ZERO TO THREE is heartbroken to share the loss of one of the most influential leaders in the organization’s history as well as in the entire early childhood community. Dr. Jeree Pawl, former Board President and founder of the Infant-Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital with the University of California-San Francisco, passed away peacefully at her home on November 19, 2021. Dr. Pawl was a pioneer in the field of early childhood development and was instrumental in transitioning ZERO TO THREE toward becoming a professional nonprofit in 1994. Dr. Pawl was editor of the ZERO TO THREE Journal (then known as Zero to Three: Bulletin of the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs) from 1985–1992. She was honored with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
ZERO TO THREE Executive Director Matthew Melmed stated:
Jeree was nothing short of a legend and an inspiration to so many in our community, myself included, and we are all better people because of her. When we presented Jeree with our Lifetime Achievement Award, we cited her legacy as a “compassionate healer of children,” “a wise mentor to many,” and an “inspiration to our field.” She was all that and so much more. Jeree lived by her maxim that “How you are is just as important as what you do,” and we endeavor to embody that ideal every single day.
27 years ago, Jeree took me under her wing when she offered me this position at ZERO TO THREE. I was a young lawyer with no early childhood background, but she believed in me and helped me and the organization to fly. She was there for me and our organization in countless ways that shaped our growth and development, just as she has supported countless families, babies, and young children over the course of her impactful career.
Jeree’s legend lives on in her wise words, gift of reflection, and in the work of her many mentees, myself among them. Her words are inscribed on our walls at ZERO TO THREE, and we will forever strive to live up to them.
Dr. Pawl was present for the founding of what was then the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs in 1977 alongside fellow leaders in the fields of medicine, mental health, social science research, child development, and community leadership. She later joined the Board of Directors and eventually was elected Board President in 1994, overseeing the organization’s professionalization and transition to becoming ZERO TO THREE. Dr. Pawl founded USCF’s Infant- Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital, creating an innovative program to provide mental health consultation to centers and family child care homes as part of a professional home-visiting program. Her work in the field continues to inspire and inform ZERO TO THREE’s efforts today, as well as those of professionals throughout the early childhood field.
Dr. Pawl is survived by her devoted partner, Judy Pekarsky, and her daughters, Amy Pawl and Meg Johnson.