Marlboro College

News Honorary degree citation - Claudine Brown

For more than 30 years, you have worked within the museum and philanthropy worlds to promote education that is both hands-on and multisensory. You have said that "museums create communities" and, as the director of education at the Smithsonian Institution, you are creating a new community of learning for students of all ages.

You grew up in Baltimore, a region of the country your Smithsonian colleagues refer to as the "Upper South," attending a segregated school, integrating your junior high school, and discovering how to value your own skills as a learner. With a passion for education, you went on to receive your bachelor's degree from Pratt Institute, your Master's in Education from Bank Street College of Education and your J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

You began your inspired career in New York City Public Schools then as an educator at the Brooklyn Museum, where you managed school and youth programs as well as community programs. You learned to teach about every collection in the museum, then trained security guards to answer visitors' questions about objects. Those same security guards in turn expanded museum audiences by including their own communities.

Most recently, you worked as director of the arts and culture program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a leading funder promoting economic and social justice. You embraced art as a catalyst for social change and civic engagement, building relationships between artists and activists. "Art reaches people that other media cannot," you have said. "Artists support the process whereby communities express themselves."

Now you are defining the Smithsonian Institution's education program and asking, "What does it look like to be the nation's museum in the 21st century, using all the tools that exist now to reach people?" You are talking to the public about what they need, such as new curricular support, images and videos for classrooms, in the process making the institution a greater national resource for students of all ages.

Your admirable commitment to the arts and community-based education resonates strongly with the academic ideals upheld here at Marlboro. Claudine Brown, it is our pleasure to confer upon you the degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.


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