Erikson to Present Honorary Doctorates to Nonprofit Executive and MacArthur "Genius" Award Teacher

Commencement Ceremony to Honor Chicagoans Donald M. Stewart and Vivian Gussin Paley

CHICAGO (May 8, 2007) —The faculty and trustees of Erikson Institute will award honorary doctoral degrees to Vivian Gussin Paley, noted author and educator, and Donald M. Stewart, former president and chief executive officer of Chicago Community Trust, the fourth largest community foundation in the United States. Erikson Institute is one of the nation’s leading graduate schools in child development.

Paley and Stewart will receive their degrees at the school’s 40th annual graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center. Paley will deliver the commencement address.

“The outstanding careers of our two honorees both reflect and complement Erikson’s mission and values,” said Erikson Institute President Samuel J. Meisels. “Throughout his distinguished career as an educator and administrator, Don Stewart has been a powerful advocate for higher education and equity. Vivian Paley has inspired countless teachers around the world with her perspectives on child-centric teaching and her passionate conviction that children learn through storytelling, acting and play.”

Paley, the only kindergarten teacher ever to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, is being recognized for her life-long dedication to improving the education of young children. A self-described “reflective practitioner,” she has authored 12 books about how children learn, each based on her classroom experience and careful observation of her students. Her books explore themes of identity, race, gender, and fairness and show how much children can learn through storytelling and play. Among them is The Girl with the Brown Crayon, which was awarded the Harvard University Press annual prize for an outstanding publication about education and society in 1997.

A native of Chicago, Paley taught preschool and kindergarten children for 37 years, mostly at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools. She resides in Hyde Park and continues to speak and advocate for young children and teachers both nationally and internationally.

“I’m proud to receive this honor from Erikson. In preparing these very capable graduates to see the potential in every child, the Institute passes on one of the greatest lessons of my life’s work–the importance of observing closely and letting children teach us,” said Paley.

Stewart, who served at the helm of the Chicago Community Trust from 2000 through 2004, has been a leader in higher education and the not-for-profit world for more than 30 years. Prior to joining the Trust, Stewart was president and CEO of the College Board in New York for 12 years and was the president of Spelman College in Atlanta for 10 years. He was a program officer in the Overseas Development Division of The Ford Foundation from 1962 through 1969 serving in Nigeria, Egypt and Tunisia.

He has held leadership positions at the University of Pennsylvania and taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in public administration. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at The University of Chicago, where he teaches courses on philanthropy and the management of nonprofit organizations. He serves on the boards of several corporations and nonprofits. Stewart currently resides where he grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with his wife, Isabel, former president of The Chicago Foundation for Women.

“I’m deeply committed to early childhood education and respect Erikson’s work in the field. I’m honored and grateful to receive this recognition,” Stewart said.

Past recipients of honorary Erikson degrees include noted philanthropist and Erikson founder Irving B. Harris and his wife, Joan, a prominent supporter of the arts; Chicago’s First Lady Maggie Daley; National Black Child Development Institute founder Evelyn K. Moore; and Lella Gandini, widely known for promoting the approach to early childhood education developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

A total of 80 students will receive their master’s degrees in child development or early childhood education at graduation exercises.