Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Edison O. Jackson

Edison O. Jackson Ed.D. ’83

President Emeritus, Medgar Evers College

The longest-serving president in the history of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, Dr. Jackson retired in 2009 after leading Medgar Evers College for 20 years. In that time, he spearheaded a multiphase strategic planning process and a capital campaign raising $400 million for structural and academic improvements. The transformation restored the Central Brooklyn institution to senior college status and earned it recognition as a world-class center for scholarship. Dr. Jackson’s doctoral studies at the GSE focused on the philosophy, function, role, and administration of urban education institutions.

Points of Pride: “One of Medgar Evers’ goals was to recruit teachers to urban education, and it was very important to me to fulfill Mr. Evers’ wishes. I am particularly proud that the teacher-education programs we developed at Medgar Evers College were accredited the first time they were reviewed and are now educating well-prepared teachers to serve our urban communities.

“We also focused on broadening options in the sciences for urban students, building a state-of-the-art School of Science, Health, and Technology and recruiting faculty with impressive research credentials. These outstanding young scientists made a choice to become part of our mission to promote science education in an urban community, and to me that is very meaningful.”

Looking Back: “I came to Rutgers at the urging of GSE professor Dr. Samuel Proctor, who was committed to encouraging young educators—especially African Americans—to achieve their full potential and earn a terminal degree. His mission was twofold: to mentor individual students and to ensure that a sufficient pool of African Americans would enter the higher echelons of education. He helped me to understand that we all have a responsibility to do good work and nothing less is acceptable. He was a tremendous educator, theologian, and person. It was my privilege to have known him.

“When I earned my doctorate, Dr. Proctor said to me, ‘Edison, a Rutgers degree is like a fine wine. It gets better with time.’ He was right. I studied with wonderful faculty members who were great practitioners of their craft, so my education was both practical and theoretical, adding an extra dimension. My experience at the GSE has always stood me in good stead, through whatever challenge I faced next.”

Looking Forward: “Teacher preparation is a daunting challenge, locally and nationally. Many young teachers become disillusioned and leave the schools within three years. There has to be a greater marriage of practice and theory in teacher education. The GSE is moving in the right direction, incorporating the kind of reality-based teaching experiences and community immersion that will produce better-prepared graduates.”

Today, Dr. Jackson remains committed to his Brooklyn neighborhood and urban education, serving as a motivational speaker, community activist, and ordained minister. Soon to be published is his new book, The Journey of a President, a reflection on challenges and strategies in leading transformative change at educational institutions.