Well, this is it—the final time I’ll be speaking with you through the pages of Justice Matters as President of this amazing institution, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. And while I prepare with anticipation for a new chapter in my professional life as a University Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, I also find myself rejecting on our collective journey over the past 13 years and just how far we have come as a community. More important, though, my thoughts turn time and again to the brilliant foresight of the handful of visionaries who created this College in 1964. I find myself celebrating John Jay.
I feel truly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as John Jay’s fourth President. In that role, I have been the beneficiary of the wisdom, insight, energy, and effort of those who preceded me as well as those who have worked with me as we continue to fulfill our critical mission of Educating for Justice.
The core group of John Jay’s founders—Police Commissioner Michael Murphy, Correction Commissioner Anna Kross, Police Academy commander Patrick V. Murphy, and CUNY Chancellor Albert Bowker—can rightly be viewed as giants in the world of progressive higher education. Against a backdrop of simmering tension and civic strife and disorder in the 1960’s, and boldly confronting the reality that “sound police service demands a number of highly specialized skills and a sensitivity to the public,” they conceived an unprecedented four-year college that combined the broad curricular interests of a liberal arts education with the specialized skills and focus unique to criminal justice professionals.
History has borne out the clarity of our founders’ vision. They would marvel, with a mix of recognition and appreciation, at the John Jay College of 2017.
Simply put, John Jay is a public higher education success story. Our stellar faculty regularly contribute to national debates and discussions on critical issues. Funding for research has increased dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of John Jay alumni are serving with honor and distinction in the NYPD, FDNY, and other front-line agencies, and we can also boast of the many who have gone from our classrooms to positions of prominence in public-, private-, and nonprofit-sector organizations across the country and around the world. And our students—how I love our amazing students! They, too, live out the vision of our founders with their dedication and achievement. Their success is our success.
At a recent gathering in Albany, Mayor Bill de Blasio paid an unexpected compliment to the entire John Jay community when he remarked: “I love to remind people New York City is the safest big city in America. We’re all very proud of that. And one of the reasons, over this last 25 years [that] we’ve gotten safer and safer is the number of folks, both in our police force and in so many other important roles, who got educated at John Jay, who met at John Jay, who got great ideas at John Jay, that have made us the safe city that we are.”
Thank you, Mr. Mayor!
Thank you, too, John Jay alumni, faculty, staff, and students. Individually and collectively, you have made these past 13 years the most remarkable and satisfying of my professional life. As I move ahead to the next chapter of that life, I do so with an unshakable confidence that in years to come, the College we have all worked to create will remain a beacon of higher education, and a singular contributor in the ongoing struggle to achieve justice.
Long may we celebrate John Jay College of Criminal Justice!