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A Tribute to Intergenerational Pioneer Helene Block Fields, M. Ed ’70

(3/28/1932 – 1/24/2024)

Helene Block Fields, M.Ed. ’70, was a pioneer of intergenerational programming, professor emeritus at Oakton Community College and an artist. Helene was in the first class of Erikson graduates in 1970 and went on to head the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Oakton Community College. The author of Don’t Cheat the Children: Connecting Generations through Grandfriendships, Helene evangelized the critical importance of intergenerational relationships to children’s development.

Helene received the 2009 Founders Award from the Alumni of Erikson Institute for her dedication to ECE. In 2016, she worked with Erikson students and faculty on a curriculum for intergenerational friendships. “I am deeply saddened to hear about Helene’s passing. As one of Erikson’s early graduates, her passion for intergenerational studies made a noticeable contribution. She was a unique and memorable individual, and I’m happy that she found satisfaction in the intergenerational work we accomplished during my tenure as the dean,” remembers Jie-Qi Chen, PhD, Barbara T. Bowman Professor of Early Childhood Education.

Never wasting an opportunity to educate, Helene believed that children needed the adults in their lives to speak to them honestly about death and dying. Coming from an intergenerational perspective studying relationships between children and grandparents, Helene argued, “Relationships are crucial for helping us deal with the anguish of death and dying.” She created guidelines with concrete language and tips for or holding these difficult conversations children at different developmental stages, birth to 18 years old. Read here

Throughout her life, Helene was dedicated to Erikson Institute and believed deeply that every child deserves to learn with exuberant joy and nurtured by love. In that spirit of generosity, Helene’s family requested that gifts be made in her memory to Erikson Institute.

Build Bond-fires, A Poem Dedicated to the 2023 Class of Erikson Alumni
by Helene Block Fields

Light up our world. Light up the darkness of loneliness, separatism, ageism, and egocentrism in our society. Help reconnect the generations through GrandFriendships. Build bond-fires that will remain glowing embers in children’s memories throughout their lives.

Build bond-fires of mutual kindness, empathy, character, and love. Bring the young and old together in schools, communities, and families. Listen to their words, their voices. They are sending smoke signals that say, “We need each other”.

Let the weakest voices in our society point us back to real strength.

Helene Block Fields

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