Lightfoot will take office in June at the foundation famous for its “genius grants”—$500,000 five-year fellowships to be used at the recipients’ discretion—while continuing her work at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) in the sociology of family and education.
For the past decade, Lightfoot has chaired the foundation’s Committee on Human and Community Development.
“She has a deep interest in our international work, particularly in population, the environment and human rights,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, president of the foundation.
She has received recognition for the humanitarian contributions in her own research.
Lightfoot was a 1984 MacArthur fellow, won the 1989 Christopher Award for literary and humanitarian achievement, and was awarded Harvard’s George Ledlie Prize for “valuable contributions to science” and “the benefit of mankind” in 1993.
“Sarah is a kind and thoughtful person. No matter how large or daunting the task, she understands better than most that what is really involved are the lives and well-being of individual people,” says Foundation President Jonathan F. Fanton.
Lightfoot joined Harvard’s faculty in 1972. She has held the Fisher chair since 1998—which will become the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot chair upon her retirement.
The MacArthur foundation is a private, independent institution that grants over $180 millon annually.
Professor Lawrence-Lightfoot is also currently a member of the Boards of the Boston Globe, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and WGBH and she is a member of the National Academy of Education.