Remembering Dr. Ruby Takanishi, Former President/CEO of the Foundation for Child Development

It is with deep sadness and enormous gratitude, that the Foundation for Child Development reflects on the 1996 – 2012 leadership of former President/CEO Dr. Ruby Takanishi. Under Dr. Takanishi’s insightful leadership, the Foundation helped shape the field of early care and education and center its own work at the intersection of research, policy, and practice.

Dr. Takanishi developed and launched the Prekindergarten-3rd Grade Framework, which envisioned a coordinated and aligned system of standards, sequenced curricula, instructional strategies, child assessments, and professional development systems that would enhance and sustain young children’s learning across the Prek-3rd grade continuum. Foreshadowing the Foundation’s current programmatic focus, she argued that a well prepared and compensated early childhood workforce was pivotal to the success of the preschool movement.

Reflecting her understanding that data could serve as an important tool in policymaking, in 1999, and throughout her tenure at the Foundation, Dr. Takanishi supported the development and use of the Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI) which tracked the quality of life of America’s children by providing an evidence-based measure of trends over time. The index used 28 national-level social indicators across key domains of family economic well-being, social relationships, health, safety/behavioral concerns, educational attainment, community engagement, and emotional/spiritual well-being.

In 2002, under her direction, the Foundation re-instituted its Young Scholars Program (YSP) which was designed to continue to nurture an emerging group of diverse early career scholars. Delving into an underexplored area of study, Dr. Takanishi focused YSP on research related to the health and well-being of children living within immigrant families. This work generated a much-needed research base that continues to inform research and policy within the current immigration climate. This work was grounded on the principle that the racial/ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity found within America’s children should be celebrated as an asset and a strength for families, communities, and the larger society. Dr. Takanishi’s strong commitment to social justice was a constant thread woven throughout her work.

Dr. Takanishi’s mentorship was expansive, and numerous scholars and professionals were the recipients of her intellectual generosity. Always eager to share her time and wisdom, Dr. Takanishi provided abundant opportunities for mentees to gain invaluable professional experiences and exercise leadership roles. These opportunities frequently helped launch careers.

One of her final areas of leadership at the Foundation was to support the development and use of a framework for a dual-generation strategy. This strategy focused on supporting outcomes for both parents and children and fortifying the gains made within families.

Throughout her tenure at the Foundation, Dr. Takanishi’s astute approach to influencing policy was evident in her work to disseminate and translate research to key policy audiences. She worked to propel the Foundation and its grantees to the forefront of influence in the use of research knowledge to inform policies and practices.

The Foundation is deeply grateful for Dr. Takanishi’s leadership. Her legacy will continue through the research, policies, practices, and scholars that she supported. We send our sincerest condolences to her family. Mahalo, Ruby.