Margaret Morgan Lawrence
Honorary Degree Citation


Margaret Morgan Lawrence, you are the first African-American psychoanalyst trained in America and the first black female pediatrician certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Born in New York City in 1914, daughter of an Episcopal clergyman and an elementary school teacher, you were raised in Mississippi. Your decision to study medicine came early, inspired by a passion for healing and by your family's earlier loss of an infant child.

You returned to New York to live with your grandmother and aunts, graduated with Honors in Greek from the Wadleigh High School, and enrolled in Cornell, as the only black undergraduate in your class. Refused a place in a dormitory because of your color, you lived off campus and worked as a domestic to pay for educational expenses.

Following graduation from Cornell, you went on to receive an M.D., a masters in public health, and a certificate in psychoanalysis, all from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.

And after teaching at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, became the first black trainee at the Columbia Psychoanalytic Clinic and the first black resident at the New York Psychiatric Institute.

Your remarkable service to the health and health education of our communities has since included co-founding the Rockland County Community Center for Mental Health, directing the School Mental Health Unit and Child Development Center of the Rockland County Community Mental Health Board, teaching as associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, and for 21 years serving as chief of the Developmental Psychiatric Service for Infants and Children, and their Families, at The Harlem Hospital Center.

Through numerous articles and two important books, you have established a worldwide reputation in pediatric psychiatry, markedly strengthened the social and ethical awareness of the field and inspired in it deeper appreciation for the resilience of spirit at the heart of every child. In clinical practice you have pioneered teamwork approaches which bring together psychiatrists, neuro-physiologists, social workers, and nurses in school settings to help children of all backgrounds find strength in the midst of personal struggle and introduced therapeutic models of shared plays and stories which enable children to find their voices in the treatment of trauma. For these and other contributions, you have been recognized by the prestigious Joseph R. Bernstein Mental Health Award and the Outstanding Women Practitioners in Medicine Award, among others.

Your husband, Charles Lawrence, was a distinguished sociologist and social activist. Your son, Charles, went to Haverford and is now a professor of law at Georgetown; and both of your daughters came to Swarthmore - Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot of the Class of 1966 and Paula Lawrence Wehmiller of the Class of 1967. Sara served on the Swarthmore Board of Managers from 1981 to 1988, has been honored at Swarthmore by the creation of the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot professorship, and has written an acclaimed biography of you, Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer. She is currently Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard and has been named Chair of the Board of the McArther Foundation. Paula served for many years as an exceptional educator and educational administrator, and has now become an inspiring Episcopal priest.

Margaret Morgan Lawrence, the College is proud to celebrate your extraordinary wisdom and courage, your important contributions to science, and the model you set for uncovering the pathway through which each child, of every background, can reach his or her full potential. We are delighted to welcome you, to join your daughters, as a member of the Swarthmore community.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Science.

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