Impacting Early Childhood over 50 Years

Since its founding in 1966, Erikson Institute and its people, knowledge, and programs have made an indelible imprint on the journey to learn more about the early years.

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Before 1966


The National Association for Nursery Education is founded. In 1964, it becomes the National Association for the Education of Young Children.


The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project begins.


Maria Piers, a child psychologist, and Irving B. Harris, an investor and businessman, have dinner to discuss concerns that so few teachers were prepared to work with children enrolled in Head Start. Piers enlisted the help of social worker Lorraine Wallach and educator and activist Barbara Taylor Bowman.

President Lyndon B. Johnson officially announces Project Head Start from the White House Rose Garden. The Economic Opportunity Act is passed and includes funding for the project.



Together, Piers, Harris, Wallach, and Bowman launch the Chicago Institute for Early Childhood Education, today’s Erikson Institute. Recruitment for the first class is done through advertisement in the Hyde Park Herald, on WFMT radio, and in places the founders think intelligent, socially conscious people might listen.


The Chicago Institute for Early Childhood Education enrolls its first class of 16 students in fall and opens in the Hyde Park Bank Building at 1525 E. 53rd St.


Maria Piers, Ph.D., is named Dean.

Psychoanalyst Anna Freud, the youngest of Sigmund Freud’s six daughters, is one of Erikson’s earliest visitors and serves as a consultant to the Board of Trustees.

Martin Luther King Jr. marches in Chicago to demand open housing.


Graduation is held for the first time at Barbara Bowman’s home for five students who are given yellow roses instead of diplomas. Graduation in her backyard becomes an annual tradition for more than three decades.

The Child-Parent Center program is established through funding from the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and our faculty members serve as advisors on the development of the national model.

Erik Erikson, renowned developmental psychologist, visits the school to teach a class and take part in discussions with faculty and students.

The Chicago Institute for Early Childhood Education holds a summer training program for Head Start teachers, which is affectionately called “The 40-Hour Wonders.”


Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood premieres on public television.

The Democratic National Convention is held in Chicago, where law enforcement and protesters clash.


Inspired by Erik Erikson’s work and 1967 visit, school leaders change the name to Erikson Institute for Early Education with the support of the psychologist. His book “Childhood and Society” is an essential component of the school’s curriculum.

Sixteen students receive diplomas for the first time from Erikson in affiliation with Loyola University Chicago.

An affiliation between Erikson and Loyola University Chicago begins, creating a program that leads to a Master’s of Education from Loyola.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first people to walk on the moon.

Sesame Street debuts on TV.

The Chicago 7 trial, involving seven defendants charged with crimes stemming from anti-Vietnam War related activities, begins.


Erikson begins a four-year effort to train Head Start teachers on Native American reservations.

The National Black Child Development Institute is founded.


A long history of working in the Chicago Public Schools begins with Erikson’s Chicago Public Schools Improvement Project.


The Sears Tower, which is later known as the Willis Tower, is completed, becoming the world’s tallest building at the time.

By Steveboerger CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


President Richard M. Nixon resigns from office.


To kick off Erikson’s 10th Anniversary, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall gives a benefit lecture.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 is passed.



Head Start develops bilingual and bicultural curriculum models and uses them for training teachers.

Mayor Richard J. Daley dies.

Michael A. Bilandic is elected Chicago’s 49th mayor.


Joan Costello is named Dean of Erikson.

Star Wars opens in theatres.

Elvis Presley dies.


Jane Byrne is elected the first female mayor of Chicago.

Photo by Alan Light, via Wikimedia Commons

A blizzard hits Chicago, and 29 inches of snow fall.


Erikson moves to Two Illinois Center at 233 N. Michigan Ave.

Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Bonnie Litowitz, Ph.D., is named Dean of Erikson.


Harold Washington is elected the first African American mayor of Chicago.


The Infant Studies Certificate Program is launched with a concentration in Early Intervention/Prevention. In 1996, a second concentration in center-based child care is added.

The Higher Education Commission on Early Childhood is convened, working on high-quality programming as well as on developing an early childhood teacher certification.


James Garbarino, Ph.D., is named President of Erikson.

The Chicago Bears defeat the New England Patriots, winning the Super Bowl.



Erikson and Loyola University Chicago enter into an academic partnership to offer the Ph.D. in Child Development.

Erikson professors launch numerous community-based literacy projects, including the Hull House Head Start Family Literacy Center program for children and parents held on the north side of Chicago.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is officially observed for the first time as a federal holiday in the United States.

The Challenger Space Shuttle explodes, killing all seven of its crew members.

Erikson moves to 25 W. Chicago Ave.


Eugene Sawyer becomes mayor after Chicago Mayor Harold Washington dies.


Richard M. Daley is elected the 54th mayor of Chicago and becomes its longest serving mayor.

The Berlin Wall falls.


Erikson begins a training program for early intervention specialists, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.


The Gulf War, dubbed Operation Desert Storm, begins.


