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Commitment to infant care inspires gift to College of Human Ecology for endowed professorship

July 22, 2009

Michelle Barrett
(315) 443-6172

A tragic fire at a licensed day-care facility in California in 1989 took the life of 13-month-old Jack Reilly, the only son of Syracuse University alumnus John D. Reilly III '69, G'70 and his wife, Patricia M. Reilly. Jack's spirit will live on, however, through the Huntington Beach, Calif., couple's generous gift to SU's College of Human Ecology.

As part of the Reillys' commitment to establish the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education, the Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture and the Jack Reilly professorship, Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, professor of child development and senior faculty member in the Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS), was named the Jack Reilly Professor beginning Fall 2009. Roopnarine will also serve as the director of the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education.

The Reillys' gift will support Roopnarine's teaching and scholarship and allow the college to further develop the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education, which provides an infant-focused early child development curriculum at SU, including a vital safety component.

"After Jack died, we had a lot of questions in our minds. What did we miss?" says Patty Reilly. "We knew we wanted to do something in his name, to continue his memory, to keep him alive. We wanted to be sure no other parents or families had to experience this loss. That is why we decided to partner with Syracuse to reach out to parents, communities, educators and students."

"To affect other people, you have to train people. Your ideas have to be passed on," says John Reilly. "And there's no better place to do that then at a university. With this, Jack's death has some meaning. "

The gift also supports the Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture Series in Infant & Toddler Caregiving, which was launched in 2007 to bring child development experts together with SU students, as well as with infant and toddler caregivers and prospective caregivers, who are able to attend lectures free of charge.

"We are grateful to John and Patty Reilly who, in their generosity and visionary thoughtfulness, have created an enduring education legacy in the name of their infant son, Jack, who was lost tragically," says Diane Lyden Murphy, dean of the College of Human Ecology. "The Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education is designed to be a national center of excellence in day-care studies research and best practices. The Jack Reilly Institute stands as a one-of-its-kind educational legacy. We are exceedingly proud to be a partner in this effort."

Roopnarine's distinguished career has included a Fulbright Scholarship, an Indo-U.S. Sub- Commission Scholarship and international recognition for research and scholarly work in child development, cross-cultural study of children and families and developmental psychology. He joined SU in 1984 and currently serves as the director of the Institute for Family Research and Education and the director of the CFS graduate program. He has been instrumental in developing core courses in the CFS curriculum, including the cross-cultural study of children and families, play across cultures and children within immigrant families in the United States.

In addition to his work as a faculty associate at the Family and Children's Research Centre, University of the West Indies, Trinidad, he has assisted in revising the national early childhood curriculum for the government of Guyana and serves as an advisor to the Roving Caregiver Programme, an early home-based intervention program implemented in several Caribbean countries to improve parenting skills and early childhood development.

"This extremely kind act of giving and caring by the Reillys reflects their deep commitment to advancing the welfare, safety and education of young children in diverse cultural communities," says Roopnarine. "Through the Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture series in Infant/Toddler Caregiving, strong advocacy within the Jack Reilly Institute for Early Childhood and Provider Education, and further research on improving the quality of childcare and early education, professionals will acquire the requisite skills and intellectual acumen required to promote high quality early education practices. Young children will be the greatest benefactors of the Reillys' philanthropy. I am very grateful and honored to be named the Jack Reilly Professor at Syracuse University."

"Given Jaipaul's history of prolific scholarship, I am certain the opportunities made available through the Reillys' generous support will result in immense contributions to the field in general and in particular to the future growth and development of children and families across the world," says Murphy.

Roopnarine's research credentials over the past 29 years include authoring and co-authoring numerous books, chapters and journal publications in childhood development and early education. Two of his books have been adopted widely for classroom use at national and international universities. In addition to presentations that have spanned the world, Roopnarine has been awarded several grants from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. He has served on editorial boards of several journals in developmental psychology and early childhood education.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in child development, with professional appointments that have included visiting professorships at The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin.

As part of The Campaign for Syracuse University, the Reillys' gift will be bolstered through Faculty Today, a new gift challenge program created to encourage donors to endow faculty chairs and professorships. Designed to accelerate the University's ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty, Faculty Today will supplement the earnings from the endowed professorship for five years. Additionally, Human Ecology will provide an equivalent contribution multiplying the buying power of the gift and enabling the college to retain an outstanding faculty member. The program was developed by the SU Board of Trustees, which allocated $30 million from the University's endowment in support of this new initiative.

With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU's history. By supporting faculty excellence, student access, interdisciplinary programs, capital projects and other institutional priorities, the campaign is continuing to drive Scholarship in Action, the University's vision to provide students, faculty and communities with the insights needed to incite positive and lasting change in the world. More information is available online at

About the College of Human Ecology at Syracuse University

The College of Human Ecology is dedicated to excellence in professional academic education and integrates publicly engaged scholarship as a philosophy and method in all of its degree programs. The college brings together a rich history of academic programs whose signatures of social responsibility and justice join new and evolving majors reflective of educating global citizens whose leadership can-and does-change the places and people where they live and work.

Previously known as the College of Human Services and Health Professions until it was renamed in 2007, the College of Human Ecology hosts seven departments with strong roots in SU history: Child and Family Studies; Health and Wellness; Hospitality Management; Marriage and Family Therapy; Nutrition Science and Dietetics; Sport Management; and the School of Social Work.

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