GRADUATION AROUND THE NATION 2009
Teachers College: Mayor Cory Booker & President Susan Fuhrman
Future teachers and education policy makers graduated from Teachers College of Columbia University to strains of organ music under the arched ceiling of Riverside Church in May.
The Commencement Convocation ceremonies, which took place over May 19 and 20, marked the bestowing of awards onto Newark Mayor Cory Booker, previous Barnard president and anthropologist Judith Shapiro, and New York Governor David Paterson. According to the school’s Web site, more than 2,100 degree candidates from across the globe participated in the ceremonies.
Tuesday evening’s ceremony recognized candidates for degrees in Health and Behavior Studies, Human Development, International and Transcultural Studies, Mathematics, Sciences and Technology, and Organization and Leadership. The program also had Shapiro and Paterson on the docket to be honored.
Paterson, though, could not be in attendance because he was “called away on emergency,” Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman said as she addressed the graduates. This was the second year in which Paterson missed his appointment to speak at a TC convocation ceremony—last year, he missed it because he had a glaucoma that needed immediate treatment. That time, he sent Andrew Cuomo, his attorney general, to testify about Paterson’s absence and to deliver his own speech on education. This year, Paterson sent no replacement.
In her speech to the graduates and their guests, Fuhrman emphasized the importance of education. “The world needs your skills, and never more than right now,” Fuhrman said. “Get out there and participate,” she said, in the “intensive social change” of the moment. She noted that the candidates in the room ranged in age from 20-60, and comprise a “diverse and diversely talented group.”
Frances G. Schoonmaker, professor of education, presented Shapiro’s medal, and noted that Shapiro was the first woman appointment in the University of Michigan’s department of anthropology, and the first Barnard president educated in public schools. She described Shapiro’s tenure as being characterized by “collegiality and supportiveness,” and highlighted her endowment and curricular development.
Provost Thomas James read the medal citation, which mentioned Shapiro’s acceptance to the National Academy of Sciences and “pioneering and distinguished scholarly career and extraordinary leadership of Barnard College.”
Shapiro, in turn, emphasized the award’s meaning to her—her 95-year-old mother who spent many years working in New York City public schools would be proud. “This award is above all for her,” Shapiro said, calling her mother “the first and major reason I became a teacher myself.”
Shapiro described her tenure as Barnard’s president, saying that she tried to teach her colleagues “without turning them off, or boring them to tears.” She joked that she would often turn awkward interactions into anthropological fieldwork, ameliorating the tensions that regularly permeate administrative jobs in academia.
“Barnard and Teachers College are natural partners,” Shapiro said, addressing their concern for global issues of education. “It’s good to be a New Yorker—there’s so much to be done.”
Nisrin Elamin, an MA graduate in International and Transcultural Studies, spoke on behalf of the students. Elamin, who hails from Sudan, stressed the global crisis in literacy, noting that 74 million people worldwide cannot read. Two thirds of these individuals are women, since “poverty, inequality, and war make school inaccessible.” In the United States, she said, 18 million adults don’t read well enough to earn a living wage.
Describing the plight of a girl who left an African farm to earn a degree in the U.S., Elamin said, “these stories inspired me to come to TC.” She called upon her fellow graduates to use their resources and degrees to help education worldwide.
Following Elamin’s speech, Tom Rock, executive director of enrollment services, called the names of all the degree candidates. They each stood up to be recognized before greeting their families to face life after school.#