John Ecknerode retires

portrait of John Eckenrode

John Eckenrode

Professor John Eckenrode, a social psychologist and founding director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), is retiring this spring after more than 35 years at Cornell.

Eckenrode made substantial contributions to the university throughout his entire tenure at Cornell.

In 1988, he was responsible for securing federal funding to establish the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell and acted as its director for 30 years before stepping down as director recently. This resource makes data from many sources across the country available to researchers in order to better understand and address the problem of child abuse and maltreatment.

In 2011, Eckenrode helped to merge two separate centers – the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center – to create the BCTR. This combined center advanced the practice of translational research in the social sciences and helped the College of Human Ecology become a leader in using data and evidence to inform policy and practice in the real world.

“It’s virtually impossible to quantify just how much John has meant to the university, the college and the BCTR,” said Christopher Wildeman, the current director of the BCTR. “He has made fundamental contributions to the child welfare field and been the organizational glue for translational research at Cornell. More than that, however, he has also been the calm guiding force who has touched the lives of so many of us here and beyond.”

Eckenrode’s research focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect by investigating the broad range of factors that affect vulnerable families. One of his most-known research efforts relates to his collaboration with Dr. David Olds on the evaluation of Nurse Family Partnership, a program that provides specially-trained nurses to visit disadvantaged mothers during their pregnancy and first two years of their child’s life.

In 2018, Eckenrode and his colleagues won the Outstanding Article Award from the journal Child Maltreatment for a publication that found the program prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient.

One of Eckenrode’s earlier studies on the program, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed mothers and children for 15 years after they participated in the Nurse Family Partnership. The study found mothers who participated in the program were less likely to abuse or neglect their children, rely on public assistance, abuse drugs and alcohol and get arrested.

The BCTR recognized Eckenrode this year at the annual John Doris Memorial Lecture in April.

“I am delighted that we were able to recognize John Eckenrode on the occasion of his retirement from Cornell and express our appreciation for his many contributions to scholarship, as well as the impact he has had on our lives,” said Jane Powers, a senior extension associate at the BCTR. “As the founder and first director of the BCTR, John has left a significant mark – one that will impact future generations of scholars, students, practitioners and policy makers who will continue to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth and families in New York State and beyond.”

Eckenrode received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Tufts University and doctorate degree in social psychology, also from Tufts.