It's with great sadness that we share that early childhood education advocate and icon Gwen Morgan passed away on September 4, 2015. She was such an incredibly important person to NAEYC and the field. We are happy to share this reflection on Gwen's life written by Barbara Willer, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at NAEYC.
Gwen Morgan did so many things and so many things well. She was an amazing, visionary woman whose life’s work transformed the field of early care and education.
From her earliest days as a program director, Gwen worked to build effective systems for early care and education. Gwen was a founding “mother” of the child care resource and referral movement services. She co-founded Work/Family Directions, a company that encouraged and supported corporations to address work/family issues, including child care. Involving corporate leaders helped build broader recognition of the importance of early care and education and assisted thousands of families access higher quality services. As a faculty member at Wheelock College, she served as a mentor not only to her students but also to many others in the field.
Gwen’s conceptual leadership was legendary. She was uncanny in her ability to take complex issues and distill them into clear images that fostered greater understanding. Two that immediately come to mind are the 3-legged stool to describe the interrelationship of quality of child care, the compensation received by child care staff, and affordability for parents and the leaky funnel that described the inadequacies of increasing professional development without addressing compensation—many people enter the field, but when they leave because of inadequate compensation, investments in their professional development are also lost along the way.
Gwen was elected to the NAEYC Governing Board in 1982, serving until 1986. Talk about a pivotal time for the association: the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation was launched; the first position statements on nomenclature, licensing, and developmentally appropriate practice were adopted; and the first staff hired specifically dedicated to public policy and advocacy (I was that lucky staff person!). One of my responsibilities was to support the Public Policy Committee, and so I worked closely with her as a key member of that committee. Gwen gave me a crash course in child care licensing as the committee consolidated earlier statements on licensing of family child care and centers into a comprehensive statement on licensing and regulation.
In the early 1990s, Gwen established the Center for Career Development at Wheelock College that worked to build state professional development systems, once again a trailblazer for a burgeoning area of interest. The Center worked collaboratively with NAEYC on efforts to develop and implement an effective, coordinated delivery system of early childhood professional preparation.
Ironically, Gwen’s death comes at a time of renewed focus on building consensus on national definitions for the profession. In many ways, her life’s work provided the foundation for these efforts—it’s about addressing the 3-legged stool and the leaky funnel effectively and comprehensively so that all children have access to high-quality early learning through systems that are sufficiently funded to attract, prepare, support, and retain a diverse, highly skilled workforce. Nothing would honor Gwen more than accomplishing this goal.
Barbara Willer is Senior Advisor, Strategic Initiatives at NAEYC.