Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, a sociologist, is a professor of education at Harvard University. She did her undergraduate work in psychology at Swarthmore College (1962-66), studied child development and teaching at Bank Street College of Education (1966-67), and did her doctoral work in sociology of education at Harvard (1968-72). Since joining the faculty at Harvard in 1972, she has been interested in studying the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, the relationships between adult developmental themes and teachers' work, and socialization within families, communities, and schools.
Lawrence-Lightfoot is a prolific author of numerous articles, monographs, and chapters. She has written eight books, including Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools (1978), Beyond Bias: Perspectives on Classrooms (1979) (with Jean Carew), and The Good High School: Portraits of Character and Culture (1983), which received the 1984 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association. Her book, Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer (1988), which won the 1988 Christopher Award for "literary merit and humanitarian achievement," was followed by I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation (1994), and The Art and Science of Portraiture (1997) (with Jessica Hoffmann Davis), which documents her pioneering approach to social science methodology, one that bridges the realms of aesthetics and empiricism. In Respect: An Exploration (1999), Lawrence-Lightfoot reaches deep into human experience to find the essence of this powerful quality. Her newest book, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other (August 2003), captures the crucial exchange that occurs between parents and teachers across our country an estimated 100 million times a year, a dialogue that is both mirror and metaphor for the cultural forces that shape the socialization of our children.
In addition, she sits on numerous professional committees and boards of directors including the National Academy of Education, the Boston Globe, WGBH, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and Atlantic Philanthropies. She is former chair of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors. Lawrence-Lightfoot has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In 1984 she was the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Prize Award; in 1993 she was awarded Harvard's George Ledlie Prize, given for research that makes the "most valuable contribution to science" and "the benefit of mankind"; and in 1995 she became a Spencer Senior Scholar. Lawrence-Lightfoot has been the recipient of 26 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In 1993 the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Chair, an endowed professorship established at Swarthmore College, was named in her honor. And in 1998 she was the recipient of the Emily Hargroves Fisher Endowed Chair at Harvard University, which upon her retirement will become the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Endowed Chair, making her the first African American woman in Harvard's history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.
When asked what excites her about her involvement with Berklee, Lawrence-Lightfoot said: "For a long time I have been a great admirer of Berklee College of Music, attending scores of fabulous faculty/student concerts, participating in elegant galas for friends of the college. I think it is a gem of an institution, singular in its identity and reputation. But I also think that Berklee could be so much more... It could be more widely known... It could be clearer about its educational and vocational mission, and it could build a healthier, more inclusive institutional culture for both
students and faculty. I would like to participate in helping to make Berklee better in all these ways."