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October 11, 2007


Charles B. Rangel, Basil A. Paterson, Percy E. Sutton and Allen B. Ballard Pushed for Program That Became a National Model

NEW YORK, October 11, 2007 – In 1966, Charles B. Rangel was a new State Assemblyman representing Harlem, Basil A. Paterson was his counterpart in the State Senate and Percy E. Sutton had just become Borough President of Manhattan after serving in the Assembly seat that Rangel was elected to.  They pushed for state legislation authorizing CUNY to establish a new program called SEEK to accept low-income students who would not be admitted otherwise. 

Many faculty members at The City College of New York (CCNY) supported their efforts.  One of the leading advocates was Allen B. Ballard, a Professor of Political Science who would become SEEK’s first director at CCNY.

Forty-two years and 230,000 students later, the four will be honored for their efforts to establish the program at a SEEK alumni dinner and reception at the place where it all began, The City College of New York, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 13, in the Faculty Dining Room.  SEEK, which stands for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge, was the first program of its kind and is considered a model for Higher Education Opportunity Programs across the country.

The event is being presented by CCNY President Gregory H. Williams, the CCNY SEEK Program and the CCNY SEEK Alumni Committee.  Dominic Carter, Political Reporter for NY1 News, and Anna Sims Phillips, a CCNY SEEK alumna who is now a producer with ABC News, will serve as co-hosts for the event.

“The SEEK program has given thousands of young men and women the opportunity to get a college education and go on to enjoy productive careers,” said E. Maudette Brownlee, Director of the SEEK Program at CCNY, where currently 901 students are enrolled in the program.  “We are holding this dinner and honoring these distinguished individuals to celebrate and preserve SEEK’s legacy.”

SEEK accepts economically disadvantaged students who demonstrate academic promise but are academically under-prepared.  Students admitted into the program receive extensive support services, including tutoring and counseling, as well as financial assistance.  The program is now offered at all CUNY four-year colleges; a sister program, College Discovery, is available at all CUNY community colleges.

Brief biographies of the four honorees follow:

Hon. Charles B. Rangel – Charles B. Rangel has served in the U.S. Congress since 1971 and represents New York’s 15th District, which encompasses Upper Manhattan plus a small part of Queens.  In January 2007, he was elected Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, becoming the first African-American to hold that post.  Born in Harlem, Mr. Rangel served with distinction during the Korean War, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, before receiving a B.S. from New York University (1957) and a law degree from St. John’s University (1960).  From 1966 to 1970, he served in the New York State Assembly, representing the 72nd District in Central Harlem.

Hon. Basil A. Paterson – Basil A. Paterson is a longtime political leader in Harlem and New York.  During the 1960s, he served in the New York State Senate, stepping down to run unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 1970.  In 1978, he was appointed a Deputy Mayor in the administration of Ed Koch.  A year later, he became New York’s first African-American Secretary of State and served in the administration of Gov. Hugh Carey until 1983.  Mr. Paterson, who holds B.S. and J.D. degrees from St. John’s University, is a member of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., a Garden City, N.Y.-based law firm and co-chair’s the firm’s labor practice.

Hon. Percy E. Sutton – Percy E. Sutton has had a long distinguished career as a civil rights activist, attorney, politician and entrepreneur.  A native of San Antonio, Tex., he ran away to New York at age 12 and put himself through college, attending Prairie View A&M, Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute.  During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.  After receiving a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, he became a civil rights attorney and worked for the NAACP and represented Malcolm X and his family after Malcolm was murdered.  Mr. Sutton was elected Borough President of Manhattan in 1965 and served until 1977, when he ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York.  Mr. Sutton also co-founded Inner City Broadcasting, which owns radio stations and has other media interests.

Professor Allen B. Ballard – Allen B. Ballard is Professor of History and Africana Studies at SUNY Albany and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at The City College of New York, where he was the first Director of the SEEK Program.  A graduate of Kenyon College with a Ph.D. from Harvard University, Professor Ballard taught government at CCNY for 25 years and served five years as Dean of Faculty for The City University of New York.  He has published two non-fiction books, The Education of Black Folk (Harper & Row, 1973) and One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People (McGraw-Hill, 1984), and his articles have appeared in scholarly and popular journals.

About The City College of New York

For 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the Grove School of Engineering and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.