Anna Deavere Smith, The Petrie Foundation And President Jeremy Travis To Be Honored At John Jay College Educating For Justice Gala

Anna Deavere Smith, The Petrie Foundation And President Jeremy Travis To Be Honored At John Jay College Educating For Justice Gala

Anna Deavere Smith, The Petrie Foundation And President Jeremy Travis To Be Honored At John Jay College Educating For Justice Gala

With a special recognition for the Founding Supporters of John Jay-Vera Fellows Program

New York, NY, April 19, 2017 – John Jay College of Criminal Justice will honor Anna Deavere Smith, acclaimed actress, playwright, educator and activist, as part of its Educating for Justice Gala on Monday, May 8. Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College, will be honored for his thirteen years of outstanding leadership, along with the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation for its advocacy in support of quality education in New York City. Bill Moyers, award-winning journalist and filmmaker and president of the Schumann Media Center, will host the event program. The gala will take place at 6:00 PM at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

“I am delighted to be honored alongside these fierce advocates for justice,” said President Travis.  “With her groundbreaking performances, Anna Deavere Smith has created a new form of theater that shines a light on some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time.  The generous support of the Petrie Foundation has provided a lifeline to students facing financial crises that would prevent them from completing their college education.”

This year’s extraordinary honorees have made notable impacts within their respective fields and on the cause of justice. Deavere Smith, celebrated for her innovative, one-woman plays, has sought to use theater and film to raise awareness on issues of equity and justice including the forces that cause some impoverished children to leave school and head towards cycles of incarceration.

The Petrie Foundation’s Emergency Fund has helped thousands of John Jay students by offering financial relief for those in desperate situations and enabling them to stay in school and complete their degrees. In addition, the Petrie Cyber Security Pipeline Program had prepared community college students for John Jay’s rigorous cyber security program and a career in a fast growing and crucial field.

Under President Travis’s visionary leadership, John Jay College transitioned to a dynamic senior college, offering a dozen liberal arts degrees and boasting a record of academic excellence and increased research funding. President Travis has also been a leading voice in the criminal justice reform movement. He served as Chair of the National Research Council Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration which produced a landmark report recommending significant reductions in the nation's prison population and was a member of The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform that recently called for the closing of Rikers Island.

The event will include a special tribute in honor of the founding supporters of the John Jay-Vera Fellows Program. The founding supporters include Jeffrey R. Gural, Ronay A. and Richard Menschel, Arthur J. Mirante II, Ron L. Moelis, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr. and Herbert Sturz. This partnership between John Jay College and the Vera Institute of Justice provides unique internship and academic experiences to outstanding undergraduate students committed to social justice and public service. Nearly 100 students have now participated in the Program and have gone on to rewarding and meaningful careers. 

Proceeds from the gala support scholarships and programs that help John Jay students achieve their academic and career goals in order to serve the public interest as engaged citizens and fierce advocates for justice. Previous honorees include Lin-Manuel Miranda, award-winning composer and lyricist, Mariska Hargitay, award-winning actor of NBC’s “Law and Order SVU”; Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers; Arthur Mirante II, Principal and Tri-State President of Avison Young Real Estate; Peter Beshar, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan, General David Petraeus; the Ford Foundation, the Tow Foundation, and Maria Cuomo Cole.


Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright and teacher who has been recognized for creating a new form of theatre. She received the National Humanities Medal, presented to her by President Obama in 2013. She was the 2015 Jefferson Lecturer for the National Endowment for the Humanities and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow for Theatre Arts (for the development of Notes From the Field). She is a MacArthur Fellow and received The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. She is the recipient of two Tony nominations and two Obie Awards. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities.

She has created over 18 one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews, most of which deal with social issues. Fires in the Mirror premiered at The Public Theater. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, about the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, was performed around the country and on Broadway. Let Me Down Easy focused on health care in the U.S.  Her new endeavor is The Anna Deavere Smith Pipeline Project, which seeks to use theater and film to raise awareness about the forces that cause some impoverished children to leave school and head towards cycles of incarceration.  Her current play, Notes From the Field, is a part of that project.

In popular culture she has been seen in Nurse Jackie, Black-ish, The West Wing, The American President, Rachel Getting Married and Philadelphia. Her books include Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines.

She has a number of honorary degrees including those from Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Juilliard and Union Theological Seminary, and The Radcliffe Medal. She is a recipient of the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Dean’s Medal. She sits on the boards of trustees for the American Museum of National History, the Aspen Institute, The Playwrights Realm, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is University Professor in the department of Art & Public Policy at New York University and is affiliated with the School of Law. She also directs the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University.

The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation
A private nonprofit organization, the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation’s mission is to promote quality education for the more than 1.5 million students who attend public schools in New York City. There are two channels through which the foundation supports doing this: 1) To advance the likelihood that students at the City University of New York and at other notable colleges can survive emergencies and stay in school to finish their degrees; and 2) To build the expertise of teachers and principals to help them become effective in middle and high schools in the New York City Department of Education, so that vulnerable and disadvantaged students can succeed at graduating ready for college.

Jeremy Travis
Jeremy Travis is president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. Under his leadership, John Jay has been transformed. John Jay is now a senior college offering a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts program and, in 2012, joined the prestigious Macaulay Honors College of CUNY. John Jay offers 13 masters programs on campus and online – John Jay Online launched in 2014 – and houses three nationally recognized doctoral programs. During his tenure, freshman enrollment has increased by half, full-time faculty have increased by a third and external funding for faculty research has tripled. The College completed its first capital campaign for $50 million in 2014, and initiated a new $75 million campaign soon after, raising more than $45 million to date for this initiative that will end in 2020.

Prior to his appointment, he served as a Senior Fellow in the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, where he launched a national research program focused on prisoner reentry into society. From 1994-2000, Travis directed the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Prior to his service in Washington, he was Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters for the New York City Police Department (1990-1994), a Special Advisor to New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch (1986-89), and Special Counsel to the Police Commissioner of the NYPD (1984-86). 

He is the author of But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry (Urban Institute Press, 2005), co-editor (with Christy Visher) of Prisoner Reentry and Crime in America (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and co-editor (with Michelle Waul) of Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities (Urban Institute Press, 2003). Most recently he co-edited (with Bruce Western and Steve Redburn) the National Research Council report The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (The National Academies Press, 2014). He has published numerous book chapters, articles and monographs on constitutional law, criminal law and criminal justice policy. 

He has received several awards, including the Ellis Island Medal, the American Society of Criminology’s August Vollmer Award, the Gerhard O.W. Muller Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Margaret Mead Award from the International Community Corrections Association. He earned a JD, cum laude, from the New York University School of Law, an MPA from the New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and a BA, cum laude, in American Studies from Yale College. 


About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit