Celebration of the Permanence and Promise of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Presidents' Room, Woolsey Hall
Transcript of Remarks January 30, 1991

The Individuals Who Spoke:

Sheila W. Wellington, Secretary, Yale University
Donna V. Dunlop, Program Director, DeWitt Wallace-Reader s Digest Fund
James Herbert, Director, Division of Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities
Marc Palmieri, Supervisor, Staff and Organizational Development, New Haven Public Schools
The Honorable John C. Daniels, Mayor, City of New Haven
Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., President, Yale University
James R. Vivian, Director, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

Sheila W. Wellington :

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the Teachers Institute, thanks very much. I will only speak briefly; there are other delights to come. I did want a chance to speak from my perspective as someone who is involved in the community work of Yale University about the Teachers Institute as an institution that has endured and continues to contribute. When an institution does that, it is of course the work of many people, not just one person, and that surely is the case with the Teachers Institute. But there is in fact one person without whom there would not be this extraordinary entity, and that person is Jim Vivian. Without Jim Vivian there would be no Teachers Institute. [Applause]

Let me take a minute for those of you who don t know a little of the history. Jim was in the History Department here in the late seventies. Howard Lamar was chair of the Department at that time, and there was created the Yale-New Haven History Education Project. It was started at the initiative of some Lee High School faculty people who were teaching history, who came to the History Department here and said, "an we work together, can we collaborate so that we can learn something, hopefully you can learn something, and our students can profit?" The project was started by Howard. It was a success. Jim was involved in it. It was so good that there was a decision to expand it beyond the History Department, and submit a grant to the NEH. This was by then, I guess, the late seventies. Jim Vivian agreed to write the grant, but said he would not run the Teachers Institute. But on the form great things always happen because of forms it said "director of the program" and they had to fill in a name, and they filled in the name, Jim Vivian. The project was, in fact, funded, and the Teachers Institute is, as you know, commencing its fourteenth year. It has had a very, very bright past, and it is surely going to have a brilliant future. So thank you, and welcome, and thanks to Jim.

James R. Vivian:

Thank you, Sheila. I do appreciate what you say, but at the same time you are quite right in saying that the Institute is the product of the efforts of a great many people, many of whom are here today, which pleases me very much.

I, too, welcome you all to our celebration today. We come together, I believe, out of a shared commitment to the best possible education for the young people in the public schools of New Haven. We join together today to honor more than three hundred of their teachers who have completed the program since 1978, many of them more than once; to recognize the many teachers that have served in the leadership of our program; to appreciate the contribution that more than 70 faculty members have made through leading seminars and giving talks in the program; to thank the numerous School and University administrators, many of whom are here, for their help at so many points, including some trying times in the history of the program; to express gratitude to the Institute's past and current funders, many of whom are represented here; to welcome the Institute s friends, many of you here, and to thank you for your interest; and most especially today to celebrate two magnificent new grants and the promise that they hold for the Institute s future.

When the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund in a major breakthrough for us announced last October a $2 million endowment challenge grant, the Institute became the first permanently endowed program of its type. Writing in The New York Times, Fred Hechinger said of the grant this past December that it signaled a "new era" in university school collaboration nationally. In New Haven, at least, it certainly represents the fact that the University's educational resources will always be made available to assist the teachers and through them the students in our community s public schools.

So, I do not exaggerate when I say that the Institute has no greater friend or stronger ally than Donna V. Dunlop, who is the Program Director at the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, who has expressed such a full measure of confidence in the lasting significance of the Institute. She has, moreover, become a valued colleague in this work. Donna, on behalf of everyone here, it is a personal pleasure to welcome you back to New Haven, and on behalf of the generations of teachers and students in our schools to come, we thank you most sincerely.

Donna V. Dunlop:

Thank you, Jim. Good evening. I am very, very pleased to be here this evening to celebrate the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. But more important than that, I am pleased to be here to celebrate the teachers and the Yale faculty who are the heart of this program, and more important than that, to celebrate the children who are the recipients of this good work. They are really why we are here today, and I want to always impress upon people that that's really why we re doing the work that we're doing.

This project has had a long history, it seems to me; though it's only been three years, it seems longer than that. Starting back in 1988 when a soft-spoken Jim Vivian came to me in my office in New York City and spoke eloquently and with great conviction about a wonderful program and a program that he really believed in, and at that time I sat back in my foundation chair and said, "Yes, but we don t do New Haven. And, indeed we are only funding in New York City right now." But Jim Vivian persisted and continued to talk to me about the value of this program and we continued to talk and, fortunately at that time, we were also developing a program focused on teachers and teacher development and strengthening the people who serve young people in an effort to ensure that the best services were delivered to them every day. So we kept talking and what resulted was a three-year, $225,000 grant to the Institute. That s really where the story begins because then everything began to change at the DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest Fund.

