Geoffrey Canada

Honorary degree recipient Geoffrey Canada
Doctor of Humane Letters

Characterized by education activist Jonathan Kozol as “one of the best friends children have, or ever will have, in our nation,” Geoffrey Canada has served as president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) since 1990. He spearheaded the implementation of an integrated set of educational, social and medical services designed to form a safety net so tightly woven that no child can fall through the cracks.

HCZ programs take a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization, simultaneously working to diminish violence, bolster educational opportunities, strengthen parenting skills and improve health care. Promising results in the original 24-square-block neighborhood enabled HCZ to extend the zone to 100 square blocks, encompassing more than 9,500 at-risk children in central Harlem. Canada’s revolutionary approach is now being replicated in cities across the country and around the world.

Canada is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, described by The New York Times as “less like a book than a bell, or a beacon,” and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. His pioneering work has been recognized with a range of prestigious awards, including the first Heinz Award in the Human Condition and the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. He currently serves as the East Coast Regional Coordinator for the Black Community Crusade for Children.

Canada, the third of four brothers, was raised by his mother in the South Bronx. A 1974 graduate of Bowdoin College, Canada earned an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education before teaching at, and later directing, a private day school serving troubled children in Boston. He returned to New York City in 1983 to direct a truancy prevention program at what would become HCZ. That same year, Canada, a third-degree black belt, founded the Chang Moo Kwan Martial Arts School, where he continues to teach Tae Kwan Do and conflict resolution techniques. He is the father of four children.

Hear Geoffrey Canada speak on "A Community-Based Model for Saving Children," on the multimedia page, Conversations with Honorary Degree Recipients.