Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Harvard Graduate School of Education
Education specialist; Sociologist; Educator
Social and Behavioral Sciences

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, a MacArthur prize winning sociologist, is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Research Professor of Education at Harvard University, where she has been on the faculty since 1972. An educator, researcher, author, and public intellectual, Lawrence-Lightfoot has written eleven books including Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools (1978), Beyond Bias: Perspectives on Classrooms (1979), 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, given 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), 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. The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other (2003), captures the crucial exchange between parents and teachers, a dialogue that is both mirror and metaphor for the cultural forces that shape the socialization of our children, and The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the Twenty-Five Years After 50 (2009) explores new learning during one of the most transformative and generative times in our lives. In Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free (2012), she trains her lens on the myriad exits—ordinary and extraordinary, painful and liberating—that we make in our lives. Her most recent book, Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers (2016), offers an intimately detailed, emotionally powerful account of a pedagogy—of witness, growing, intimacy, and acceptance—composed by our children. Lawrence-Lightfoot has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute 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, and 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." In 1995, she became a Spencer Senior Scholar; in 2008, she was named the Margaret Mead Fellow by the Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and in 2012, she was elected a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society.  Lawrence-Lightfoot has been the recipient of 30 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In 1993, the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Chair, an endowed professorship, was established at her alma mater Swarthmore College; and in 1998 she was the recipient of the Emily Hargroves Fisher Endowed Chair at Harvard University which when she retired, in July of 2019, became 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. She was elected a Fellow (III:1) of the American Academy in 2013 and has served as a member of the Committee on Studies and Publications.


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