We went from having one staff person the staff person being me to having seven staff people. This happened in December 1989. More important than that, our grants budget tripled and we were given the charge by our Board of Directors to create a national grant- making program a luxurious, wonderful challenge, I have to say. We began to look for models with promise around the country, and naturally we looked back to our friends. But we were looking for programs that had certain characteristics. We looked for programs that were more than "one-shot deals," that had the potential for effecting change over a long period of time. We were still focused on teachers, and we were looking for programs that showed respect for teachers, treated them as professionals, and allowed them to grow as professionals. We looked for programs that partnered public schools with other institutions because we believe that public schools cannot work in isolation any more and that they need to work with other organizations in the community, and a group like Yale University is as ideal as it could be in that regard.

We also looked for programs that had investments local investments that we wouldn't just be coming in as a private funder and picking up the tab. We were looking for public and private monies to be invested in projects as well. Any time we can leverage funds we try to do that, and we were looking for models that had application outside of the individual project. We are always looking to find elements of projects that we can help to then "go on the road," as we say. And most important, we were looking for projects, as I said, that have an impact on children.

It was clear that the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute had all of those characteristics. So we went back to Jim, and I think you were happy when we actually picked up the phone and said, "Let s talk," because you were in the midst of a three-year grant at that time and we negotiated. And as you've heard what happened was that the Board of Directors of the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund approved a $2 million endowment grant a challenge grant to the Institute. The intent of this was to stabilize the Institute, to leverage additional funds.

The work isn't over. Jim still needs to raise more funds. If there are any grant-makers in the audience, you should know the job is not done. We still need more support for the Institute. The package that was put together we were very pleased with. After my conversations with Institute teachers and Yale Faculty, I feel very sure that this was an investment a very smart investment and that's the best thing that a foundation person can say. I am very pleased to be here today and I thank all of you for being there. Thanks.

James R. Vivian:

The unfailing support of the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1978 has been indispensable to the Institute's development and has allowed us to demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach. The new grant which we are announcing today brings the total of their support to almost $1 1/2 million over a sixteen-year period, ending at the end of 1993. The NEH has thus provided well for the undiminished continuation of our program in the humanities, bringing us to the threshold of real financial stability, and at the same time making it possible for us to concentrate now in our fund raising on building an adequate endowment.

I first had the pleasure of working with James Herbert when he was Director of Academic Relations at the College Board. I worked with him there on the publication of the Institute s first report, Teaching in America: The Common Ground, which was initially prepared, in fact, for a national conference of university presidents and Chief State School Officers held in this room in 1983. He has had a long and significant professional involvement in this business of university-school collaboration, and so it is a particular pleasure to welcome him back to New Haven today in his new capacity as Director of the Education Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

James Herbert:

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has always been about the engagement of teachers with their subject matter. So, I thought it might be appropriate to return to my ancient discipline just for a moment to put this moment in the historical context of the school reform movement in the United States in the last several years. That movement can be said to have begun in 1977, when a commission headed by former Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz, reported to the College Board that the alarming fifteen-year decline in national average SAT scores could be attributed at least partially to an erosion of standards across the board educationally. Later that same year the National Endowment for the Humanities announced that the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute would receive a grant of $290,000 to support a program in which the teachers of New Haven would engage in sustained, serious study of their subject areas working with faculty of Yale University.

That program was to be founded on four principles. The first was that teachers and teacher-developed materials are utterly central to the whole business of improving education. The second was that teachers at various levels, at different levels at secondary and higher education, can and must work together as colleagues to address the problems of teaching in their disciplines. The third principle was that any such educational improvement effort ought to be led in large portion by the teachers themselves. And finally, the program was to be founded on the principle that school-university collaboration, in order to be effective, had to be over the long term.

In 1983 the school reform movement reached its most dramatic moment when a National Commission on Excellence in Education warned that the nation was "at risk." It said that American education had reached such a state that, if it had been imposed on us by a foreign power, we would have regarded it as an act of war. Also in 1983, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute received a grant of $368,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a program of serious, sustained study by New Haven teachers working with colleagues on the Yale University faculty. That program was to be founded on and to embody four principles: the utter centrality of teachers; the necessity of co professionalism between teachers and their colleagues on the Yale faculty; the importance of teacher leadership in the governance of any such enterprise; and, yes, that any school-university collaboration, in order to be effective, had to be a commitment for the long term.

