On Sunday, June 3, one week after its main graduation ceremony at Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, the School of Education held a smaller, though no less festive, event surrounded by the lush vegetation of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, in Dallas, Tex. More than 450 candidates, colleagues, and family members gathered from across the country to celebrate the success of degree recipients and to honor some of the school’s most distinguished alumni and friends.
Urban Teachers co-founder Jennifer Green, introduced by Dean Christopher Morphew as an “education entrepreneur,” took a few moments to qualify the term during her inspiring graduation remarks. “Entrepreneurs are people who see a future that others do not, and then create the future they wish to inhabit,” she told the assembled degree candidates. “So by definition, this makes you all entrepreneurs.” Green, who launched Urban Teachers with colleague Christina Hall after years of witnessing the struggles of first-time teachers, challenged her audience to identify and build on their own moral calls to action. In so doing, she counseled them to be deeply pragmatic. “Build your call to action against something unrealized, something out of reach, and something concrete,” she said.
Student speaker Jessica L. White, a recipient of the master of science in education, shared her own experience as a first-year teacher. In 2015, weeks after receiving her undergraduate diploma, she had found herself “standing in front of 35 surprisingly terrifying middle school children who couldn’t read English and didn’t care that I was being paid to teach them.” For White, the turning point came when she stopped asking her students to be quiet. “I tried asking them instead to speak louder,” she said, describing her efforts to connect with her students’ lives and experiences. White said what she learned transformed her as a teacher, and fittingly, several of her students were at the event to cheer her on.
Margaret M. Larsen was named as recipient of the school’s Distinguished Alumna Award for bringing credit to the university through personal accomplishment, professional achievement, and service. As former president and CEO of Special Olympics Texas (SOTX), Larsen oversaw a $7.1 million capital campaign to build the organization’s headquarters and expanded its services to reach 58,000 athletes participating in 360 annual competitions in 22 sports. She earned her master of science in administration and urban studies from the School of Education and was a post-graduate fellow at Exeter College-Oxford. Larsen will accept the award in person at a later date.
Among the degree recipients were Ricardo Romanillos and Aaron Mark Williams, members of the school’s largest-ever Doctor of Education (EdD) cohort, who were given their hoods by Professor Stephen Pape, former director of the EdD program. Vice Dean Mariale Hardiman welcomed all the degree recipients into the 215,000-strong community of Johns Hopkins University alumni, urging them to stay connected, and the entire graduation party moved into the welcoming greenery of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden for a lively, outdoor reception.