#ThrowbackThursday: Alumni Day 1993

Professor Marvin Bressler, left, with 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award honoree Wendy Kopp '89. (Photo: Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

Professor Marvin Bressler, left, with 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award honoree Wendy Kopp ’89. (Photo: Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

On Alumni Day 1993, Wendy S. Kopp ’89 set a record that seems unlikely to fall anytime soon: She became the youngest winner of the Woodrow Wilson Award, Princeton’s highest undergraduate alumni honor, less than four years after graduation. (She also was the first woman honored; this year’s recipient, Sonia Sotomayor ’76, was the second.)

Kopp founded Teach for America, an innovative national teacher corps to help underfunded schools in urban and rural areas, after outlining the idea in her senior thesis. The Woodrow Wilson School major is pictured here catching up with her thesis adviser, sociologist Marvin Bressler.

In her Alumni Day address, Kopp pushed for changes to conventional public education. “If, in fact, we are to achieve our vision that one day every child in this country will have equal opportunity for quality education,” she told the audience, “then we must invent a whole new concept of school. Our schools are possibly the only institutions which stand today on the same assumptions on which they were built hundreds of years ago.”

Kopp’s vision continues to have a remarkable influence on education in the United States. At the start of the current school year, there were 32,000 Teach for America alumni, 63 percent of whom were working full-time in education, and the organization estimates that its teachers have reached more than 4 million students since its charter year in 1990.

One thought on “#ThrowbackThursday: Alumni Day 1993

  1. Robert I. Rhodes

    Marvin was quite a guy. He loved to talk and, of course, always had fascinating and provacative things to say. He was also very kind and generous. Why did he retire? “It wouldn’t be fair not to give a younger guy a chance.” And why did he move to an office as far away from the center of the sociology department as possible? He explained that he wasn’t going to be any more conspicuous than he had to be.

    He also knew when to bend a rule. When he reminded me that I had to be in residence as a graduate student I told him “don’t worry about it.” His duty done he dropped the subject, but we did move to Princeton with my wife when she completed her M.A. at Brooklyn College. And I did finally put in a year in residence.

    One day I decided talking to Marvin was so great there was no reason to leave his office. He finally left but he never asked me to leave.

    He also knew when to intervene. When one faculty member didn’t get around to reading my dissertation Marvin took the bull by the horns, fired him and brought in someone else as a reader of my dissertation.


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