Imagine the Next 50 Years

As our 50th Anniversary year ends, the Erikson community pays tribute to those who have made us a pioneer in the early childhood field and considers how our influence will grow in years to come.

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As more than 250 members of the Erikson Institute community raised glasses of champagne, President and Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD, led a toast to our 50-year history — and to our future.

“To do the work Erikson does, it takes all of us,” he said from the stage at Ignite Glass Studios in Chicago. The champagne toast closed a June 16 celebration that marked the culmination of our 50th Anniversary, a milestone year filled with institutional accomplishments as well as a series of unique activities and events that served to engage and connect the Erikson community and bring our audiences closer to our story of impact and influence.

The event at Ignite drew current and former faculty, staff, trustees, donors, and alumni from the 1960s through today, who gathered to share stories of what Erikson has meant to them and how their relationship with us has helped improve the lives of young children and families in Chicago and beyond.

Speakers reflected on Erikson’s history, acknowledging the vision of our founders — social worker Lorraine Wallach; child psychologist Maria Piers; educator and child activist Barbara Bowman; and Chicago businessman and philanthropist Irving Harris — who came together to create one of the first institutions in the country that recognized the importance of the early years.

Piers’ son, Matt, addressed the crowd, describing his mother’s passion for Erikson’s work while emphasizing the ongoing need for professionals who are prepared to serve young children and families.

“My mother would have been extremely proud of you,” he said. “We must continue to work to understand what helps children grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive adults. If we don’t the future is not good.”

Alumni throughout our history paid tribute to Bowman and her continued influence in the early childhood field by staging a live version of the old game show “This is Your Life.” As Bowman looked on from the side of the stage, Marion “Sparkle” Stewart-Parrott, MEd ’73; Patricia Brady, MEd ’80, PhD ’99; and Carol Huntsinger, PhD ’91, shared stories of how Bowman made an impression on them as students and continued to influence them throughout their careers. Valerie Jarrett, Bowman’s daughter and one-time adviser to former President Barack Obama, played along, as well, and joined her mother on stage.

The celebration looked ahead, too. Waverly Moreno, the daughter of Erikson Assistant Professor Amanda Moreno, PhD, delivered a message asking attendees to “imagine a world with more Barbara Bowmans” — a world where Erikson’s impact is felt in even more communities.

“I wish for families to be safe,” said Waverly, who wore a Barbara Bowman costume, complete with a wig, glasses, and scarf. “I wish for Erikson to be in more schools. I wish people were equal. Erikson, we are counting on you.”

Michelle L. Collins, whose three-year term as chair of Erikson’s Board of Trustees ends this summer, also reflected on Erikson’s accomplishments while thinking about the future. She recalled her 30-year history as a board member and longtime friendship with Bowman’s family, while also acknowledging her successor, John Hines Jr., who will soon begin his term as board chair.

“I’m eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with all of you,” she said. “It’s important that we continue to work together. The next 50 years will be incredible because of that.”

In recognition of their leadership, Dr. Nagle presented Bowman and Collins with custom-made glass pieces created by the staff at Ignite, who were also working on a piece that will be displayed in Erikson’s lobby.

“Everyone in this room, you are part of what has made the past 50 years,” he said.