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Head Start founder is honored for his lifetime of leadership

Medicine@Yale, 2008 - Nov Dec


Edward F. Zigler, Ph.D., Sterling Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale, is the 2008 recipient of the Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology, the highest honor bestowed by the American Psychological Association (APA). Zigler received the award in August during the APA’s annual convention in Boston.

“There are very few psychologists whose work has made such a difference as his,” said APA President Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D., the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and professor of child psychiatry in the School of Medicine’s Child Study Center (CSC).

Zigler was one of the principal architects of the federal Head Start program, founded in 1965. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families, Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children from low-income families through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services.

More recently, Zigler founded the School of the 21st Century (21C) initiative, a community school model that operates in conjunction with state governments and private foundations to incorporate childcare and family support services into schools. Schools that take part in the initiative offer guidance and support for parents; all-day, year-round preschool; before- and after-school and vacation care for school-age children; health education and services; training for childcare providers; and information and referral services for families. Its overall goal is to promote the optimal growth and development of children beginning at birth.

Since 1988, more than 1,300 schools in 20 states have implemented the 21C program, which has proven successful in urban, rural and suburban settings, as well as in affluent, middle-class and economically challenged communities.

Zigler received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958. He joined the psychology department at Yale in 1959 and also served on the faculty of the CSC at the medical school. He founded and is director emeritus of the CSC’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy (formerly the Bush Center), one of the first sites in the nation to combine training in developmental science and social policy.

During his 50-year career, Zigler helped to plan several other national projects and policies, including Early Head Start and the Family and Medical Leave Act. In the early 1970s he served as the founding director of the U.S. Office of Child Development (now the Administration on Children, Youth and Families) and chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau.

Zigler is the author, co-author or editor of over 800 scholarly publications and more than 38 books. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received many honorary degrees.

Zigler remains as active as ever in his scholarly and social policy endeavors. He regularly consults with state governors and legislatures on child development issues and he is actively lobbying the 2008 presidential candidates to include universal child care in their platforms.