In 1986 the school reform movement reached what many people called its "second wave." A pair of reports, one from the National Governors Association, the other from the Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, called for reorienting the movement to the future, and called for a reprofessionalization of the teaching force of the United States and for a consequent restructuring of schools and of schooling. Also in 1986 the National Endowment for the Humanities offered Yale University, the teachers of New Haven, the Teachers Institute, a grant of $345,000 to allow teachers in New Haven to engage in serious, sustained study in their subject areas, working with Yale faculty in a program that was to be founded yes, you re getting the message, on four principles: the utter centrality of teachers to any school reform effort; the importance of co professionalism between teachers and university faculty in addressing the problems common to teaching their disciplines; the leadership, the necessity of leadership of teachers in the governance of any such enterprise; and indeed, that any school-university collaboration ought to be for the long term.

Last year, in 1990, in the State of the Union message the President of the United States announced that he and the governors of the fifty states had reached a consensus on six national goals for American education. One of those goals was that by the year 2000 students in the fourth, the eighth, and the twelfth grade should demonstrate competence in the mastery of challenging subject matter in such fields as English, History, Mathematics, Science. Also in 1990 the National Endowment for the Humanities announced that the Yale- New Haven Teachers Institute would receive a grant of $480,000 to support the serious and sustained study by New Haven teachers working with faculty members of Yale University. Yes, again, that program was to be founded on four general and compelling principles. I need not enumerate them, but I might mention that over the years Yale has, together with the teachers of New Haven, taken many means to spread those principles across the nation to larger and larger groups of people, who have found in them a message of importance to their own work.

Among the means was this little book that Jim and I worked on several years ago, Teaching in America: The Common Ground. While I adore this little book, (This was my first editing effort I never told him) there is a passage in it which has always mystified me. Jim explains that the involvement in this kind of enterprise, that's to say the Teachers Institute, was a matter whose reasons "transcended altruism." Now, as a philosopher, I have some difficulty coming up with a reason or a motive that "transcends altruism." But as a historian, I know very well that the principles and the practice of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute the insight, seriousness, steadfastness with which it has held to those principles has transcended many transient waves of reform in American education and has made a large and lasting contribution to the work that many educators have been involved in over the past fifteen years.

I'd like to let one 1990 panelist speak for successive generations of NEH review panelists as to the nature of that contribution. This panelist wrote: "The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is one of the oldest, most successful university-school collaborative projects in the country. There is every credible indication that the Institute really works, not only significantly to enhance the quality of education in the New Haven Public Schools, but to serve as an active witness and effective model for other collaborative projects across the country."

My own list of Standard Metropolitan Statistical areas in the United States lists 66 such areas which are larger than New Haven, and a total of 114 which are of at least comparable size, and in every one of them there are teachers and faculty who would profit from heeding this witness, from following the example that you all have set.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, on the occasion of its second grant to this Institute, expressed the hope that the program here would become permanent and that universities and schools in other communities would establish similar programs for their mutual benefit. On this occasion, I and my colleagues wish to congratulate the Institute, Jim personally, the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation, and most of all the teachers of New Haven, and, yes, the teachers of Yale University as well, on this important step toward making the Institute permanent, so that soon we can all move to the second part of that agenda one of my colleagues set some time ago: fulfilling the promise that this Institute holds for teachers and for students, not only in New Haven, but across the country.

I think you know that I believe that your work here holds at least four lessons for teachers in other parts of the country.

James R. Vivian:

From hearing Jim and Donna speak, I trust that you gain an impression of how rewarding my job is in working with them.

From the outset the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has been planned through close cooperation between the University and the New Haven Public Schools. The Schools jointly support the Institute and, in fact, the Institute has become an increasingly integral part of their offerings which assist teachers in meeting the Connecticut requirements for recertification as professional educators. In recent years we have worked especially closely and very fruitfully, I must add with Marc Palmieri, who is Supervisor of Staff and Organizational Development for the schools, especially in the formulation of these policies. In working with him we have strengthened our ties with the Schools, and so I very much appreciate that he is representing the New Haven Public School system this afternoon.

Marc Palmieri:

Thank you. I bring greetings from Dr. Dow. He is in a budget meeting at this present time with the Board members. We are especially pleased with the enhancement of the Institute. It is very important to recognize that during the past year or two there have been substantial both national and state trends which have increased teacher participation in a number of professional activities. In working with Jim and the Institute we have been able to integrate the two to our advantage and to the advantage of the students, ultimately. There is a challenge however that I am concerned with, and I must say here. In the state of Connecticut anybody beneath the title of Superintendent is considered a teacher, and I think one of the things that is very important as we've looked at the whole empowerment issue and as we ve looked at site-based management and you know of our national work in and around school planning and management teams etc., it is critical to recognize that the administrator is a key component and himself or herself is in fact a teacher. And I would challenge us to consider in the next couple of years how in fact we might afford the opportunities of the Institute to our administrators who are working more collaboratively with their staffs, because the challenge of education has grown considerably and we now recognize that it takes a highly collaborative effort to in fact make the kind of planning and in implementing the kinds of programs that are necessary. We're excited with this. We see a great potential. And we've been excited for our teachers and directly the input and the implication this has with our students. Thank you very much.

