The study of human development and family science emerged from the intersection of home economics, early childhood education and care, and child psychology. Today, it is a dynamic, interdisciplinary field that studies the processes of growth and development throughout the lifespan utilizing research methods and techniques typical of other social sciences. From early intervention and the origins of Head Start to the first University-wide gerontology course, Syracuse University has been home to true pioneers in human development and family science.

Use the numbered orange dots to connect events on the timeline with corresponding photos. Photos and historical data are courtesy of University Archives, Syracuse University Libraries, and individual faculty and staff contributors. Camp Kesem photo is courtesy of Joseph Na.


Annie Macleod is appointed Dean of Syracuse’s College of Home Economics. Under her leadership, the study of family and child development at Syracuse emerged, connected to what was known at the time as euthenics. Prior to her appointment at Syracuse, Macleod was Vassar College’s first director of euthenics, a study which incorporated the kind of knowledge considered essential for the optimal development of human beings by focusing on the improvement of living conditions and environmental factors. In the late 1920s, students in the College of Home Economics could major in euthenics, or in a variety of other majors, including teacher training, institutional management, foods and nutrition, home economics in business, applied arts, pre-professional social work, or child care.


The College opens a nursery school in the 1930s—an early, innovative example of the cooperative movement in which parents helped in the classrooms.


Graduate study in the College begins. In 1942, it is expanded to include a doctoral degree program.


Omicron Nu, the National Honor Society for the Human Sciences founded in 1912, is established on Syracuse’s campus in 1941. It exists today as the Omega Alpha Iota chapter of Kappa Omicron Nu, after merging with Kappa Omicron Pho in 1999.


Students in the College can select from 11 undergraduate, six graduate, and three doctoral courses of study. 1 Pictured is a 1940s scene from the College of Home Economics.


The Syracuse University Nursery School is established. The 1950s marked a gradual decline in enrollment throughout Syracuse University. At the College of Home Economics, which had been heavily involved in educating veterans under the GI Bill, enrollment slid from a postwar high of 500 in 1949 to an all-time low of 224 students in 1960. 2 Pictured is a 1951 scene from the College of Home Economics. 3 Also pictured is Slocum Hall in the 1950s, which housed the College’s programs from 1917, when the first home economics course was offered, through the turn of the century.


Despite declining enrollment, curriculum continues to expand. By 1956, students can select from 15 majors and 21 areas of specialization in the College. That same year, Dean Martha Eunice Hilton cites survey data of a sample of graduates from 1935 to 1944. Of the 93 percent who were married, 29 percent also worked outside the home. Of the unmarried women, 100 percent were working and 49 percent had done some graduate-level work. 4 Pictured are 1950s activities in the College of Home Economics.


Strategic publicity efforts led by Dean Barbara Price Griggs resulted in steady growth, bringing College enrollment back up to 400 by the mid-1960s. 5 Pictured is a 1963 classroom discussion about family relations. 6 Another 1960s scene from the College is also pictured.


Bernice Wright, who was invited to the College in 1956 by Dean Hilton, is appointed by Chancellor Tolley as the fifth Dean of the College. 7 Wright is pictured at work in 1972. America’s growing awareness of poverty sparks a demand for experts in child development, nutrition, and consumer education. College enrollment doubles in the 1960s; by 1969, more than 500 students were enrolled for the first time in 20 years.


8 Syracuse professor Bettye Caldwell, pictured, works with Julius Richmond of Upstate University to form the Children’s Center in Syracuse, the first early intervention program in the country and the foundation of Head Start. At the time, it is forbidden in New York State to care for infants in groups. Caldwell’s advocacy results in a special waiver that paves the way for the creation of the Children’s Center. Operating from an old house on East Adams Street, the center receives huge national interest with more than 1,000 visitors in its first year alone, including former president John F. Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Shriver. The following year, Walter Cronkite and CBS News feature Caldwell and her work on The 21st Century. In 1969, Caldwell becomes editor of Child Development, a premier journal in the field. 9 Pictured are late 1960s photos from the College.


