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Celebrating Hamilton and McPheron as they retire

August 12, 2015

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This summer the BCTR celebrated the careers of Steve Hamilton and Mary Lu McPheron, who both retired this year.


Jutta Dotterweich, Jane Powers, Steve Hamilton, Kris Mesler, and John Eckenrode at Steve's retirement event

Steve Hamilton served as an associate director of the BCTR since its founding in 2011. He was also a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), where he had worked since 1974 when he started as an extension associate. Steve also worked in the CHE's Family Life Development Center (the FLDC merged with another center to form the BCTR), serving as co-director from 1999-2005.

His research on adolescent development and education emphasized the interaction of school, community, and work during the transition to adulthood, especially in the contexts of work experience, experiential learning, community service, and mentoring relationships.

Steve himself served as a mentor to numerous students in his nearly 40 years as a faculty member in the department of human development. Several former students attended an event this June celebrating Steve's years at Cornell and relayed stories of his impact on them in a panel discussion. In remarks at this event, the BCTR's Jane Powers (director, ACT for Youth) read from the acknowledgements section of her dissertation, "My chairman, Steve Hamilton, provided me with inspiration and encouragement throughout every stage of the thesis. His advice was critical, constructive, and above all, practical. I value Steve as a mentor, role model, and friend. “

Steve recently led efforts to ground New York State’s 4-H program more firmly in research, training 4-H educators to identify problems, review related research, and implement a plan of action. Another recent extension program Steve headed, undertaken on behalf of the New York State Education Department, led to changes in the Regents exams, newly allowing high school seniors the option of a Career and Technical Education (CTE) examination.

Steve moves on to become president and director of research at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, part of an innovative charter school organization in San Diego that is committed to social integration and achievement for all students.

Founding BCTR director John Eckenrode on Steve's contributions:

Steve has been a great role model for a successful faculty career blending research and extension. He excelled at both. He had a major impact on a field of research now generally labelled positive youth development, while also connecting research to practice and policy. His work foreshadowed and laid some of the foundation for the increasing attention now being paid in policy circles to two issues around which he has made major contributions: mentoring and apprenticeships. We will miss having him as a colleague on campus but know that he will continue to do great things to benefit youth in his next job.


Mary Lu McPheron in the rocking chair, a gift from the BCTR, at her retirement party

Mary Lu McPheron in the rocking chair, a gift from the BCTR, at her retirement party

Mary Lu McPheron arrived at Cornell as a trainer for the Child Protective Services Training Institute in the Family Life Development Center (FLDC) in 1986, subsequently becoming the project's director and working there until 2002 when the program ended. She was able to continue on at the FLDC doing assigned projects until 2003 when she joined the Military Projects, where she worked until her retirement this summer.

In her 30-year career at Cornell, Mary Lu was a dedicated advocate for children and families. Brian Leidy (Military Projects director) and Marney Thomas (Military Projects co-director) said of Mary Lu,

Mary Lu has been an integral part of many projects at the center starting in 1986 with the Child Protective Services Training Institute (CPSTI) and NYS Risk Assessment and most recently as a valuable colleague for the last 12 years in the Military Projects that support Department of Defense Family Programs across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Her background in child maltreatment and family violence, her skill at curriculum development, literature review, and interviewing will be greatly missed. Above all we will miss her passion for advocating for children and families.

At her retirement party, the center presented Mary Lu with a rocking chair with the following inscription: "In recognition of your service to the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and Cornell University, and with great appreciation for your dedication and tireless efforts to improve the lives of children, youth and families."

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