Press Release: Graduate Center Professors Receive Prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Education

Sociologists Paul Attewell and David Lavin of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, have been named co-recipients of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for 2008 in the category of Education. Professors Attewell and Lavin will share the $200,000 prize that comes with the award, presented in recognition of a landmark study they co-authored showing the longterm benefits of providing disadvantaged women with access to higher education.

Given by the University of Louisville, the Grawemeyer Award honors accomplishments that “help make the world a better place” in the fields of education, political science, music composition, religion, and psychology. It was established in the 1984 by University of Louisville alumnus and philanthropist H. Charles Grawemeyer.

Professors Attewell and Lavin’s study revealed that the benefits of providing disadvantaged students, particularly women, with wider access to higher education are startling when measured over the course of a lifetime, rather than just the traditional span of college attendance. The authors found that over a 30-year period, surveyed women admitted to City University of New York in the early 1970s ultimately achieved a 70% college graduation rate, earned an annual average of $7,525 more than they otherwise would have, and passed the benefits of their educational experience on to their children. The patterns were similar to a 20-year longitudinal study of students nationwide, to which the City University data were compared. The complete findings were reported as a book, Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations?, published by the Russell Sage Foundation in April 2007. The authors were assisted in the research by recent doctoral graduates Thurston Domina and Tania Levy.

Paul Attewell - Biography

Paul Attewell, a professor of sociology and urban education at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, has spent his career addressing public policy dilemmas in education.
Besides his work on Passing the Torch, he has researched the policy of requiring more advanced coursework from high school students and whether remedial education works for college students. His work has been supported by grants from the National Science, Ford, Andrew Mellon and Spencer foundations.

His current research projects include a qualitative evaluation of inner city public school students who are being paid incentives to do well on standardized tests, and a separate project that looks at college graduation, stopping out, and dropping out among working and commuter undergraduates.

Attewell earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from University College at the University of London in 1971 and his doctorate in sociology from the University of California-San Diego in 1978. In 1978 and 1979, he was a National Institute of Mental Health post-doctoral fellow at the University of California-Berkeley.

From 1979 to 1983, he taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz and from 1983 to 1990, at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. The year before joining the Graduate Center faculty, he was a visiting professor at Stern Graduate School of Business at New York University.

David Lavin - Biography

David Lavin, a sociology professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center and CUNY’s Lehman College, has spent much of his career focusing on the impact that higher education has on disadvantaged families. Since 1971, he has completed 14 research grants and projects about open enrollment, mostly related to the procedures in place at City University of New York in the 1970s. He also has co-written three books and a half-dozen articles on the topic dating back to 1979. His research has been funded by the Spencer, Ford, Mellon and Exxon Education foundations.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Colby College in 1953, his master's degree in sociology and social psychology from New York University in 1955, and his doctorate in sociology from New York University in 1960.

Lavin began his career as a research fellow in social relations at Harvard University from 1960 to 1962. From 1962 to 1970, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. In the year before coming to City University of New York, he was a visiting associate professor of sociology at Columbia University.

The Graduate Center

The Graduate Center is devoted primarily to doctoral studies and awards most of the City University of New York’s Ph.D.s. An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns. Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Submitted on: DEC 1, 2008

Category: Educational Psychology | Press Room | Sociology | Urban Education