United States Army veteran and author Sol Gordon arrives at Syracuse, who was recruited to establish the Family Planning and Population Education Center and the marriage and family therapy program. Gordon’s undergraduate course, Human Sexuality, attracted up to 400 students each semester during his tenure. 10 Gordon would retire in 1985, but the course continued successfully, taught by his former graduate assistant, professor Joseph Fanelli, pictured, for 34 years. Gordon established the Institute for Family Research and Education. He appeared on 60 Minutes and other nationally-televised programs.


In the late 1960s, during a time of unrest in America, the College reevaluates its curriculum for social, cultural, and political relevancy. As a result, the College was renamed the College for Human Development in March 1971. Faculty additions included George Bodine, family sociologist, Edward Wilson, sex education specialist, and Harlan London, ethnic and racial diversity specialist. 11 Pictured is professor Robert Pickett teaching a course in the early 1970s.


Syracuse University graduate student Diane Lyden Murphy, the future founding Dean of Falk College, steps forward as a feminist activist at a time when salary equity and available day care are debated issues. Vice President for Student Programs Charles Willie, one of the first African American professors at Syracuse University, and Murphy, his graduate assistant, rally support and funding for adequate and affordable child care. In 1973, the administration opens the Syracuse University Early Childhood Education and Day Care Center, the first day care center at Syracuse, under the support of the Department of Child Development and Family Relationships.

That same year, the Syracuse University Cooperative Nursery School, founded in 1950, is renamed the Bernice M. Wright Cooperative Nursery School. 12 Pictured is the exterior of the BMW Cooperative Nursery School in the 1970s. A lecture series is also created in Wright’s honor. Bettye Caldwell delivers the inaugural lecture in 1974 entitled “Family and Society in the Rearing of Children.” Around that same time, Anna Babic joins the faculty, offering the first University-wide course in gerontology. 13 Babic is pictured in 1985. 14 Also pictured is professor Harlan London teaching a class in 1973.


The College for Human Development is the first school or college at Syracuse University to host its own convocation for students and parents during graduation weekend, a tradition followed by nearly all Syracuse schools and colleges today. 15 Pictured is an early 1970s scene from the College.


Professor Ronald Lally starts the Quality Infant Caregiving Workshop at Syracuse, designed to help people understand infant development and provide practical training in infant caregiving. Two years later, Alice Honig, former graduate assistant of Bettye Caldwell, takes over the course, which attracts participants from across the U.S. and internationally. Honig and Lally publish Infant Caregiving: A design for training years in 1981. Honig grows as a leader in the field, later serving on the editorial board for Child Development and publishing numerous articles and books translated internationally. 16 Pictured is Honig with a young child in 1979. 17 Also pictured is Honig with Caldwell.


The College for Human Development holds the longest federally-funded Early Intervention Grant, from 1969 to 1978.


In the 1980s, the Department of Child Development and Family Relationships is renamed the Department of Child and Family Studies. Jane Brush Lillestol, appointed Dean in 1980, works with the faculty to devise a strategic plan for the College, which streamlines the departments and removes home economics from the curriculum. By the end of her tenure, the College earns accreditation from every significant agency in the field. Graduate studies in child and family studies, marriage and family relations, nutrition, and applied arts grow to more than 100 students. 18 Pictured are 1981 scenes from the College.


The terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103 takes the lives of 35 Syracuse University students returning from a semester abroad in London. Among them are two from the College for Human Development, Shannon Davis, a junior child and family studies major, and Cynthia Smith, a sophomore and aspiring fashion designer.


Alice Honig is the first professor of child and family studies to receive the Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement. 19 Pictured is a 1993 child and family studies classroom led by professor Norma Burgess.


Cheryl Hoffman ’95 is the first child and family studies major, sixth in the College, to be named a Syracuse University Scholar, the highest undergraduate academic honor at Syracuse University. 20 The Syracuse University Scholars are pictured, with Hoffman seated far right.


The College revises its mission, vision, and values statement with a new priority: to become a leader in applied learning. The College uses a $25,000 Syracuse University Vision Fund Grant to implement a College-wide transition to a new learning model that reduces the emphasis on instruction and encourages students to take an active role in learning though collaborative projects, practicums, co-ops, and service learning.


The College for Human Development, along with the School of Social Work and College of Nursing, together form the new College of Human Services and Health Professions, led by Dean William Pollard, former Dean of the School of Social Work.


