Erikson to Award Bestselling Author, Museum Founder Honorary Degrees

Alex Kotlowitz and Dolores Kohl Kaplan to be Honored at May 10 Graduation Ceremony

CHICAGO (May 5, 2008) — Erikson Institute faculty and trustees will award honorary doctoral degrees to prominent Chicagoans Alex Kotlowitz, author of the bestselling book There Are No Children Here, and Dolores Kohl Kaplan, president and CEO of the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation and founder of Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago.

The honorary degrees will be presented during the 41st annual graduation ceremony of Erikson, one of the nation’s leading graduate schools in child development, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, at the South Shore Cultural Center. Kotlowitz will deliver the commencement address to 84 Erikson graduates receiving master’s degrees in child development or early childhood education and three graduates receiving doctorates.

“Our two honorees have done significant work to focus attention on the educational needs and issues facing urban youth. Their work exemplifies Erikson’s values,” said Erikson president Samuel Meisels. “Throughout his distinguished career as a writer, Alex Kotlowitz has revealed the lives of urban children and made a powerful case for education, equity and social justice. Dolores Kohl has touched the lives of countless Chicago area children through her work as a teacher and philanthropist and through the museum that carries her name.”

In 1991, Kotlowitz published There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, a book chronicling two years in the lives of Lafeyette and Pharoah as they struggled to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex plagued by crime and neglect. Since that time more than a half million copies have been sold. The New York Public Library selected the book as one of the 150 most important of the century. In 1993, it was made into a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey.

“This recognition from Erikson Institute is an honor,” Kotlowitz said, “particularly since my relationship with the Institute goes back to when I was working on There Are No Children Here. The professionals at Erikson helped me understand the effect that violence had on kids, and ever since then I’ve admired the work they do.”

Kotlowitz, who also has authored two other books, The Other Side of the River and Never a City So Real, teaches at Northwestern University. He has written on urban affairs, poverty, race and immigration for 25 years for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other major newspapers and magazines. He also has reported, written and produced for public television and public radio. He has been recognized with The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Helen B. Bernstein Award and the George Polk Award.

Kohl Kaplan is the founder, president and CEO of the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation. Her work in early childhood education, which began in the 1970s as a fourth grade teacher in Highwood, Ill., emphasizes literacy efforts for low-income urban families.

In 1985, she founded the Kohl Children’s Museum in Wilmette at what formerly had been a bowling alley. The museum grew in popularity, prompting a move to a new 46,700-foot location in Glenview in 2005. At the same time, the name was changed to the Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago to reflect its expanded mission. Kohl Kaplan stepped down from her roles as president and CEO of the museum in 1999 but continues to support the museum.

Kohl Kaplan directs The Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Awards, which recognizes outstanding teachers of young children, and The StoryBus, an urban school literacy program. She is a trustee of Ravinia Festival, Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago and Brandeis University. “I feel most humbled to have been chosen for this honor,” Kohl Kaplan said. “Erikson is one of the country’s foremost graduate schools focusing on childhood development, and I truly value its influence and contributions in this important field.”

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.

About Erikson Institute. Erikson is the nation’s only graduate school to focus exclusively on child development from birth to age eight. An independent institution of higher education, it prepares child development professionals for leadership through academic programs, applied research and community involvement. For more than 40 years, the Institute has advanced the ability of educators, practitioners, researchers and decision-makers to improve the lives of children and their families. Erikson alumni are active in many different fields, including education, infant mental health, child care, social policy and research, family and social services and health services.

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