Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Eliot-Pearson: Then and Now

Next October 25th will be the second time Eliot-Pearson has celebrated a 50th anniversary. The first time, on May 12th, 1972, the celebration was to mark fifty years of Eliot-Pearson's contribution to early childhood education, most of those years coming before 1964, when Eliot-Pearson became a department at Tufts. At that celebration, some of the nation's leading authorities on early childhood education and young children were its principal speakers, including James Hymes, John Whiting, Courtney Cazden, and Grace Mitchell

In the upcoming October celebration of Eliot-Pearson's 50th anniversary as a Tufts department, the focus will broaden to speak about Eliot-Pearson's accomplishments as a leading research center using the most sophisticated methods to scientifically study and address a variety of major questions that press for answers — questions about best practice for supporting teen moms and their babies, questions about older children in foster care in need of a stable home environment, questions about policies to curb the abuses of child neglect, questions about reading programs for helping older children with dyslexia, questions about after school programs for teens at risk for dropping out of school, questions about the challenges facing families who move out of poor neighborhoods — these and other questions that lend themselves to what is today called ‘applied developmental science'. Furthermore, the upcoming celebration will also be about the department's most recent name change — to the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. So, anyone attending the next 50th anniversary celebration might conclude that today's Eliot-Pearson is entirely different from the Eliot-Pearson that was celebrated in 1972.

However, on closer inspection, the differences do not outweigh important similarities. Beneath the differences there are themes that knit together the Eliot-Pearson that began in 1922 as the Ruggles Street Day Nursery and the Eliot-Pearson that exists today. These themes include commitment to justice and democratic principles, being child-wise, attending to context and systems, and integrating scholarship and practice.

Justice and Democratic Principles

Abigail Eliot begins her remarkable memoir, A Heart of Grateful Trust, with a riveting story about how her grandfather, William G. Eliot, helped a runaway slave secure his freedom. One might wonder why she chose it to open her memoir. The story soon offers details, however, that express who Abigail Eliot is, what she stood for, and eventually, the identity she modeled for her one and only "offspring" — the institution that bears her name.

In the course of the story, we learn that William Eliot was conservative with respect to obeying the law, but ready to break any law and pay the consequences if it violated what he considered to be a higher, moral law. We also learn that the runaway slave, Archer Alexander, was no passive victim. He was a hero and source of inspiration who had warned the local Union supporters of a trap set by Southern sympathizers, aimed at hurting Union soldiers. When he fled to avoid the consequences of having betrayed his owner, he found refuge in William Eliot's home. Much later, Archer Alexander became the model for the famous "Freedom's Memorial" statue that sits in Washington, D.C. to honor Lincoln's role in freeing the slaves

In this opening story, the themes and actions reflect the work still being carried out at Eliot-Pearson today — actions to bring about justice, sensitivity to the fact that justice has different meanings depending on culture, and the idea of connection — to esteemed educational institutions and to historical figures. One gets the sense that Abigail Eliot saw herself as part of a family making history, not just experiencing history — and that the history being made was about creating a national community that is more democratic and inclusive.

The spirit of the story that opens Abigail Eliot's memoir underlies much of the work done at Eliot-Pearson today. Today, one finds in Eliot-Pearson's Children's School energetic discussions about diversity and fairness; in its courses for undergraduates and graduate students, a focus on serving families from diverse backgrounds; and in its research, a focus on finding the supports that create resilient pathways for those children most at-risk.

Being Child-wise

Abigail Eliot graduated from Radcliffe College and received her doctorate at the Harvard School of Education. Despite her academic credentials, she was frank about not being a top student, and there is nothing to suggest that she made a contribution to theory or research. Her contributions were in program building grounded in being "child-wise." This was evident in the way she designed her school, and in her dealings with staff and the children themselves. When she became director of the Ruggles Street Nursery School, she let many of the staff go, except for Annie Hall, an Irish immigrant with less than a high school education who was talented in working with young children. Abigail once said, "I found that I learned much about young children and how to relate to them and help them, from Annie Hall." And later, when speaking about the role of touch in caring for and educating young children, she wrote, "… the way you touch a child speaks to him, perhaps more clearly than anything you can say. … If a child is feeling shy or unhappy and you take his hand in yours, your sympathy and understanding are conveyed to him through your touch as well through the expression on your face and the tone of your voice."
Our undergraduate majors and graduate students still spend significant time working directly with children and teens. Although the meaning of the term may vary with setting, being "child-wise" is still valued and supported at Eliot-Pearson today.

