In Minnesota's public policy circles, the late Nancy Latimer is widely considered a pioneering statewide leader, one of the most respected influences on the conscience and direction of our state. Latimer, who died in 2006, worked hard and effectively and quietly over three decades, at the McKnight Foundation and in other roles, building a case and a network for more and better investment in early childhood development, and also to advance and protect the interests of rural Minnesota.
Annual awards granted in Nancy's name don't typically attract much mainstream media attention. But the fourth "Nancy'' awards by the Minnesota Early Childhood Funders Network generated palpable enthusiasm last week among a growing network of advocates for investing amply and wisely in the crucial childhood years, and getting off the dime in the new decade.
Watch for continued strong leadership and new directions from these two veterans of the early childhood cause, each of whom were awarded a "Nancy'' at a conference of community leaders at the Wilder Foundation campus in St. Paul..
Jane Kretzmann, a former program officer for the Bush Foundation, also former state refugee coordinator, and a key leader for the Minnesota Community Foundation and the St. Paul Foundation. Kretzmann is heading up a promising new "Project for Babies'' with the help of those foundations, and she promised in 2011 and beyond to "bring the voice of babies'' to the public policy debates over budgets and priorities in Minnesota.
Art Rolnick is practically a household name as one of the state's most respected and oft-quoted economists, and he already is recognized as one of the formeost authorities and advocates for early childhood education. He is retiring this summer as senior vice-president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and beginning a new career at the University of Minnesota, heading up a center focusing on research and policy studies in early childhood. Rolnick's award was the second in a week for his early childhood work, picking up a "Leaders in Public Policy'' award from the Politics in Minnesota media group.
Students of the subject should check out these presentations at the event, by U of M Professor Megan Gunnar on "The Impact of Toxic Stress on Brain Development and Health'', and by Richard Chase, Wilder Research consulting scientist on "Closing the Early Childhood Opportunity Gaps -- What Are We Waiting For?''
Rolnick got one of the bigger laugh lines of the morning, noting the presence in the audience of Nancy Latimer's much more famous spouse, former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer, and their son and daughters in the audience. After briefly reviewing George's illustrious career and credentials, Rolnick said that in marrying Nancy, George had definitely "married up.''