Founder of the Ounce of Prevention Fund
Irving B. Harris was a remarkable business man but an even more remarkable philanthropist who was decades ahead of his time.
He understood that the best hope for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty was to invest in children’s earliest days, weeks, and months of life, and to create intensive, long-term support for the developing child. He believed he could make a difference. What a difference he made.
In addition to founding the Ounce of Prevention Fund with help from the state, Irving advanced the early childhood field throughout Chicago. His gift established the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He was a catalyst for opening the Erikson Institute, a graduate school that trains teachers in early childhood development—and he did much more. He gave money – but as importantly, he gave of his time and energy to sound the trumpet for giving all children a real chance at school and life success.
He understood the marriage of program and policy, and he was an avid reader. He talked to anyone and everyone who would listen about early childhood research, and about the need to reach children even before they were born. He understood the role of doulas, or birth assistants, in helping parents establish critical early bonds with their babies.
There was no doubt in his mind that investing in very young children was the wisest investment with the greatest return. He knew how to cajole. He knew how to persuade. He never gave up trying.
Neither will we.