Attending to Context and Systems

Abigail Eliot understood that caring for young children meant creating contexts and systems where young children can thrive. Her first actions as director of the Ruggles Street Nursery School included overhauling the physical context. "We had so many things to do: to get the babies and the school-age children taken care of elsewhere… to get volunteers to paint the dull green walls a soft, light yellow… to get rid of the shiny white oilcloth on the tables and replace it with colored cloth… to get pictures on the walls. Over the brown, battleship linoleum floor, we put rugs for the children to sit on for various activities… and we put small vases of flowers on the tables and got some attractive plates and napkins (or bibs) for the children. We bought colorful smocks for the workers, and most of all, we let the children use the equipment and gradually added to the equipment."

Abigail understood the impact of systems on children. She wrote of changing the old system that required that children spend more time at the school than was good for them: "One of the first things I did was to shorten the length of the day. We took children in at 8:30 and expected them to go home by 4:30. The day nursery had been seven to seven, or thereabouts, to cover the total span of a mother's working day. We arranged that mothers would have someone to help their children in the early hours and the late hours, bringing them to us from half past eight to half past four." Later on, when providing consultation to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education during the Great Depression, Abigail gave her advice and input on the systems that were needed: "I said that I considered it dangerous to take two-year-olds in the WPA nursery schools. Two-year-olds are so sensitive, and the teachers who will be appointed have not been trained to understand very young children."
Context and systems are still central in the education of today's students at Eliot-Pearson. There are courses on public policy addressing issues effecting families and educators. There is research on neighborhoods, designed to tease out what hinders or helps children and teens. And there is theory-building that stresses the dynamic ways that different systems work together to lead to development. If anything, Eliot-Pearson has become a community all about the interrelatedness of children, their contexts and the systems that surround them and that contribute to their development.

Integrating Scholarship and Practice

Despite her self-assessments, Abigail Eliot was an advocate for integrating scholarship and practice. As director of her Nursery Training School, she sent her students to Boston University and the Harvard School of Education to take courses and sometimes to get degrees. She, herself, took time off to get her Ed.D. from Harvard, and throughout her career she formed professional relationships with some of the most influential scholar-practitioners of that era, people such as Lawrence Frank and James Hymes. Indeed, it was scholarship that led her to Tufts when she realized that Boston University and Harvard were not interested in early childhood education. She understood that her teachers in training needed the best that scholarship can offer. She wrote, "… I began to look around for a college which would be truly interested in our field and able and willing to contribute to it… (and after ruling out a number of alternatives)… When I went to Tufts… I went to President Carmichael's office and told him my story. He said nothing but got up, put on his hat and coat and said, ‘Come with me.' He took me by the hand, so to speak, down the Hill to John Tilton's office in the College of Special Studies, and he said to Dr. Tilton, "Here is another school to be affiliated in your group."

This began the transition era in the 1950's when students of the Nursery Training School could earn a Tufts degree. In 1955, the name was changed to the Eliot-Pearson School and nine years later, when Eliot-Pearson became a full-fledged department at Tufts, the name changed again to the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study. Each change was spurred by a desire to integrate scholarship and practice.

Integrating scholarship and practice is, of course, the mantra of today's Eliot-Pearson. For many, the meaning resides in the close working relationships that students and faculty have with outside professionals — professionals who help inform faculty members' research and who bring scholarship into the students' field experience. And although the department has certainly come a long way since 1922, this continuity bears witness to the original belief in the importance of good beginnings.


Spring 2014 NEWS

Eliot-Pearson: Then and Now

Eliot-Pearson Changes Its Name

Richard Lerner and IARYD

Learning to Read When School is OUT

New STELLAR Partnership

Alumni Stories

Miriam Lasher
Liz Hawthorne

Abigail Eliot

Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.



Abigail Eliot saw herself as part of a family making history, not just
experiencing history...




