Phyllis Glink, Irving Harris Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education and development

CONTACT:, 312-621-0231

IP TAKE: The Irving Harris Foundation has several different program areas, but Glink is completely devoted to early childhood education and youth development; infant mental health issues are gaining a lot of traction within the foundation these days.

PROFILE: Phyllis Glink has described Irving Harris as "the grandfather of early education." That's nice, because Glink serves as executive director of the Irving Harris Foundation, and has been with the foundation since 1996. Since joining the foundation staff, Glink has focused almost exclusively on early childhood development and child welfare. She's been an advocate for the well-being of infants through non-profit advocacy, government involvement, public understanding, and financial investment.

After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, Glink became involved with early childhood education while completing a master's degree in child and family policy at the University of Chicago's—wait for it—Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies.

In an interview with the American Friends of the Hebrew University, she explained, "From the beginning, the Irving Harris Foundation has had four investment strategies to advance its mission that all children are born wanted into homes and communities that can nurture and support their healthy development." She went on to elaborate on the foundation's grantmaking in leadership development, best practices, public policy, and government collaboration.

You can tell just how much Glink respects her foundation's leader after reading her contribution to the November 2012 issue of Zero to Three. In this article, Glink describes her foundation's dedication to improving the mental health of infants and taking a holistic approach to tackling the complex issues of disadvantaged children. Glink is looking for long-term relationships and solutions, rather than short-term fixes. The Harris Foundation has remained committed to a set of core grantees for many years now.

Infant mental health continues to be a big issue for Glink, as she collaborates with more than a dozen health and support programs around the country to achieve progress in the field. At-risk pregnant women, infants, and toddlers are the main focus of Glink's programs. "We invest early, and then we nurture, support, and respond to our grantees as they and the field develop the capacity to transform practice, systems, and, we hope, policy," she wrote in the article.

In addition to her day job, Glink serves on a few state and national advisory boards for children. Some of these include the Illinois Department of Human Services Advisory Council on Childcare, the Illinois Governor's Task Force for the Futures, and the Civitas Advisory Council. The Chicago Children's Museum and Health Connect One Inc. also make her list of board memberships. She's recently been a mentor at the University of Chicago and the National Black Child Development Institute's Leadership Development Initiative.

The Irving Harris Foundation promises that a new website is on the way, but in the meantime, you can keep up with Glink and her staff on the foundation's Facebook page. Irving Harris funds more than just early childhood causes, but Glink seems squarely focused on the youth of our city, state, and country. Jewish, social justice, and arts and culture causes will be considered under the grantmaking program, but you're better off contacting a different program officer at the foundation if you're working in those fields.