Yale's "Father of Head Start" Awarded $250,000 Heinz Prize

Yale Professor Edward Zigler, who is credited with conceiving programs and policies such as Head Start and family leave, has been awarded a $250,000 gift from the Heinz Family Foundation.

Yale Professor Edward Zigler, who is credited with conceiving programs and policies such as Head Start and family leave, has been awarded a $250,000 gift from the Heinz Family Foundation.

Zigler, Sterling Professor of Psychology and of the Yale Child Study Center, was recognized for “significant and sustained contributions in the area of public policy.”

The Heinz Awards are among the largest individual achievement prizes in the world.

The other four recipients of the award were selected for their accomplishments in arts and humanities, the environment, the human condition, public policy and technology, the economy and employment.

Zigler, who also is director of Yale’s Bush Center in Child Development & Social Policy, said he was particularly pleased with the gift because of his relationship with the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, for whom the award is named.

“He was a graduate of Yale and I knew him first when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Zigler said. “When he was in the U.S. Senate, I worked very closely with him. He was just a delightful man and very bright. Yale could be proud of him.”

What Zigler is clearly not pleased about is the state of affairs for children in this country. He lamented the loss of institutions that were established to protect children, such as the White House Conference on Children and the Children’s Bureau, which Zigler once directed and which he said is a shadow of its former self.

“And I helped write the first child abuse law in 1974,” he said. “That year there were 750,000 incidents of child abuse reported. Last year it was three million.”

Other problems that persist nationally, he said, are the lack of health care for all children and inadequate child care.

“Child care has been a tragedy in this country for 35 years,” Zigler said, “and everyone is quite willing to live with it. Can’t everyone see if a child has five lousy years of child care before he goes to school he is not optimally ready to learn?”

Zigler has dedicated more than 30 years to the development of sound programs for at-risk children, among them the Head Start program and family leave policies.

As a young Yale University professor specializing in mental retardation and early childhood development, he was a leader of the White House commission that created Head Start, which has served more than 17 million children and families.

Zigler also helped direct the attention of federal officials to the harm done to children separated from their parents in the first six months of life. As chairman of a national committee on infant care, he recommended family leave policies. Legislation authorizing family leave was signed into law in 1993.

“The courage with which Edward Zigler has fought on behalf of America’s at-risk children is ample evidence that he has consistently put their interests above his own,” said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. “He has taken risks himself, especially in his criticism of the administration of Head Start, a program he helped establish. But such outspokenness has helped make that program the model of effective action that it is, and, in the process, has had enormous impact on the great majority of child development leaders. We are forever in his debt because of it.”

Zigler, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the Yale faculty in 1959. In 1970, he became the first director of the U. S. Office of Child Development, now the Administration for Children, Youth and Families. He returned to Yale in 1982 and continues to serve in advisory roles to government panels on child development.

Teresa Heinz established the Heinz Awards in 1993 in honor of her late husband to recognize outstanding leaders in areas in which the senator was most active.

Nominations are submitted by a 350-member council, all experts in their fields who serve anonymously. The nominations are reviewed by five panels of 10 jurors, each appointed by the foundation. Award recipients are selected by the board of directors based on a review of the jurors’ recommendations.

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