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Edward Zigler, PhD, Emeritus Professor and "Father of Head Start," Dies at 88

February 13, 2019

Edward F. Zigler, PhD, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Psychology and in the Yale Child Study Center, died February 7 at his home in North Haven, at age 88. Zigler, who served on the executive committee of the Yale Child Study Center for many years, was noted for his accomplishments both in public service and in academia. He advised presidents and senior cabinet officials in every U.S. administration from Lyndon Johnson’s to Barack Obama’s. He was a member of the National Academy of Medicine with more than 800 scholarly articles and 43 books and monographs to his credit.

He probably is best known as the “Father of Head Start”—a program that has provided health, education, and nutritional services to more than 35 million children in every U.S. state and territory. After serving in the Nixon Administration as the first director of the U.S. Office of Child Development and as chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Zigler returned to academia and in 1978 developed center at Yale dedicated to translating science into effective child and family policy. In 2005, the center was renamed in his honor as the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and became a component of the Yale Child Study Center.

In announcing his death, Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine, and Linda C. Mayes, MD, chair and Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Yale Child Study Center, said, “Dr. Zigler firmly believed that science should be given away freely and for the betterment of the human condition. His work was guided by a deep sense of social justice and a conviction that institutions of higher education have a responsibility to be both bastions of learning and potent agents of social improvement. His many positive impacts on children and families, the fields of science and policy, and his colleagues have been immense, and he will be deeply missed.”

Events to honor Zigler’s life and legacy are being planned for the spring both at Yale and in Washington, DC.

Submitted by Robert Forman on February 13, 2019