Home/Resources/BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Jeree Pawl


Headshot of Jeree Pawl

Editor’s Note: We’ve invited ZERO TO THREE Board Member and co-founder, Dr. Jeree Pawl, to share her perspectives and reflections with you, our members. Jeree will be going off the board in October, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask her a few questions as she reflects on the organization that she helped bring into being.

What has it meant to you to be a member of ZERO TO THREE Board of Directors?

My relationship with ZERO TO THREE began before it existed! I was fortunate enough to work with Selma Fraiberg at The Child Development Project within the University of Michigan. One day she invited me to attend a meeting with her in which she and a group of close colleagues would begin discussing the possibility of forming an organization focused on their mutual interest, the research and theory of infancy. Parenthetically, she referred to her group growing tired of discussing their interests in the bar between meetings at the conferences. Their discussions continued for some time, and it was finally determined that an organization would be created.

The founding members met in Washington DC and I continued to accompany Mrs. Fraiberg (an inner ring for members and an outer ring for guests.) The organization was called “The National Center for Clinical Infant Programs.” Anneliese Korner, a distinguished infant researcher, kept saying very crossly, “What is a clinical infant?!” Neither euphonious nor felicitous, as the organization grew, the complaints proliferated, and it was renamed “ZERO TO THREE” (some of us were sad!).

Meanwhile, Mrs. Friaberg and I and one other relocated to San Francisco and began “The Infant Parent Program” at the University of California San Francisco. It had a wonderfully diverse population.

Within a year and a half, Selma became gravely ill and died within a couple of months. It was a profound personal loss for me, to her friends and colleagues, and the entire field.

My relationship with “NCCIP” continued and I was deeply pleased when I became a member of its Board. It was a privilege to join such a splendid array of colleagues. During this period the idea of a fellowship program was put forward, centrally by Kathy Barnard. Irving Harris, a wonderful man and a philanthropist, pledged his support for this. A committee was formed to select six candidates from those who applied and when we reported back to Irving Harris he reliably asked if there was one more we had regrettably left out. There always was, and Irving always said, “Include him (or her).”

Over time despite the heroic efforts of the staff to deal with a Journal, conferences, other publications, and so much else there was a sense that someone in a full-time position was needed, with demonstrated success in growing, expanding, and sustaining an organization. This person would need to be able to herd cats – wonderful cats – but cats nonetheless.

I was Vice President at that time and Ron Lally and I were deputized to find this person. We assumed that this person would be of the field. We interviewed a number of very gifted people. Their credentials were excellent, but all lacked experience in growing, managing and sustaining an entity of any size.

One candidate was not of our field. He had, however, experience in successfully growing an organization to scale and maintaining it. He was gratified at what he had accomplished but was feeling the need for something new.

It was clear as we described our organization to him that he grasped its importance. He was able to tell us what we had said and was able to extend it. This was, of course, our very own Matthew Melmed. I was sure he could also herd cats.

It has always been singularly gratifying to me to be part of the group that redesigned the Fellowship Program a few years ago. It was a compelling and wonderful experience and thanks to Lynette Aytch and team, extremely successful. This year we have had 189 applications from 39 countries.

I have loved being a member of ZERO TO THREE from the beginning and am sad to see my involvement come to an end. It is a most lovable, meaningful, and vital organization and it gets ever better. I would not have missed it for anything and it has my most heartful wishes for continuing to thrive. Our babies need you!

What is an issue you observe in the world affecting young children and their families that concerns you? How can ZERO TO THREE help?

Of primary concern is the ever-increasing naked white supremacy in all its various manifestations. Anyone of color, the incorrect religion, ethnicity, culture, or any other unwelcome deviation qualifies for inclusion. In the appalling events at our Mexican border, this was on full display. ZERO TO THREE made the necessary effort to stress the serious harm, particularly to the infants and toddlers. This heartless display along our border reinforced the anxiety and stress of any family who qualified for inclusion.

It was reported a few days ago that one of the mothers said of her toddler, now reunited, “she does not know me, she just calls, ‘Missy-Miss, Missy’.” This toddler has experienced a serious disruption of the experience and continuity of the reassuring sense of “being held in another’s mind.” The internal sense of continuity and reassurance sustains babies and toddlers during their typical separations. When this tolerance is severely disrupted by a sudden lengthy incomprehensible separation, the child is unable to sustain this comforting sense. In addition, they need to attempt to create other defenses to quell their desperation. In these instances, the mother or primary caregiver needs help in understanding the nature of the child’s upset, as well as her own.

ZERO TO THREE is an ever more necessary entity. The board, the staff, the fellows, and the members are all in a position to find ways to support all those who are being assaulted. The reassuring part is that I know each person involved will do anything and everything possible to protect those most threatened.

What is something ZERO TO THREE members don’t know about you?

At age 19 I worked at Condé Nast in New York City as the Secretary to the Art Editor of House and Garden and simultaneously augmented my pitiful salary by writing romance scripts for the comic books published by Fox Features. (P.S. It was really fun!)


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