Harris School honors its founding donor with conference on investing in familiesBy Peter Schuler
The all-day gathering earlier this month at the University's Gleacher Center was followed by an evening reception and dinner downtown in Harris' honor, at which President and Mrs. Randel were hosts.
The conference, "Making Wise Investments: How do we help our nation's most vulnerable families?" provided an opportunity for experts in infancy and child development to share innovative research and discuss current successes and challenges in serving vulnerable families.
Presenters included Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, Chicago Tribune editorial board member and Pulitzer Prize winner Cornelia Grumman, noted national and local specialists in infancy and early childhood development, and leaders in public policy, education, prevention and philanthropy.
Conference sessions covered topics that included "Starting Early: Prenatal and Infant Intervention," "Sustaining the Benefits of Primary Prevention from Birth to Five," "Families who Need Services Most: Promoting Positive Outcomes in the Context of Multiple Risks," and "Translating Data in Action: Mobilizing Public Support for Investment in Infancy and Early Childhood."
"The issues addressed in this conference well represented the enormously complicated problems faced by disadvantaged children that Irving Harris has worked so hard to help solve," said Cybele Raver, Associate Professor in the Harris School and Director of the School's Center for Human Potential and Public Policy, founded with funding from the Harris Foundation.
"Although he has been an extremely successful businessman, Irving is just as well known for his eloquent voice as an advocate for children, and he brings a remarkable blend of innovative and rigorous analytic skills, pragmatism and deep compassion to the goal of 'breaking the cycle of poverty,'" said Raver.
Harris also has been at the forefront of programs to raise awareness and address the physical and mental health of pregnant women and mothers of infants and toddlers, as well as the prevention of violence.
The Center for Human Potential and Public Policy integrates research and policy perspectives to improve the health, welfare, development and overall well-being of children and their families.
"My goal in supporting the creation of the center was threefold," Harris said. "To bring the best research available to bear on the development of effective social policy on these issues; to train a new generation of leaders and experts in child and family policy and research; and to assist policy professionals and researchers to work toward common problems and solutions."
In addition to his strong support for initiatives at the University, Harris also was instrumental in creating the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development; the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public/private partnership that develops and monitors programs to prevent family dysfunction, including child abuse and neglect; and the Beethoven Project and Doula Project, which serve as models for the development of training and service programs across the country.
Harris also helped establish Zero to Three: The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, which supports families, practitioners and communities to promote the healthy development of babies and toddlers.
"Irving Harris has made extraordinary contributions that continue to this day on behalf of those in our society who most need an advocate," said Susan Mayer, Professor and Dean of the Harris School. "The benefits from his decades of tireless effort cannot be overstated."