Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive officer of Teach For America, was honored with the 2008 Kupfer Distinguished Executive Award at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University on September 17. This award is given in memory of Harold Kupfer ’54 and recognizes a business professional that has made a significant impact on the world. Since 1990, Kopp has sought to bring equal education to low-income school districts across the nation by managing a teaching corps.

Kopp
Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive officer of Teach For America, was honored with the 2008 Kupfer Distinguished Executive Award.

“Still to this day, in this country that aspires to be a land of opportunity for all, where you’re born determines your educational prospects and your life prospects,” said Kopp, who addressed a class of more than 300 students at Mays. Teach For America’s mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity in the nation by enlisting its most promising future leaders in the effort. “Ultimately, I know we’ll get there,” says Kopp, who describes TFA teachers as “relentless” and “inspiring leaders” that motivate their students with their passion. “They go into a situation a lot of people have given up on…and they set a vision,” she said. “What they’re proving to us at the classroom level is that [educational inequality] is a problem that is solvable.”

Through Teach For America, Kopp has addressed the education gap by retraining top-of-their class seniors graduating from colleges across the country in every discipline, from history to medicine, and equipping them to teach in underfunded K-12 schools. Since its inception, Teach For America has impacted hundreds of thousands of young people in urban and rural areas by providing them with excellent teachers. There are currently 6,000 TFA teachers in the field and 14,000 alumni. Kopp encouraged her student audience to consider serving some of the 13 million children growing up in poverty in the U.S. for two years as a teacher after graduating from Mays.

“She was inspiring,” said Laren Tuttle, a freshman from San Marcos, Texas, who heard Kopp speak. “So many people just out of college don’t know what to do. Teach For America can give them an opportunity to change themselves and make a positive change for others, too.”

Gerald Ray ’54 and Donald Zale ’55 sponsor the Kupfer Distinguished Executive event to honor their friend and fellow Corps member. As part of this celebration, they also gave two scholarships to current Corps members, Levi Thomas and T.J. Baker.