November 25, 1998
Vol. 18 No. 5

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    Harris gives $5 million to establish new Center for Human Potential

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The University has received a $5 million endowment gift from Irving B. Harris to research the development of human potential, including intelligence, motivation, skills and moral character. His gift will establish the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy.

    The center will be a part of the University’s Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and will facilitate multidisciplinary research and training in child and family policy, poverty and social inequality, education and training, and related fields.

    “The center was conceived with a three-fold mission: to train graduate and postdoctoral students, to conduct research in areas of social policy and programs related to human potential, and to interpret research findings so that decision makers are better able to assess policies,” said Robert T. Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor and Dean of the Harris School.

    “The Harris School’s strengths in policy analysis related to child and family, welfare and social inequality, education and health will immediately energize the scholarship of this new center,” added Michael, noting that a nationwide search will soon be launched for a center director.

    The Center for Human Potential and Public Policy will provide a base for scholarship on topics related to human potential. “I am proud of the work the Harris School has done in improving our understanding of the ways we can help young children grow into healthy and productive adults,” said Harris. “For many years, I have been interested in child development, and I hope this new center can help bridge the gap between public policies affecting children and all of the new knowledge scientists have learned about the human brain and very early childhood development. The future of our society depends on doing this work well, and the Harris School is well-positioned to play a leading role.”

    Harris, a Chicago business executive, has devoted much of his life to helping advance the search for solutions to major societal problems, particularly related to young children. In 1982, he organized the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public-private partnership with the state of Illinois that develops and monitors programs aimed at preventing family dysfunction, including child abuse and neglect. He currently serves as that organization’s chairman emeritus.

    He is also chairman emeritus of the Erikson Institute, which trains teachers in child development. Harris helped found the institute in 1966.

    Established in 1988, the Harris School currently trains nearly 200 master’s degree and Ph.D. students annually for careers in public service and private sector policy analysis.