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VOL. 23, NO. 2September 12, 1997

Rupp Accepts Honorary Degree for John Dewey, 50 Years Late

John Dewey

By Kim Brockway

Fifty years ago, as Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia, prepared to mark its sixth century, it was decreed that 13 accomplished individuals from around the world would receive honorary degrees.

  The recipients were invited to Prague for the solemn occasion the following year, in 1948; however, several declined to attend, in protest of the change in government that year from a democracy to a Soviet-style communist state.

  A half century later, Charles University asked "ambassadors" representing the nations in which the distinguished degree recipients were born to accept the degrees on behalf of the awardees.

  Columbia President George Rupp accepted the diploma intended for the late world-renowned philosopher and former Columbia professor John Dewey. Rupp received it from Jara David-Moserova, vice president of the Czech Senate, and Joseph Duffey, the director of the United States Information Agency, during a recent ceremony in New York City that was part of the 50th anniversary celebration of American Field Service (AFS) Intercultural Programs, one of America's oldest international student exchange organizations.

  "I am pleased to accept this honorary degree on behalf of John Dewey," said Rupp, "and I commend Charles University for its dedication not only to academic freedom but also to social, economic, political and cultural liberty."

  Although he was primarily associated with Columbia's faculty of philosophy, John Dewey also taught a number of courses in the philosophy of education at Teachers College from 1904 to 1928. He received the Butler Medal at the 1935 Commencement for "the distinguished character and continued vitality of his contributions to philosophy and education." Often hailed as the father of progressive education, Dewey was also the founder of the instrumentalist school of philosophy and wrote most of the books that established his reputation as an original philosopher while at Columbia.