Q&A with 2018 Bedford Hills College Program Commencement Speaker

May 08, 2018
  • Bedford Hills College Program graduates
As the Bedford Hills College Program (BHCP) commencement approaches, Dr. Elizabeth Sackler shares why she is honored to be a part of the 2018 program.

What was your initial reaction to being invited to deliver the BHCP commencement address?

I was, and am, thrilled to address graduates at Bedford Hills. All graduates are to be celebrated and especially those whose lives are radically transformed by this achievement. FYI: Last year’s speaker, Stanley Nelson, and I went to the same school (grades 4–12) at New Lincoln School!

The Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation’s public program series, “States of Denial: The Illegal Incarceration of Women, Children, and People of Color,” sparks dialogue around issues relating to prison policies and reform. What was the inspiration behind launching this series? 

In 2013, the general public was unaware of our country’s policies leading to mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, or state-sanctioned violence—all against distinct populations. After teaching a workshop at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT, I determined a public program series addressing issues surrounding our penal system would be beneficial to all. The 27 programs are available online at

How did you become interested in prison education programs, and what do you think makes the Bedford Hills College Program stand apart?

Marymount Manhattan College is the sole degree granting institution to New York State’s only women’s maximum-security prison. Education is key to both time well spent when behind prison walls and prepares for a successful life post-incarceration. The faculty and administration of the BHCP are committed to it, enthusiastically supporting each student, and rightly proud of diminishing recidivism. 

What is one thing you hope attendees and graduates will take away from your address?

Your 2018 graduating class will hear an affirmation of the significance and importance of their achievement and my sharing in their pride of having earned a degree in higher education. Brava to all!