James R. Vivian:

The Institute has also always represented a partnership between Yale and New Haven. From the outset I have thought, in fact, that of all the ways the University and the City might collaborate, it is most natural and indeed centrally important that they collaborate in the field of education. When in 1978 we announced the first NEH grant to the Institute, that news conference was the first in anyone s memory between a Mayor of New Haven and the President of the University on the subject of education in New Haven. Mayor John Daniels in his administration has placed emphasis, as the Institute does, on the well-being of the children in our community, and so it is especially gratifying to me that he makes the time to be with us today.

Mayor John Daniels:

Thank you very much, and it's a pleasure to stand here and be part of the acknowledgment and ceremonies for the nearly one-half million dollar grant which the National Endowment is presenting to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. For thirteen years this Institute has represented a model partnership between the University community at Yale and the City of New Haven. We have recently forged new links and new understanding in the beginnings of a new and closer relationship between the University and the City. I must say that it was the existence of this kind of program which long preceded our recent "town-gown" agreement, which lent credence to the possibility that such a deeper relationship and agreement could be forged. The Institute, whose work with our local teachers is a model of the University s and City s mutual cooperation and benefit, and I'm here tonight to congratulate all those involved for the hard work and for the good results. Congratulations, and keep up the good work. Thank you.

James R. Vivian:

In the Institute's field of endeavor it is well-established, well-known to people close to this kind of work, that collaborative programs survive only if they enjoy strong support from the head of the institution of which they are a part. So, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has indeed been fortunate in Yale's current President, Benno Schmidt. The decisions he has made recently are the seminal ones ensuring the Institute s continuation and permanence. So, I want publicly to thank him for his belief in this work, and for his remarks today.

Benno C. Schmidt, Jr.:

Jim is, as always, very gracious, and he gives me altogether too much credit. Actually, what I recall this evening as I think about this great success we re celebrating is the advice I once got from a teacher in grade school who said to me, "Ben, you must always have the courage of your ignorance." When five years ago I had just been named President of Yale but had not formally assumed the position, I found myself on one of my first visits to New Haven under Jim Vivian's wing, as it were, in a group of people talking about this very fine Institute the great work that it did. I had a few staff people who were there to keep me out of trouble, and, in the course of the discussion of the Institute's very severe financial problems at that time, Jim asked me, "did I not think that something of this value ought to be a permanent part of the University and the City of New Haven? Did I not think that something of this value ought to be endowed, and wouldn t I commit the University and myself to that venture?"

"Well, sure," I said, "it sounds like a great idea." At that point my Director of Development fainted dead away at the table because it is an informed article of faith in the world of development that endowment grants for the perpetual support of institutions of this kind notwithstanding their great value are by the very reason of the fact that they stretch across so many institutions and so many social opportunities and problems, that endowment grants for such enterprises are the most difficult, almost impossible grants, to enlist. So, there in my innocence, I committed Yale that it would be an important institutional priority of mine to try to see to it that this magnificent collaboration, resting on so many years of dedicated work and experience, would become a permanent part of the partnership that the Mayor just referred to, that we are continually trying to strengthen, between Yale and New Haven, for the benefit of the University and all of us who are citizens of New Haven, and for the benefit especially of the future and the children who are our future.

So, I'm extremely pleased that the marvelous people you ve just heard from representing these two fine enterprises: one the private, non-profit DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation with this extraordinarily generous and seminal, as Jim said, $2 million challenge endowment grant for the Institute, and I am so grateful to the National Endowment for the continuing support that the Endowment has given. Shortly after I became President the Endowment's support for the Institute was one of the highlights of my first few weeks here and led me to see the Institute's future in terms of such promise and such possibility that we re here celebrating today.

Five years ago most people in this room would have thought that what we're celebrating today was not possible. Fortunately, one of those was not Jim Vivian, whose faith in the value of this effort and along with the faculty members from Yale and some New Haven teachers I have met who have told me how valuable this was to them and to the students in the New Haven Public Schools. They had the faith that enables us to celebrate this event.

So let me return, somewhat less innocent now, but let me return to my hope and faith of five years ago: These splendid gifts will be the beginning of further efforts on our part to strengthen this Institute on behalf of the teachers and students of New Haven, and the benefits this Institute offers our faculty, which are important benefits. We will continue with the help of these two very generous grants to make this Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute as good as the best ought to be. It is the best, and so we must make it as good as the best ought to be in university-public education collaboration in this area.

This is a very, very happy day for me, and I want to express my personal appreciation to our friends who journeyed to New Haven and to the organizations they represent who have given us something truly to celebrate.