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Our History

three black and white photos: baby looking in mirror, frank porter graham, teacher and two students

The UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) is one of the nation's oldest and largest multidisciplinary centers devoted to the study of children and families. FPG was founded in 1966 by a small group of visionary scientists who sought to conduct research that would make a difference in children's lives, support families, and inform public policy.

And now, more than a half century later, the work of FPG continues to be dedicated to improving the quality of life for young children in every way, from developmental disabilities and early care and education to physical, social, and emotional health and racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity.

Our researchers, implementation scientists, and technical assistance specialists have worked tirelessly to fulfill the promise of this premise: high-quality care and education for children in their earliest years improves lifelong wellbeing. What we have discovered about children and families and accomplished on their behalf has surpassed anything our founders could have ever imagined.

collage three black and white photos: four toddlers sitting on bench, four co-workers at conference table, exterior of fpg building

Dr. Frank Porter Graham

We are proudly named for Dr. Frank Porter Graham (1886-1972), president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) from 1930-1949 and United States senator from 1949-1950. Born in Fayetteville, NC, Graham is considered one of the most renowned progressive Southerners of his time, a champion for UNC and public education, civil rights, and expanded freedoms for laborers and people living in poverty.

Dr. Graham (pictured at the top of this page in the center) graduated from UNC in 1909 and then Columbia University before joining the UNC history faculty in 1915. He served as UNC's first dean of students, its 11th president, and the first president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina.

In 1949, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate after the death of Senator J. Melville Broughton, and in 1951, President Harry S. Truman appointed him to a post at the United Nations where he served until 1967. Graham eventually returned to Chapel Hill, where he died in 1972.

Our Child Care Legacy

In 1966, a child care program was established at FPG as a prelude to a large, comprehensive, multidisciplinary research project on the effect of full-day early education, health care, and social services on the lives of disadvantaged children. Graduates from this original cohort of children are now well into adulthood and are still being followed by FPG researchers.

FPG's 5-star child care program was nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and operated with four primary missions: services for children and families in the community, research, demonstration, and professional development. It closed in 2013, and during its 47 years of operation, it helped raise several generations of North Carolina citizens and supported nationally recognized research in early childhood education and the professional development of child care teachers and therapists.

We are proud of the role the child care program played in our community, particularly in serving children with disabilities and families experiencing poverty.

FPG Directors

Since its inception in 1966, FPG has been lucky to experience the leadership of noted experts in fields related to child development. Under their direction, FPG expanded in focus and mission, added programs, projects, and staff, and gained international recognition for the groundbreaking work done to support and advance the lives of children and their families.

2024-present      Brian A. Boyd

2023-2024           Brian A. Boyd (interim director)
2018-2023           Aysenil Belger
2018-2018           Stephen R. Hooper (interim director)
2006-2017           Samuel L. Odom
2006-2006           Donna Bryant (interim director)
1992-2006           Donald B. Bailey Jr.
1990-1992           Albert M. Collier (interim director)
1987-1990           Sharon Landesman
1970-1987           James J. Gallagher
1968-1970           Earl Siegel (interim director)
1967-1968           Hal Robinson