Richard Gilder Graduate School Celebrates Fifth Commencement

by AMNH on

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On Wednesday, September 27, honorees, faculty, and guests gathered under the blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to celebrate the awarding of Ph.D. degrees to graduates of the Museum’s Comparative Biology program and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Earth Science degrees to some of New York State’s new science teachers.

Large group of people seated in chairs below the Museum's life-sized blue whale model, which hangs from the ceiling.
The 2017 commencement ceremony took place September 27 under the iconic blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

“You graduates are not just ambassadors of the scientific enterprise and the power of education, you are our intellectual first responders and protectors, and of course you carry our hope for a better future,” said President Ellen V. Futter in her opening remarks. “Our world and our nation need you, and we at the Museum stand with full support at your backs as you embark on your careers.”

The 2017 doctoral graduates—Zachary Calamari, Amber Paasch, and Michael Tessler—conducted research across a broad range of topics, including mammalian skull appendages, bacteria-eating green algae, and land leeches. This year’s MAT class includes 13 graduates, most of whom have already begun working as teachers at high-needs schools, including Brooklyn’s Midwood High School, Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, and Roosevelt High School in Yonkers.

Formal group photo of graduates in robes.
The 2017 graduating class of the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History included three doctoral graduates and 13 MAT graduates.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Honorees also included Andrew H. Knoll, an expert in the early evolution of life and Earth’s environmental history, professor at Harvard, and curator of the paleobotanical collection at the Harvard University Botanical Museum, who received a Doctor of Science honoris causa.

“I know from a lifetime of experience that whether you’re in the field, or the laboratory, or doing computation there is generally much more frustration than there is insight,” Knoll told graduates. “But when that insight comes, it’s really magical.”

Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman, a Museum Trustee, were awarded degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa for their role as champions of science and science education. The Gottesmans’ support helped create the Museum’s Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth as well as the Gottesman Center for Science Teaching and Learning, which focuses on teacher professional development.

A graduation cap is places on a man's head as he stands near a podium.
David S. Gottesman, a Museum Trustee, and Ruth L. Gottesman were awarded degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa for their role as champions of science and science education.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

In her remarks, Ruth L. Gottesman, who is professor emerita of the Department of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, lauded the work of the MAT graduates in bringing science to classrooms in New York State. “Good teachers are one of the greatest agents of change in our society,” she said. “Here at the Museum you have been sensitized, trained, and equipped to help all children achieve, understand, feel good about their learning experience in science.”

“I want to congratulate the graduates today—and I hope you’ve had as good a time at this museum as I have these past 25 years,” said David S. Gottesman.