Abigail Eliot understood that caring for young
children meant creating contexts and systems where young children can thrive.




Integrating scholarship and practice is, of course, the mantra of today's



Keep In Touch

Our periodic email messages include information on Department news and events as well as career and fellowhsip opportunities.

If you would like to add your name
or confirm you are on our email list, please email Mary Ellen.

Send Us Your News!
Let friends, faculty, and classmates know what you are up to these days. Or do you have a recent publication you'd like to share with the Eliot-Pearson community?


Tufts University
co/ George Scarlett
Eliot-Pearson Dept. of CSHD
105 College Avenue
Medford, MA 02155

Or email George Scarlett

Please include your name, email, class year, and degree(s).


You are cordially invited to the 50th Anniversary of Eliot-Pearson!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Join us for a full day of events celebrating our Golden Anniversary.

12:00 PM Asean Auditorium: Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children's Media, honoring Sesame Street

1:00 PM Hall of Flags, Fletcher School: Reception

1:00 - 2:00 PM Event for children and families, TBA

3:00 - 5:00 PM Fletcher School: Workshops for alumni with Eliot-Pearson faculty

5:00 - 6:00 PM Hall of Flags: Cocktail hour

6:00 - 7:00 PM Asean Auditorium: Keynote address by Professor Howard Gardner, Harvard University

7:15 - 9:30 PM Hillel Center: Screening of Eliot-Pearson at 50 film, dinner, concluding remarks







Debbie Haskard



Tufts University

c/o Debbie Haskard,
Eliot-Pearson Dept. of CSHD

105 College Avenue

Medford, MA 02155


All events are open to alumni and community members; dinner is $30.


Please make checks payable to
Trustees of Tufts College.


[ Jump to Article List - TOP]


Eliot-Pearson Changes Its Name: Integrating Past, Present, and Future


For the fifth time in its history, Eliot-Pearson is changing its name — to the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. The change has to do with the broadening of the department's scholarly, applied and service areas to include adolescent and young adult populations; and, the increasing appreciation for a more life-span framework and approach to the more diverse interests of current and projected faculty.

As evidence of the department's changes, Eliot-Pearson now has two tenured faculty members who are specialists in adolescence. Other faculty members' interests include the study of young families, neighborhoods, and spiritual communities, as well as military and veterinary applications of developmental science. Emerging projects include: literacy and its relationship to world poverty, cross national and cross-racial adoption policy and practice, and disparities in access to health resources among families enduring poverty. From these and other examples, Eliot-Pearson has expanded to become a highly diverse department that spans several traditional Human Development areas — all the while maintaining and enhancing our traditional Early Childhood Education identity with new faculty and a refocused teacher education program aimed at urban, second language children in their first years of school.

In choosing the new name, there were strong desires among the faculty to affirm that Eliot-Pearson will continue its scholarship, service and training commitments to the field of Early Childhood Education and to its roots in the child study movement — thus the inclusion of "Child Study" as part of the name), and at the same time, announce the ways in which the department has grown — thus the inclusion of "Human Development" in the name.

By changing our name, the department demonstrates that it is eager to build collaborative relationships with other departments, programs and schools at Tufts. Some of these collaborations have already been launched (e.g. with the Veterinary School, the Medical School, the Economics Department, and Psychology), while others are in the discussion and planning phases (e.g. Education, Community Health, Occupational Therapy). The future of Eliot-Pearson is likely, then, to be intertwined with and helping to support the overall mission of Tufts as described in its recently approved Strategic Plan.



Eliot-Pearson has
expanded to become a highly diverse department that spans several
traditional Human
Development areas...



The Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Please take this opportunity to consider a donation to one or more of the following funds:

  • Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development General Fund
  • Eliot-Pearson Children's School Scholarship Fund for Children
  • Evelyn Pitcher Curriculum Lab Resource Fund
  • Feinburg Fund for the Arts in Child Development

Please Include Your Name, Degree, and Graduation Year.
Thank you!



