The City University of New York has celebrated the renaming of its landmark SEEK program to honor Percy E. Sutton, a prominent African-American political and business leader, civil-rights activist and lawyer who served as Manhattan Borough President from 1966 to 1977 and died in 2009.
As a member of the New York State Assembly, Sutton was a leader in the creation of SEEK – the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) Program – in 1966. “This program allowed thousands of promising students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to attend college at one of the City University Colleges with the help of state funding,” says the justification for the state law that renamed the program.
The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Harlem) and Senator Dale Volker (R-Depew), explains that SEEK “offers a unique and supportive educational opportunity to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom have had inadequate academic preparation for college-level coursework. SEEK was designed to assist students with the intellectual potential to succeed in college who lack the educational foundation and economic resources necessary to pursue a degree. This bill honors the memory of this tremendous individual and the countless individuals he helped throughout his lifetime.”
The celebration took place at The Great Hall at City College of New York on Oct. 12, 2011. Speakers included Assemblyman Wright, CCNY President Lisa S. Coico, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Frank Sanchez, current SEEK student Jeffrey McClellan, and Keisha Sutton James, Sutton’s granddaughter and Vice President of ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Inc. A film that chronicles the success of SEEK and a sister program, College Discovery — “Second Chances” — produced by Sara Porath of CUNY-TV, was premiered.