Fifty Years Later, a Former Doctoral Student Gets Her Hood

Dr. Norma Tarrow speaking at the Comparative and International Education Society.

Back in 1969, a time when typing a dissertation was more traumatic than writing one, Norma Tarrow (PhD ’69) missed her hooding ceremony.

The hooding ceremony is a rite of passage for doctoral students that denotes scholarly and academic achievement. Tarrow didn’t attend the School of Education’s 1969 ceremony because, having recently flown to New York City to defend her dissertation, she couldn’t afford to return with her family a month later for graduation.

Tarrow’s doctoral journey began in 1963 with a full tuition doctoral scholarship from the School of Education. A mother of three young children, she commuted to her NYU classes via the Long Island Railroad.

She completed her dissertation in Palo Verdes, California, where she juggled childcare with writing while working full time as a professor at Cal State, Long Beach.

Dr. Norma Tarrow’s dissertation

Now retired, Tarrow looks back at a rich career in comparative and international education that included two Fulbright scholarships, visiting professorships at universities in London, Spain, Israel, and Mexico, and a Legacy Lecture at Cal State. 

On Thursday, May 16, 2019, 50 years after her graduation, Tarrow commemorated the degree that changed her life at the Steinhardt School’s annual Doctoral Convocation. She walked in a procession with 102 doctoral graduates through Washington Square Park to Skirball Center, where Elizabeth King, associate professor of international education, hooded her.


It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the former doctoral student who turns 87 next month.

“When I began my studies, I didn’t know anything about my capabilities or what I could do some day. NYU unlocked my potential and changed my life. By changing my life, NYU changed my sons and my grandchildren, three generations of my family, all of us university-educated.”

Norma Tarrow celebrates the 50th anniversary of her doctoral convocation with her son and granddaughter.

Her advice to graduates: “Follow your dreams, never doubt your ability even if others are doubting it. There is no reason for any woman to ever be held back.”