Annual Awards Ceremony Honors Distinguished Alumni

Honorees on stage at Alumni AwardsOn May 20, Bank Street College Alumni Association (BSCAA) hosted its annual Alumni Awards Ceremony to celebrate exceptional individuals who have made a positive impact in the field of education.

This year’s honorees included: Merna Hughes, GSE ’04, Director of Laurelton Academy Day Care Center; Saralinda Lichtblau, GSE ’03, Assistant Director of Education at the Hudson River Museum; Nancy Cardwell PhD, GSE ’88, Assistant Professor in the School of Education at The City College of New York; Alison Overseth, Executive Director of the Partnership for After School Education; and Linda Reing, former Director of Alumni Relations at Bank Street.

To begin, BSCAA President Jim Clay, GSE ’88, delivered welcome remarks to an audience of Bank Street alumni, faculty, staff, family and friends of the honorees, and other community members. Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, President of Bank Street College, and Cecelia Traugh, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, took the stage next to share a look at some of the important work happening across the College.

During the awards ceremony, each honoree presented powerful speeches about their personal and professional journeys as well as their inspiration and enthusiasm for building a better world through education.

“As a young child around the tender age of 4 years old, there was this burning fire in me to teach. My dream was to be a teacher. Every evening after school I would play school with my younger cousins … looking back on my age then, I was just the age of the pre-kindergarten students with whom I work,” said Merna Hughes, recipient of the Recognition Award, as she reflected on her early life in Jamaica and, later, her migration to the United States and process to becoming an educator.

Saralinda Lichtblau, who also received the Recognition Award, was honored next. In her acceptance speech, Lichtblau discussed her experience working in museum education and shared how new discoveries often emerge when we “embrace the not knowing” and ask questions—a fundamental element of Bank Street’s approach to teaching to learning.

Following Lichtblau, Nancy Cardwell, a member of the BSCAA Board and founder and chair of the BSCAA Social Justice Committee, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award for her years of service to the College and commitment to furthering the beliefs and practices of Bank Street. As she spoke about her background and experiences, Cardwell discussed how she strives to share Bank Street’s values— including justice, equity, rigor, and respect for each learner—through her work every day.

Next, Alison Overseth received the Ida Karp Award, which is presented to a partner of the College—not an alum, for her consistent dedication to the College, its mission, and long-term goals.

“Bank Street has had a profound impact on my life and in the profession of after school,” said Overseth, who has over 25 years of experience in the youth serving profession. “[Young people] need mentors, they need solid education in school, but they need also those out of school opportunities that can help to connect them to their world in a way that can allow them to imagine, and to thrive, and to hope, and to dream, and to achieve. I look at the early language and perspective of [Bank Street Founder] Lucy Sprague Mitchell—she wanted the same things that we want for young people.”

Concluding the ceremony was the bestowal of the second Ida Karp Award to Linda Reing for her two decades of service to the College. During her time, Reing led various special events and initiatives across Bank Street, including the Annual Dinners. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Pemberton Society—the College’s first formal initiative dedicated to supporting students and alumni of color.

Attendees closed out the evening at the Tar Beach Reunion Reception in the lobby. Originally scheduled on the play deck, the reception was moved indoors because of the rain, but the party went on!

For both BSCAA President Jim Clay and BSCAA Board Officer Labiba Abdur-Rahman, GSE ’93, this year will be their last term on the BSCAA Board.