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 â89 set a record that seems unlikely to fall anytime soon: She became the youngest winner of the Woodrow Wilson Award, Princetonâs highest undergraduate alumni honor, less than four years after graduation. (She also was the first woman honored; this yearâs recipient, Sonia Sotomayor â76, 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. âIf, in fact, we are to achieve our vision that one day every child in this country will have equal opportunity for quality education,â she told the audience, âthen 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.â
Koppâs 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.