyond.  

The individual programs of the Gates Foundation, the way the programs are implemented, and the goals they serve would be enough for us to take great pride in giving you this honor.  But there is something more, unique to Bill and Melinda Gates that makes this particularly special—and that is your steadfast belief that anything is possible through education --if only we dream the biggest dreams and set our sights higher than ever before.

Before I read the citation I want to describe the profound influence that even one teacher can have.  In 1939 a young man enrolled in a Columbia University night class on short story writing taught by Professor Whit Burnett.  Burnett was a writer and magazine editor and it was in that class that this student wrote a story that Burnett published in his magazine. The young man was Jerome David Salinger, and that was Salinger’s first published work, and the source of encouragement that fueled his career as a writer.  

We understand you’re a fan of JD Salinger so here, from the Columbia University archives, is a copy of  Salinger’s first story, “The Young Folks,” a copy of the magazine cover issue in which it appeared and the actual course description. 
And now I would like to read the 2012 Leadership Award citation.

2012 Klingenstein Leadership Award Citation

Bill and Melinda Gates, your distinctive brand of philanthropy, defined by a passionate belief in the value and the potential of every human life, is changing the understanding of what can be accomplished in the fields of education, local development, and public health.   The Gates Foundation’s work, supported by your expertise in business, technology, and public communications, has become a powerful force for transforming society.

If education first and foremost is about opening the human mind to new possibilities, then you are among our most outstanding teachers.  Your profound commitment to education and learning inspires the Gates Foundation’s many diverse programs—initiatives which today are touching the lives of teachers and students, parents and their children, farmers and entrepreneurs, policy makers and philanthropists.  

Your bedrock commitment to the power of education describes our mission, as well, and is the basis for your richly earned honor.  Taken together, your generous support for libraries, innovative early-learning programs, college prep for striving high school students, community colleges offering broad-based access for all including our immigrant population, and guidance for teachers determined to improve their craft, reflect a comprehensive commitment to fortifying and inspiring countless dedicated educators across the entirety of our field.

Further, your model of activist philanthropy, and your rigorous insistence on measuring outcomes, has had an effect well beyond the programs of the Gates Foundation, raising the level of engagement of educational philanthropists and public officials, helping to transform the field of philanthropy in America and in countries around the globe. 

For accomplishing all of this in a spirit that celebrates the values and driving passion of education and by bringing to life the principles which guide the training, research and scholarship that defines Columbia University, Teachers College and the Klingenstein Center we are pleased to present you with the 2012 Klingenstein Leadership Award.

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