EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE Candles fringed the Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library, their wicks casting shadows upward at the exotic moldings. Modernist Japanese lanterns hung amidst banners bearing the motif of children playing tag. A distinguished crowd came out as the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education was presented.
The award honors those who have displayed innovation in attempting to creatively change, improve, enhance, or further education. Each table at the event was named for a previous winner, such as Kenneth B. Clark, Claiborne Pell, and Clark Kerr.
The president and chief executive of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Harold McGraw III, welcomed attendees and said this year's prizes were chosen with an eye toward the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. "We know that progress is not a straight line and a lot remains to be done," he said.
The executive director of the Middle College National Consortium at LaGuardia Community College, Cecilia Cunningham, was one of the awardees. The audience chuckled, when Ms. Cunnningham said, "Just think, I got to go to the senior prom 33 years in a row," referring to her career in high-school education.
The president and chief executive of the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoffrey Canada, also won an award. In his remarks, Mr. Canada said his eyes lit up when he received a phone call from Mr. McGraw. "My thoughts began racing - you know how one's thoughts can get out of control. I thought, 'well, Mr. Mc-Graw wants to publish my next book.'"
He was hardly disappointed to discover that the call was to inform him about his receiving the award.
Mr. Canada said that what is going on in education today is shameful. He said America is focusing on terror abroad while neglecting inner cities at home.
Other winners were the founder and president of the Algebra Project, Robert P. Moses, and the special assistant to the president of Educational Collaboratives LaGuardia Community College, Janet Lieberman.
Judges included Dr. James Comer of the Yale Child Study Center; an educational consultant and former schools chancellor, Ray Cortines; the president of Jobs for the Future, Hilary Pennington; the director of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Uri Treisman; a former director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, Linda Roberts; the director of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, Russell Edgerton, and the president of the University of Texas
at El Paso, Diana Natalicio.
The Knickerbocker encountered dancer Veronica Bravo and her husband, Robert Sherman, who hosts Mc-Graw-Hill's Young Artists Show on WQXR. Mr. Sherman was wearing a gold G-clef lapel pin; Ms. Bravo was wearing a necklace given to her by Clara Rockmore, the famous theremin performer.
Also in attendance was a friend and colleague of Harold McGraw Jr., Gail Spangenberg, who is the president of the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy. A focus of Ms. Spangenberg presently is literacy in the field of correctional education.
Also seen was Patricia Schroeder, the former congresswoman who is president of the Association of American Publishers; Chancellor Joel Klein; Ozzie H. Wright, principal of the Philadelphia Military Academy; Lois Rice of the Brookings Institutions; and Bruce Malkiel of Princeton University.
For entertainment, all were mesmerized as Trevor Ochieng played violin accompanied by Sheila Keats at the piano. They received a standing ovation.
DISCOVERY DETAILS Historian Michael Beschloss, filmmaker Jerry Rafshoon, and Discovery Channel's executive in charge of production, Don Baer, held a discussion moderated by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. The panel followed a preview screening of the Discovery Channel's "Decisions That Shook the World," a miniseries probing decisions of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Beschloss said that world history could have been different - and that the panel would not be taking place today - without Roosevelt's friendship with Winston Churchill.
The series, which begins airing October 12, contains little-known anecdotes about these very public figures. For example, the viewer learns about a meeting between Roosevelt and Orson Welles. The former told Welles that the two had a lot in common. When asked to elaborate, Roosevelt, who was adept at hiding his polio from public view, replied, "We are both actors."
KNICK KNACKS At a tribute on Tuesday at the Majestic Theatre, actor Tony Randall was described as a button-down collar in a T-shirt world...Betty Comden received the lifetime achievement award at the 2004 Theatre Museum Awards held at the Players on Gramercy Park. F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and the Performing Arts won the award for theater arts education; Dodger Costumes were awarded the theater history preservation award; the Princess Grace Foundation USA received the award for distinguished service to the theater; and Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, accepted a special museum award commemorating the 100th anniversary of Times Square...The Center for Independent Thought has announced the winners of the 2004 Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties. Recipients are the Hannah Arendt University professor emeritus of sociology and political science at Rutgers University, Irving Louis Horowitz, and syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, who is a senior editor at Reason.