The New School honored Joan Ganz Cooney at its annual LaGuardia Award Dinner on February 25 at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The Fiorello H. LaGuardia Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to New York City and who embody the legacy of the legendary New York City Mayor. Previous honorees include former President Bill Clinton, Senators George Mitchell and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and business leaders such as Felix Rohatyn and David Rockefeller.
The evening’s high notes included syndicated columnist Liz Smith, who wowed the crowd with her wit and antics. First Lady Michelle Obama also sent a tribute letter to Cooney, which was read by President Bob Kerrey. Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota, was scheduled to provide the keynote address on education but could not attend because of a health care vote. He did send a humorous video message to kick off the dinner.
Cooney co-founded the Children’s Television Workshop, since renamed Sesame Workshop, in 1968. Sesame Street was the first preschool program to integrate education and entertainment and feature a multiracial cast. Cooney has been a lifelong advocate for helping children to be literate, educated, and responsible citizens of the world.
Guests joined to celebrate Cooney’s contributions and a scholarship was created in her name. The Joan Ganz Cooney Scholarship will provide support for two fall 2010 students at The New School. The scholarship, $2,500 per year, will be granted to two students continuing their education in the Masters for Media Studies Program.
The event raised $800,000 for academic scholarships. Online contributions for the LaGuardia Scholarship fund can be made at: www.newschool.edu/laguardiadinner.