Erikson moves to 420 N. Wabash Ave.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education authorizes Erikson to operate as an institution of higher learning.

Erikson offers its first independent degree program, the M.Ed. in Child Development, with optional specializations in infancy and teacher certification.


Barbara T. Bowman, a founder of Erikson, is named President.


Congress passes landmark Head Start reauthorization, including the creation of Early Head Start, establishing services for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.


A deadly heat wave strikes Chicago, resulting in 739 deaths.



Erikson’s Edward Neisser Library is dedicated.


A gift to Erikson from Jeffrey and Toby Herr funds applied faculty research.


Erikson collaborates with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on the Early Childhood Project, which continues today. The project provides assessments, trainings, and referrals to thousands of children and families in the child welfare system across the state of Illinois.

Erikson’s Alumni Endowed Scholarship fund is established.

The Chicago Bulls defeat the Utah Jazz, earning their sixth championship since 1991.


Erikson launches the M.S. in Child Development and the M.S. in Early Childhood Education.


Commencement is held for the last time in the backyard of Barbara Bowman. Thirty-nine students attend. The following year, graduation moves to Harold Washington Library where Irving and Joan Harris are recipients of Erikson’s first honorary degrees.

The City of Chicago names a portion of Wabash Avenue near Hubbard Street Barbara Taylor Bowman Place.

Terrorists attack our country on September 11, killing nearly 3,000 and injuring more than 6,000 people.


Samuel J. Meisels, Ed.D., is named President.


Erikson launches two new graduate certificate programs: the Infant Mental Health certificate and the Early Childhood Bilingual/ESL certificate.

The Daniel Hale Williams Elementary School in Chicago closes due to poor performance, an event that eventually spurs the creation of the New Schools Project at Erikson.


Erikson launches the Fussy Baby Network®, its first program to directly serve parents and their children who struggle with crying, sleeping, or feeding during the first year of life.

The Children’s Mental Health Act is approved, paving the way for work on a comprehensive children’s mental health system.

The Illinois Early Learning Council is created to help guide early childhood policy decisions, and income eligibility guidelines are improved for families in need of child care assistance.


Former First Lady of Chicago Maggie Daley is the first political figure to receive an honorary doctorate from Erikson for her service to Chicago’s children and families as the founder of Gallery 37 and After School Matters and past president of Pathways Awareness Foundation.

Erikson’s Herr Research Center is established to promote the wellbeing of young children and families by supporting faculty research on what makes effective early childhood policy and programs. It has since been supported by the Jeffrey Herr family, McCormick Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and the Children’s Initiative, a project of the Pritzker Family Foundation.

The Chicago White Sox win the World Series, defeating the Houston Astros.



With Preschool for AlI, Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to offer voluntary access to preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds while expanding to programs to at-risk infants and toddlers.


Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative, with funding from the CME Group Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, launches with a “whole teacher” approach to professional development aimed at helping early childhood educators acquire knowledge of 26 foundational math concepts called “Big Ideas,” and approach the teaching of these concepts with confidence.

The Early Childhood Block Grant supports more than 1,000 early education programs statewide serving children under age five through an appropriation of $318 million. 11% or $35 million supports programs for infants, toddlers, and their families.


Erikson moves to its permanent campus at 451 N. LaSalle St.

President-elect Barack Obama delivers his acceptance speech in Grant Park.

Photo by Gabbec, via Wikimedia Commons


Erikson’s Distance Learning department is established. The following year Erikson offers its first online degree program, the M.S. in Early Childhood Education.

The Center for Children and Families becomes Erikson’s first initiative to provide comprehensive assessment and counseling for children with a broad range of developmental, behavioral, and social-emotional issues.


Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative expands, thanks to a $5 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.


Erikson’s Technology in Early Childhood Center is founded as a trusted source for digital age educators and parents seeking information at the intersection of child development, early learning, and children’s media.

Rahm Emanuel is elected Chicago’s 55th mayor.


Erikson’s Cari B. Sacks Scholarship is established with a gift from Cari B. Sacks, an alumna, and her husband, Michael Sacks.

Erikson receives approval to offer the Master of Social Work degree. The MSW program is the only program in the country to infuse its social work curriculum with a deep understanding of child development. Previously, Erikson and Loyola University Chicago had partnered to offer a dual degree program, which combined a Master of Social Work from Loyola and a Master of Science in Child Development from Erikson.

The Jane Addams Hull House Association closes due to financial difficulties after 122 years.


Erikson’s Center for Children and Families establishes its first satellite clinic in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, bringing services into a community where many at-risk families live.

The Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Boston Bruins, earning their 5th Stanley Cup since 1934.



Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D., is named President of Erikson.


Erikson’s groundbreaking mindfulness study, funded primarily by a prestigious federal i3 grant, launches in Chicago Public Schools, looking at whether mindfulness can improve academic performance and social-emotional wellbeing in young children.


Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy is established, offering opportunities for early childhood stakeholders to influence the development of key early childhood policies to create positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.

Erikson graduates its first nine students from the newly accredited Master of Social Work program.