The Trustees of Tufts College


Indicate your chosen fund(s) in the MEMO section on your check. Unspecified gifts will go to the Eliot-Pearson Dept. of CSHD General Fund



Tufts University

co/ George Scarlett

Eliot-Pearson Dept. of CSHD
105 College Avenue
Medford, MA 02155


[ Jump to Article List ]



Richard Lerner and IARYD Reach Out to Military Children and Their Families

Participants and Faculty Advisors in the MCEC Project



Today, there are about two million children and adolescents who are the sons and daughters of America's active duty, Reserve, or National Guard military members. In addition, since 9/11, there are four million youth who are the sons or daughters of veterans, and since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than two million children have seen their military service parents deploy into harm's way. Many of these families are involved in multiple deployments – sometimes four, five, or even more family separations and reunifications. In addition, more than five thousand service members have died during deployment, with tens of thousands having suffered physical injuries in theater. Hundreds of thousands continue to struggle with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, all profoundly affecting children and families.

Despite the challenges of mobility and deployment, military-connected youth are resilient. This message is at the heart of the Fall 2013 Future of Children volume, "Military Children and Families." The volume was co-edited by COL (Ret.) Stephen J. Cozza and Richard M. Lerner, Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development (IARYD) in Eliot-Pearson. Drs. Cozza and Lerner are the co-chairs of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), a 501(c)(3) global, nonprofit organization focused exclusively on the well-being and needs of America's military-connected children, specifically in the areas of academic opportunity and excellence, school transition support, and developmental needs. The Future of Children volume brings a life-span developmental perspective to the study of military-connected children and families, one emphasizing their strengths and resilience.

In addition, the volume highlights how research about military children can contribute to a general understanding of their development and, as well, to knowledge of other populations of American children. Military children and families experience unique challenges. For instance, they move around the country and the world repeatedly at rates much greater than non-military families. Therefore, research about the ways in which military-connected youth and families cope with such relocations may allow researchers and practitioners to better address issues faced by other young people who are affected by transitions associated with frequent moves.

Because of their high rates of mobility, military children may need to adjust to new living environments, schools, and peer groups more so than non-military children and families. They are also likely to experience repeated cycles of parent-child separations and reunions more so than other youth. The ways in which military-connected youth cope with such changes may provide important information about resilience that educators, practitioners, and researchers can apply to all youth who need help navigating major life transitions. In addition, military children and families have strong social support networks and services, and they show important strengths and virtues, for instance, involving shared values of duty, service, and patriotism. Such character strengths and ecological assets may be models of thriving for all American youth.

In turn, general developmental research can be applied to military youth. Young people with active-duty parents must cope with the possibility or actuality of parental death or serious/permanent health problems and disabilities, and here research about parent loss or illness from the study of non-military children may help advance understanding of issues faced by military youth.

A key point in the Future of Children volume is that research about military children and families needs to be improved. For example, we need more longitudinal research about normative development among military children and families and more research about their strengths, resilience, and social support networks. We need such research to generate the development and implementation of evidence-based educational and social support programs and health practices, and we need to promote collaborations across military and civilian support systems for youth in order to translate and apply knowledge from our work with diverse military-connected youth and families.

To begin working toward these goals, this past March, the MCEC hosted a one-day pre-conference at the bi-annual meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence in Austin, TX. Developmental scientists, educators, and practitioners from across the country participated in discussions of how best to support military-connected youth and families throughout the deployment cycle and beyond. Prof. Ann Masten, who serves on the MCEC's Scientific Advisory Board, spoke at the conference on the resilience of military families. "Resilience and lessons learned from growing up in a military family cascade through generations," she said, emphasizing the importance of a life-course perspective in the study of military-connected youth and families.

Young people from military families also participated in the conference to provide insight about issues related to changing schools and making new friends. These students are part of the MCEC's Student 2 Student, an in-school program that supports new students who are transitioning into a school to help them feel welcome and navigate their new community. "Being a military child has helped me come out of my shell, grow, and become my own person," one student said.

The pre-conference was a successful step in the efforts to integrate research and practice about non-military youth in support of military youth, and to apply our understanding of military youth and families to their civilian counterparts. Through continued collaboration with the MCEC, Professor Lerner and his colleagues at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development seek to understand pathways of thriving for this important portion of America's children.





Hundreds of thousands continue to struggle
with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, all
profoundly affecting
children and families.







