Profiles in Education:
Joyce Cowin, Trustee, Teachers College
Trustee Joyce Cowin
Joyce Cowin, a trustee at Teachers College (TC) and liaison to its prestigious Alumni Council, exemplifies by word and deed the meaning of “philanthropy,” a word that comes from the Greek and means love of mankind. To hear her talk—an enthusiasm she exhibits for what she has already done in education and what she hopes still to do for her alma mater (her Masters at TC)—is to listen to someone who truly believes in noblesse oblige. Among her numerous projects, however, she cites as her “happiest” the funding and founding several years ago of the Heritage School at 106th Street & Lexington Avenue, a 9-12 high school that has already made a difference in the lives of so many of its needy students. She notes, for example, the school’s fifth graduation and adds that while others might conclude that the 50th percentile is hardly an achievement, for the students who attend the Heritage School, the graduation rate most certainly is a “milestone.” Coming in with academic and familial disadvantages, among them the fact they start relatively late— in the 9th as opposed to the 6th grade—Joyce Cowin says she is amazed at what the Heritage students have achieved: a movement from 12 percent passage on the math regents, for example, to 85 percent, a striking increase that she attributes to the “wonderful” mentoring the students receive from Teachers College faculty and interns. Hardly one to rest on her laurels, Joyce Cowin is now aiming her sights at improving reading scores, as well.
Originally conceived as a school that would teach all classes through the arts, Heritage has evolved a program over the last few years that is now being replicated by other schools. Though she wishes the space-challenged institution would have a gym and a cafeteria, she takes heart at least that a library now exists. In the basement? So what, that’s what other schools, particularly those in Washington D.C., that have no expansion room are doing. What would she like to see happen next? Without missing a beat, she says, paying attention to problems of “nutrition.” And she’d like to see continued focus on computers. These are the “equalizers,” she says, the kids love them. Whenever she can and especially at meetings of the Teachers College Board of Trustees she celebrates the accomplishments of the Heritage School and encourages further support.
A TC trustee for over 25 years and an important liaison to the TC Alumni Council, Joyce Cowin knows, of course, that her own “golden” childhood and relatively easy years at Smith College are far different from the lives of Heritage School students, but she believes that it is essential that people like her “get involved.” And stay involved. She’d like to expand mentoring opportunities – why not trips to Albany? She’d also like to see the reinstitution of something like the Gallery Passport program of some years ago whereby public school youngsters were engaged in curricular activities that involved going to museums. And she’d be delighted if the TC board would accelerate its deliberations on distance learning, which she believes, is “the wave of the future.” She also looks forward to the official opening of the Cowin Conference Center at Teachers College and to its publicized integration as a place for greater faculty exchange.#