21 Pictured are scenes from the Bernice M. Wright Laboratory School: art education in 2003 and art play in 2004, respectively. BMW Laboratory School programs are supported by alumna Joanne Mudd Caramanica ’69.


The College is renamed the College of Human Ecology under Diane Lyden Murphy, who was named Dean in 2005.


The inclusive early childhood special education degree program is approved by New York State, offered in conjunction with Syracuse’s School of Education, to start the following spring 2009. The College of Human Ecology and School of Education at Syracuse expand their relationship with colleagues in the Caribbean, a collaboration that aims to change the landscape of public education in the West Indies to serve all children in the public education model. Carol Logie, lecturer at the University of the West Indies, travels to Syracuse University on a month-long visit through October. 22 Child and family studies professor Jaipaul Roopnarine, pictured, is awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, incorporating studies on early childhood socialization and childhood education practices in multi-ethnic groups. 23 Roopnarine’s work in the Caribbean is pictured. In 2013, Roopnarine becomes editor of Fathering.


With support from Syracuse University alumnus John Reilly III ’69, G’70 and his wife, Patricia, Jaipaul Roopnarine is named the Jack Reilly Endowed Professor honoring their 13-month-old son who died in a tragic fire at a licensed child care facility in California. Roopnarine also directs the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education, a national center of excellence in child care studies research and best practices.


The College of Human Ecology is renamed the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics with support from Syracuse University alumni, David Falk ’72 and Rhonda Falk ’74. The New York State Department of Education approves the child life academic program, which allows child and family studies students to focus their studies on challenges facing children in hospital settings. 24 Student Sophia Hornick ’12 and her internship supervisor at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital review tools used by child life specialists.


Syracuse University Abroad opens a center in Santiago, Chile, where students can take the course, About Children and Adolescents: Development and Rights Perspective. At Syracuse, the Department of Child and Family Studies hosts an interdisciplinary conference on March 21 exploring the impact of violence on children and families.

25 The Kappa Omicron Nu honor society partners with fellow Falk College students in the Society of Public Health Education to raise awareness about child abuse during Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and raise funds for the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center.


26 Child and family studies students participate in the OttoTHON dance marathon and help raise more than $84,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The Departments of Child and Family Studies and Marriage and Family Therapy receive funding to study how mindfulness training for preschoolers and caregivers in high-trauma areas affects overall health and wellbeing.

The Falk Complex, former home of the College of Law, is dedicated.

Syracuse University’s Contemplative Collaborative bridges student life and academic life through a community of faculty, staff, administrators, and students with shared interests in mindfulness and contemplative practices. This community is comprised of more than 140 members representing diverse disciplines and offices across the University. 27 Pictured is a 2018 University-led mindfulness intervention project at Meachem Elementary School.


28 The Department of Child and Family Studies is renamed the Department of Human Development and Family Science to better reflect the field as an interdisciplinary approach to studying developmental processes that draws from psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

The 7th Annual Mini-Conference on Play, Early Childhood Development and Education, a joint effort among Syracuse University, The Pennsylvania State University, and Bloomsburg University, is held at Bloomsburg on the topic “Pancultural Perspectives on Play.” The conference includes research-based presentations on the play of immigrant and refugee children among others.


29 An Orange Circle Award is presented to Camp Kesem at Syracuse University, which supports children through and beyond their parents’ cancer. The award honors Syracuse individuals and groups that demonstrate a deep commitment to philanthropy, financial support, and volunteerism. In 2015, a team of 12 first-year students led by Abigail Hamilton ’19 and human development and family science’s Anna Olson ’19 revived the chapter, recruiting 20 additional students to raise $40,000 and successfully host a free week of camp for 20 Syracuse-area children in 2016. 30 Olson is pictured speaking at the award ceremony.


Syracuse University is recognized as the first internationally-endorsed child life academic program at the Child Life Conference in Washington, DC.

Human development and family science alumni lead impactful careers in early childhood education, journalism, social services administration and programming, law, government, healthcare, and business. They are active contributors to academic research in these fields as well as in speech, occupational, and physical therapy, elementary and special education, psychology, mental health counseling, and other health fields.