"Being a military child
has helped me come out
of my shell, grow, and become my own person,"
one student said.



[ Jump to Article List ]





Learning to Read When School is OUT

Maryanne Wolf with Wonchi Ethiopia's Global Literacy Children




"I got mine on! I'm the lion!!" These were the words from a seven-year old boy in the tiny village of Wonchi in a very remote part of Ethiopia. He had just been given a solar powered android tablet that was designed by members of the Global Literacy Project to help children without schools or teachers learn to read on their own. The little boy, whom the researchers now call the Lion Boy, looked at the tablet and figured out how to turn it on in four minutes. The Lion Boy is part of a radical new, experimental approach to teaching literacy to children who would never otherwise attain it.

There are 72 million children around the world in villages like Wonchi that are considered "off the radar". Wonchi has no electricity, no running water, no paper or pencils, and no literate adults. What it has, however, is a small group of children who are curious, bright, ready to learn, and able to turn on a tablet in four minutes that they have never seen or heard of. Within one week they learned how to turn on all the curated apps, ebooks, and films on the tablet. In four weeks the older girls became the "teachers", drilling the little ones on their letters. In five months the Lion Boy gave every appearance of knowing how to hack into the computer in order to turn on a camera that was never supposed to be used.

The parents of Wonchi could not be prouder. The children of Wonchi are making great strides: in computer literacy, in learning new concepts, in acquiring new vocabulary, and in learning the precursors of reading. Almost every child in the village can now recite the English alphabet, and a few of the children are able to recognize some sight words.

This Global literacy work in Ethiopia, and also in Uganda and South Africa, is the product of a collaboration between Eliot-Pearson's Center for Reading and Language Research (CRLR), the MIT Media Center, George State University, and the Dali Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. In the first phase of this work, Professor Maryanne Wolf and Dr. Stephanie Gottwald, Director and Assistant Director of CRLR, and their colleagues designed software for an affordable tablet that helps children learn to read on their own, with no teacher or school. The contents of the apps and e-books and the learning experiences are carefully selected and customized according to principles about how the brain learns to read. The project then tracks how children use the tablet and apps and how they progress toward the goal of them becoming readers.

Professor Wolf has completed the first formal assessment of what the children in Ethiopia have learned with the tablet computers after one year. The results are very promising. Many of the children have learned the alphabet and letter-­sound correspondence rules. They can recognize almost all English letters and can write letters from memory. A few children are "sight-word reading" a group of highly familiar words. These top performing children are on the cusp of beginning to read. Importantly, in both villages, older girls are among the most advanced and are actively teaching the other children. This suggests that with improvements to the platform and to the applications/media, many of these children will be able to make that critical step to learn to decode and read. At stake here are a number of improvements in the lives of these children and their villages. Indeed, research has shown that even just one full year of literacy can significantly improve children's long-term personal economic development and also their health outcomes. If successful, then, this project will have profound implications for how societies living outside the reach of any teacher or school can educate their children.

Although Wolf is quick to point out that we do not yet know how far the present tablets can push the learning of children, she is convinced that the present work points the way to better applications of our knowledge for children who would otherwise never become literate. And there is hope too in obtaining further support. In the last year, Wolf has been asked to present her group's findings to two meetings at the Vatican as part of Pope Frances' work on eradicating poverty, to Google's Solve for X meeting in France, and to varied conferences in the US and South Africa. There is, then, hope not only for the project's direct work with children but also for its helping mobilize others to join in supporting the Global Literacy Project.

This Global literacy work in Ethiopia, and also in Uganda and South Africa, is the product of a collaboration between
Eliot-Pearson's Center for Reading and Language Research (CRLR), the MIT Media Center, George State University, and the Dali Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.


