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Prize-Winning Author Cremin Dies at Age 64

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Lawrence A. Cremin

Lawrence A. Cremin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning educational historian, died last week in New York City after suffering a heart attack. He was 64.

The Frederick A.P. Barnard Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Mr. Cremin had served as president of the college from 1974 to 1984. He also served as president of the Spencer Foundation since 1985.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for his book, American Education: The National Experience, 1783-1876, the second volume of his trilogy on the history of American education. He also won the Bancroft Prize in 1962 for his book, The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957.

Diane Ravitch, an education historian at Teachers College, said Mr. Cremin wanted to be remembered above all as a teacher.

Even while he served as president, she said, he taught a popular survey course on the history of American education and advised doctoral students on their dissertations.

"His mission was to explain and interpret," Ms. Ravitch said. "He was the most intellectually alive person I have ever known."

Born in New York City on Oct. 31, 1925, Mr. Cremin attended the College of the City of New York, and received his master's and doctor of philosophy degrees from Columbia University.

A member of the Teachers College faculty since 1949, Mr. Cremin was chairman of the the Curriculum Improvement Panel of the U.S. Office of Education between 1963 and 1965, and was vice chairman of the White House Conference on Education in 1965.

Ms. Ravitch noted that he was a tireless worker who devoted a portion of each day to research and writing in his private office.

Mr. Cremin's last work, Popular Education and Its Discontents, a commentary on current educational policy, was published earlier this year. At the time of his death, Mr. Cremin was at work on a biography of John Dewey.

In a 1988 interview with Education Week, Mr. Cremin said he considered historical writing "very much activism."

"I believe," he said, "if I can provide this perspective--that combines a sense of the breadth, the complexity, and the centrality of [education] in our experience, and the brilliance of some of these people whose work I've explicated--that it would reinvigorate the debate over education, and broaden it from what I think has been the very narrow agenda of the last five or six years."--rr

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