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University President Lawrence H. Summers received the Child Advocacy Award from New York University’s (NYU) Child Study Center last Wednesday.
He was honored for his contributions to the health, education and well-being of children and adolescents—at Harvard and in the Cambridge community—at the center’s sixth annual fundraising dinner at the Regent Wall Street, according to a press release from the center.
“Certainly, we chose him for his work as president of Harvard,” said Catherine Collier, director of communications at the NYU Child Study Center. “He’s been supportive of ensuring that mental health services on campus have plenty of training and funding so that any Harvard student with a problem is identified and gets the medical treatment that he needs.”
Some students were surprised to hear that Summers received the award because, they said, students, rather than the president’s office, have spearheaded and implemented most of Harvard’s recent mental health initiatives.
“There have been a lot of advances made, but most of them have been made by mental health groups,” said Caitlin E. Stork ’04, chair of Harvard’s Mental Health Awareness and Advocacy Group.
In remarks made at Wednesday night’s ceremony, Summers stressed the importance of mental health care at Harvard, according to the press release.
“If you look at all the categories of cost at Harvard, mental health is one of the ones that has increased most rapidly over the last decade,” Summers said. “And there is no money the University spends that is more important.”
According to Collier, Summers said at the award ceremony that because of better screening and treatment on campus, the quality of life for students with mental health problems has improved.
Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 was guardedly optimistic about mental health care at Harvard.
Chopra said that while “Harvard is very far away from having adequate mental health services,” he would not call the situation “hopeless.”
Chopra pointed to a new committee on mental health that the administration is in the process of forming as an auspicious development. Though two students will be selected to serve on the committee, its entire composition remains unclear.
The committee is scheduled to meet for the first time later this month to consider improvements to mental health treatment on campus, Chopra said.
In addition to his work on mental health at Harvard, Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Alan J. Stone said Summers received the award for advancing children’s education and welfare.
“It’s a combination of his support in kids and education programs while at Harvard…and bringing a mental health expert here,” Stone said.
Summers appointed former head of the National Institute of Mental Health Steven E. Hyman as his provost when he returned to Harvard as president in 2001.
Just this past summer, Harvard pledged $500,000 in grants to 28 educational organizations, including the Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy, an enrichment program for Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School students.
According to Stone, Harvard has also contributed to other programs focusing on child literacy, teacher training, science education and teacher mentoring during his tenure.
Other recipients of the Child Advocacy Award included Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum, founding members and supporters of the Child Study Center. In the past few years, the list of honorees has included celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg and politicians such as New York Governor George E. Pataki.
The NYU Child Study Center was founded six years ago to further awareness, prevention and treatment of child and adolescent mental health problems.
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