[ Jump to Article List ]



Eliot-Pearson's New STELLAR Partnership with Somerville Public Schools

Recently, Eliot-Pearson and the Somerville Public Schools announced a new partnership focused on cultivating collaboration and leadership among early childhood professionals. The STELLAR (Somerville + Tufts Enhancing Leadership, Literacy and Readiness) program seeks to integrate pre-service teacher preparation with in-service professional development, creating a community of learners and a dynamic school district-university collaborative model where practice and research inform one another. The program will evolve around the needs of young children and the professional adults serving them, as well as create bridges and networks to support Eliot-Pearson teachers post-graduation. "Having our students work with reflective practitioners is of utmost importance to us," says Professor Christy McWayne, director of Eliot-Pearson's Early Childhood Education programs. "This partnership is an incredible opportunity for our students to become socialized into a different way of operating as professionals – in collaboration with one another instead of isolated behind the closed doors of their classrooms; especially in their first 3-5 years out, this is critically important."

Superintendent of Somerville Public Schools Tony Pierantozzi said of the partnership, "This collaboration goes to the core of our commitment to early literacy and kindergarten readiness. We realize the breadth and depth of the practices and programs in our community. Eliot-Pearson… is a
national leader." "This partnership allows Somerville Schools to cultivate the next generation of urban school district leaders, while our current teachers strengthen their instructional and leadership skills by developing and learning best practices in
cooperation with Tufts. Ultimately, the beneficiaries will be our children and our community."

McWayne added, "Students who come to our teacher preparation programs are explicitly committed to urban education and want to work in urban school districts. This program provides formal bridges and authentic connections between the Tufts academic classroom and real world practice. The national spotlight focuses squarely on improving results in urban school districts. In order to give Tufts students the tools they need to succeed as educators, our early childhood education programs must enhance the study of equity in education and strengthen collaborations with local early childhood professionals. The STELLAR program directly addresses those goals, and I am excited about where this initial collaboration will lead."


[ Jump to Article List ]



Alumni Stories

Miriam Lasher: An Eliot-Pearson Nurtured Career


In the early 1950's I was an undergraduate at Pomona College, in southern California. I was a psychology major interested in children and had completed the only course then offered about children. As an undergraduate I looked all over the country for programs offering a way for me to specialize in working with young children — Eliot-Pearson and the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit were the most prominent. I applied to E-P and was sent to meet and be interviewed by Abigail Eliot who was at that time at the Pacific Oaks Children's School in Pasadena. Abby had gone to Pacific Oaks after retiring from E-P at age 60, to help establish a training program for nursery school teachers. The interview led to my being accepted to Tufts.

I arrived on the Medford campus along with Hurricane Edna — trees down, no power — no reception committee. E-P was part of the College of Special Studies, not yet a fully-fledged member of Tufts. I was assigned to live in Sawyer House, one of three small houses on the edge of campus where E-P students were housed — 7 or 8 girls, one bathroom, one bathtub — no shower. Our meals were provided in Carmichael Hall — a brand new dorm for freshman men all alone on the western side at the top of the hill, a wasteland. I remember trudging up there in the dark and windy cold to be first in line for 7 a.m. breakfast and before long commutes to student teaching. It was a hard life.

Another little vignette about those times: During those two years — I graduated in 1956 — the college ruled that women could wear slacks to Sunday breakfast in the dormitory. It seemed at the time like a really big deal.

I chose E-P because of the heavy dose of practical work with experienced mentors and the opportunity for specialized coursework. For example, there was a Tufts course in speech and hearing disorders, which for me included a mini-internship in the audiology department at Children's Hospital — and another E-P course on the hospitalized child, which included intensive visiting in the playrooms of Boston Floating Hospital — in the midst of the polio epidemic — with children in wheelchairs lining the walls just to be near something related to play. The themes for the rest of my career were all there at EP — immersion in clinical experiences, learning from very experienced clinicians in specialized settings; blending theory and science with practice.

I did lots of student teaching — three full semesters — Harvard Preschool, Theresa Dowd's kindergarten in Wellesley Hills, and a clinical placement at the Putnam Children's Center in Roxbury — a unique clinic working with kids with emotional and behavioral problems, and autistic children — a continuing interest of mine.

My student teaching at the Putnam Children's Center led to my being employed there for six years as a teacher, with a caseload of mostly autistic children. Child Psychiatry fellows came through, and we teachers showed them how to be with the children.

In 1961, I went to an NANE/NAEYC conference somewhere in the Midwest and had dinner with Evelyn Pitcher. At the dinner table, she recruited me to come to E-P to teach three-year-olds in the brand new laboratory preschool, the Children's School, that was then under construction.

