Linda Gilkerson receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Gilkerson honored for ‘unflagging commitment’ to improving the lives of Illinois’ vulnerable children

Professor Linda Gilkerson, PhD, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bright Promises Foundation for her “exemplary leadership” in her many roles at Erikson Institute, her “extensive contributions to research on addressing the needs of infants and families,” and her “pioneering contributions” in social-emotional developmental and reflective supervision.

“Erikson is the best place to have this career,” Dr. Gilkerson says. “I have had the best colleagues. I see my fellow faculty as incredibly principled, incredibly smart people. Erikson itself is 100 percent mission-driven, and it’s a blessing to be here.”

Linda Gilkerson, center, with a few Erikson Institute colleagues (front from left) Jie-Qi Chen, PhD senior vice president for Academic Affairs; professor Tonya Bibbs; and Erikson co-founder Barbara Bowman.

Bright Promises’ Lifetime Achievement Award is given each year to a children’s services professional who has made more than 10 years of outstanding contributions to the welfare of children and to programs benefiting disadvantaged children. Dr. Gilkerson was nominated by colleague and Erikson co-founder Barbara Bowman, who received the same award in 2010.

“It is not often in life that we are rewarded for what love doing,” Bowman says. “With these awards, Bright Promises shows its commitment to the well-being of every child and validates the importance of the care and education of young children.”

Dr. Gilkerson is the director of our Irving B. Harris Infant Studies Program and founder and executive director of the Fussy Baby Network, Erikson’s first clinical initiative, which has helped nearly 8,000 families in the Chicago area who have concerns about their baby’s crying, sleeping, feeding, or temperament. She also develops Fussy Baby Network programs in other states and has brought the Fussy Baby approach to family engagement, called Facilitating Attuned Interactions, to organizations in 19 states and three countries.

“Dr. Linda Gilkerson is receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for her unflagging commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable children in Illinois,” says Iris Krieg, executive director of Bright Promises Foundation. “At the core of Bright Promises Foundation’s mission is the driving belief that the problems impacting our youth are not insurmountable and that poor outcomes for disadvantaged children are not inevitable. Something can be done, and we believe Dr. Gilkerson fully embodies our mission to bring about creative solutions that give every child a chance for success in school and in life.”

Dr. Linda Gilkerson speaks after receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bright Promises Foundation ceremony on Sept. 12.

With a grant from Bright Promises, Dr. Gilkerson and Erikson are partnering with La Rabida Child and Family Connections office 10, led by Carol Muhammad and Kay Komie, an Erikson graduate of our Infant Mental Health Certificate program; and Easterseals Child and Family Connections offices 8 and 12, led by Peter Byrne, Marlene Stroube, and Mary Marovich, an Erikson graduate of our Masters of Child Development program and a current adjunct faculty member. Together these offices oversee early intervention services for 3,000 infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and their families on Chicago’s South Side. Through the partnership, they are building the capacity of early intervention professionals to support children in early intervention who have also experienced trauma from abuse, neglect, or multiple medical procedures.

In addition to her roles at Erikson, Dr. Gilkerson has served on the Illinois Interagency Council for Early Intervention and co-chaired the statewide initiative to focus on social-emotional development in early intervention. She has chaired the Early Care and Education Committee of the Futures for Kids Initiative. She is a long-term member of the board of Zero to Three and served on the board of the Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health.

Dr. Gilkerson came to Erikson in 1986 from Boston’s Wheelock College, where she was an assistant and associate professor, coordinator of the early intervention master’s degree program, and co-director of the Birth to Seven Training Grant, an OSERS Personnel Preparation Project Grant. There, she started Project Welcome, a national hospital-community coordinated early intervention program for premature infants and families and collaborated on research on the impact of using a developmental approach to neonatal intensive care. She directed the Infant Care Program in the Department of Pediatrics at Evanston Hospital for seven years while also working at Erikson.

Dr. Gilkerson earned her PhD in early childhood/special education in 1978 at the University of Illinois. She also has an MEd in special education from the University of Missouri, a bachelor’s in elementary education from University of Kansas, and a social work degree from the University of Chicago Social Services Administration.

“We are fortunate to have the freedom to really pursue our passions here,” Dr. Gilkerson says. “Erikson has always been the leader in infancy. I can’t think about the years here in Chicago without thinking about Erikson co-founder Irving B. Harris and how he claimed for all of us that babies matter.”