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Two basketball celebrities this month raised their voices in support of education.

Patrick Ewing, the New York Knicks' 7-foot rookie center, has joined New York City's $5-million dropout-prevention program, according to a team spokesman.

"I stayed in school when I could have left and gone pro at the end of my junior year," Mr. Ewing told students during a recent appearance at a Manhattan high school. "I wanted to finish and get my degree. A good education is something that nobody can take away from you--it's forever."

And Notre Dame's outspoken basketball coach, Richard "Digger" Phelps, told Catholic educators in Grand Rapids, Mich., that the keys to improving education are community commitment and salaries for good teachers in the $50,000 to $70,000 range.

He also said he favored eliminating tenure for teachers; tightening school discipline; implementing year-round schooling; and increasing federal aid to education.

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, and Mitchell Sviridoff, president of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York City, have been named the first recipients of the John W. Gardner Leadership Award given by Independent Sector.

The Washington-based coalition represents some 650 national voluntary-service organizations.

The new award was established to honor "outstanding Americans who exemplify the leadership and ideals" of Mr. Gardner--the founder of both Independent Sector and Common Cause, and a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

Independent Sector cited Ms. Edelman as an articulate champion of children's rights, Father Hesburgh as a strong proponent of civil rights, and Mr. Sviridoff as a leader in the field of urban affairs. Each will receive a $10,000 award.


Leon Lederman, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., one of the nation's leading nuclear-research facilities, will be among those helping to guide Illinois's first advanced high school for mathematics and science.

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, to be located in Aurora, was created by the legislature last summer as part of Gov. James R. Thompson's education-reform initiative. Governor Thompson this month named Mr. Lederman and 16 other educators, business executives, and scientists to the board of trustees for the new school.

The three-year residential public school will prepare "advanced students" from throughout the state to enter a high-technology world, according to Susan Mogerman, the Governor's assistant press secretary. Students will be selected on the basis of an entrance examination. The school is scheduled to open in September 1987.

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