By the time I came to work in July, 1962, I had somehow been promoted to Director. On arriving, I was handed the keys to the brand new building — a shell with no furnishings inside. We ordered everything for rush delivery from a catalog. I think of that austere setting — everything new and traditional and almost identical in three classrooms — and compare it with what I see in the Children's School now: almost everything custom created to make for unique individual environments, I was director for four years — Rosemary Hutchinson followed me; still later, Nicki Leodas and then Sam Meisels.

Remember 1965? Legislation in January created summer Head Start programs. The Department was funded for a children's program — we had 10 so-called "welfare children" from the City of Medford. The Department also was funded for a Head Start teacher-training program. A contingent of faculty flew to La Guardia airport in New York the first week in June, spent five hours in a hotel at the airport and came back trained to run summer Head Start programs.

At Tufts, we were not satisfied with any teacher training materials then available. We flew back to Boston and in two weeks wrote from scratch a training manual that we could live with. That became Helping Young Children Learn. It went through five editions — I was part of the first three. Sylvia Feinburg was part of all five.

Early in my fourth year as Director of the Children's School, Dr. Sam Braun contacted me – he was one of the young child psychiatry fellows who came through in my final year at the Putnam. He was in Washington, D.C. fulfilling his armed services commitment, working at NIMH where he took on the challenge of creating training programs for teachers to work with preschoolers who had emotional and behavioral problems. NIMH had a wad of money — it chose and gave generous three-year grants to four institutions to establish graduate training programs for teachers — it was pioneering stuff.

In 1966, I transitioned into directing that program. The grant included full tuition and generous training stipends for a hand-picked group of graduate students; and all the necessary expenses for the Department. I remember then-Provost Leonard Mead advising me to find a couple of international conferences we'd like to go to and build them into the budget. The first thing I did was to hire Sam Braun to teach and advise in the training program.

In the first year we struggled to find appropriate internship placements for our students, and ended up creating our own, using local child guidance clinics in Somerville and Cambridge to provide clients and space. Those students provided consultation to Head Start classrooms as the core of their final summer practicum. We published a project report, and later, Charles Merrill Publishers — which was already publishing Helping Young Children Learn — took it on and produced it as a book, Are You Ready to Mainstream? Helping Preschoolers with Learning and Behavior Problems.

When the third year ended in 1969, Sam Braun and I moved over to the community. There was a huge infusion of new federal money coming into communities to establish community mental health centers. In Cambridge and Somerville we gave it our early childhood twist. The work we had done at E-P really put us on the map — we were miles ahead of just about anyone in the country in what we provided for kids and parents, and the quality of the training experiences we could create for future professionals.
We continued working with Head Start under the auspices of the Cambridge Guidance Center. At some point George Scarlett joined us as consultant in Cambridge Head Start. I continued teaching one course a semester for another ten-plus years in the Department — then called "The Exceptional Child," which gave me an opportunity to pull together my accumulated experience with young children with special needs and attempt to teach the skills adults need to work with them and their families, and create community settings that made sense.

In many ways I feel I never left Tufts. In the community clinical programs in Cambridge-Somerville, I hired Tufts grads, and we always had graduate students as interns. The person who succeeded me as Director — Frances Rowley — had received her masters in the Department.

Through the years I continue to "chair" the Scholarship Committee for the Children's School. It is a nominal role because the director and the school administrators do all the preparation. Coming back annually to the scholarship committee meeting enables me to stay connected to the Department and the changes taking place.

I continue to be deeply involved in EI in Massachusetts — as a member of the statewide fiscal subcommittee of the DPH EI Interagency Coordinating Council. I continue as chair of Thom Child and Family Services (which runs ten EI programs across the state.). I read the E-P News with great interest — the multifaceted interests of faculty and the broad range of what graduate students do. I doubt there is anything like it.


Miram Lasher














The work we had done
at E-P really put us on the map — we were miles ahead of just about anyone in the country in what we provided for kids and parents...


[ Jump to Article List ]



Alumni Stories

Liz Hawthorne: Memories from the '60's


When I started in 1961, Eliot–Pearson was a small school of about 150 female students within the College of Special Studies (BSOT and Bouve-Boston for Physical Therapy). While we all were preparing to be teachers, some of us went into other fields related to young children. There were two aspects of the academics at Eliot-Pearson that were important to me. The first was that Eliot-Pearson really did believe in the ‘whole child' in the context of family and community. The second was the historical connection, through Dr. Eliot, with the child care movement. While Eliot-Pearson most certainly strayed from the commitment to urban children (I had to BEG to student teach in city schools, but Fran Litman said "yes"—what a gem she is), by the time I arrived, we all knew we were part of something bigger in our chosen field.

We were rarely ever treated as equals by other Tufts/Jackson students or by faculty, and most of us stayed within the Eliot-Pearson circle, living in two different old houses at first (oh, there was the Chandler House fire in May 1962—very exciting), and later we were able to share space in Tilton Hall, although only on one end of each floor never interspersed with Jackson women. I am sure that was Dean Myra Herrick's ‘wisdom'—she was the dean at the time—four years of it. The Jackson student council spent four years advocating for coke machines in the dorms. Never got them!

For the few of us who branched out, we had a richer collegiate experience. A major difference in the Eliot-Pearson curriculum (besides the content) from the Tufts/Jackson curriculum was the many more hours in our major at Eliot-Pearson than the hours for the Jackson students. The very best feature of the curriculum was the requirement to student teach THREE semesters. Losing that, when the school became a Tufts department, was a great loss, I think. We all developed an appreciation for the little ones under our tutelage—and for their families—in ways not possible in a regular college classroom. The rationale from Tufts: the department became more ‘academic' and less 'applied.' Wonder what the Med School was doing in those days? We were able to meet Dr. Eliot, a tiny yet impressive woman whom I admired beyond words -- a true pioneer who left a legacy for future generations to learn about young children and babies and help them create meaningful lives.

In 1963 I was president of my class and lived in Tilton Hall. I don't recall if it had been customary, but I believe we decided that the class had to leave a gift when we graduated, and our task at that point was to figure out how to raise the money. At that time the food in the dining hall, was, well, questionable–we called it ‘wonder' food as in "I wonder what it is tonight." So, we decided to sell donuts. Every Sunday morning one of us delivered a couple of dozen donuts to girls in Eliot-Pearson housing, and we sold them on the honor system. That, it turned out, was not the best approach, although we made a fair amount of money in the beginning. Well, after we started losing money, we stopped the donuts and got more sleep on Sunday mornings! Eliot-Pearson girls probably lost a collective fifty pounds after that!

Well, we had to come up with another scheme and it turned out to be turtlenecks. They were a new fashion statement in those days. I remember taking the MTA into town and going to a store near the Park and picking up a dozen or more turtlenecks in assorted sizes for $3.00 each—retail– and schlepping them back to the dorms and selling them for $5 each. I made the ‘runs' weekly, and we made a lot of money for the times. We donated the money as a class gift to the newly established Martha Chandler Scholarship Fund. I have always felt proud that we were able to help someone who needed it to get a little bit of help from us.

In my junior year, 1964, the announcement came that those of us in my class (and others, I think) could choose to graduate from the Eliot-Pearson School and College of Special Studies and remain in our curriculum OR graduate from Jackson College. Some chose Jackson. I remember thinking a lot about this decision—the prestige of a B.A. degree from Jackson (where I was never accepted or enrolled!) or the fulfillment of a commitment and dream to graduate from Eliot-Pearson. Once decided, I never looked back and never once regretted the decision.

Oddly enough, I believe only two of us strayed from being teachers of young children or administrators of programs for young children, and while I started in the fold and left it, I never ever wavered from my commitment to young children, my advocacy and letter writing for young children. Later, I started the Northern Virginia chapter of NAEYC, which flourishes today. As a dean of colleges/schools of education, I promoted the early childhood programs and advocated for adding family and community to curriculum — with mixed success. I still find it hard to understand how teachers of teachers don't value or understand how important these are. Eliot-Pearson hadn't reached the majority.


Liz Hawthorne





We all developed an appreciation for the little ones under our tutelage—and for their families—in ways not possible in a regular college classroom.