Congratulations for "Sandy Award" Recipient Larry Nucci
Drs. Marvin Berkowitz, Melanie Killen, and Richard Lerner share with us their congratulations for Dr. Larry Nucci's recognition as the
2020 Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
Richard Lerner's Tribute to Professor Larry Nucci
Professor Larry Nucci is the foremost scholar of our time in the integrated study of moral development, moral education, and character education. His books – including the editions of the field-defining Handbook on Moral and Character Education – have framed theory, research, and application. It was fitting, then, that Professor Nucci was given, in 2017, the Association for Moral Education (AME) Kuhmerker Career Award for outstanding contributions to research and practice in moral education. Recounting Larry Nucci’s field-framing, and historically singular, contributions to theory and research in both moral development and moral education could literally fill a book. Indeed, writing an intellectual biography of Larry Nucci would be an excellent idea, in that it would convey to current and future scholars what it means to be an exemplar of theory, research, and application in the service of understanding a domain of scholarship of fundamental importance to positive human development and, as well, to community well-being and the institutions of civil society and democracy.
It is accurate to say that the scholarship of Professor Nucci is “required reading” for all developmental scientists and their students. It is also accurate to say that, in addition to the above-noted Kuhmerker Award, there are many other instances of the deserved regard accorded by the scientific community for the scholarly leadership and contributions of Professor Nucci. In 2016, I was asked to serve on a committee of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) charged with holding the first-ever NAS meeting on character development and character education. Professor Nucci was asked to be the keynote speaker at this meeting, and my committee colleagues and I were honored by his acceptance. The editor of the Journal of Character Education, Professor Marvin Berkowitz, asked colleagues and me to edit a special, two-issue publication of the journal that involved articles derived from the NAS meeting. Professor Nucci’s keynote address was transformed into the lead article for this publication. It framed both the special issue and, as well, has continued to frame the study of moral and character development and education through this writing.
In essence, then, the scholarship of Professor Nucci has defined the cutting-edge of excellence and influence in the theoretical, methodological, and substantive foundations of the study of moral development and moral education. The social cognitive domain theory that he has developed with Professor Elliot Turiel, along with the programmatic developmental and comparative international research derived from his theoretical work, have systematically elucidated the distinctive features of exemplary moral functioning and, as well, of the fundamental cognitive, emotional, and social processes associated with it. His scholarship continues to define the role of moral and character development, and the importance of moral and character education, for individual thriving and for civil society and democracy. As a consequence, the ongoing scholarly productivity of Professor Nucci continues to shape in formative ways effective in-school and community-based programs positively impacting youth development and the positive civic engagement and, as well, senses of purpose and mattering, among diverse young people across the nation and internationally.
These historically significant contributions to scholarship in moral development and moral education have enabled Professor Nucci to function as intellectual architect of contemporary developmental science. His work reflects the holistic and dynamic nature of human behavior and development and he has been a leader in creating a platform for the field to advance the integration of theory and method in understanding the dynamic system within which human development occurs. Certainly, this leadership of the field has been evident in his service as Editor-in-Chief of the key theoretical journal in developmental science, Human Development. His vision for the study of human behavior and development has been manifested by his wise and generative editorial style and by the articles appearing in the journal having an impact that continues to shape both the direction of developmental science and the training of the next generation of developmental scientists. A review of Professor Nucci’s work across the past four decades provides compelling evidence of the vision, creativity, unique quality of mind, and prowess of erudition that define his scholarship.
In sum, Professor Nucci’s contributions to the study of moral development and moral education and to society are profound. He is and will continue to be a model of scientific rigor and eminence and of societal service. He is a colleague respected around the world. His thinking, quality, and influence as a scientist are unrivaled, and his passion for understanding and enhancing the lives of diverse individuals through the application of theory-predicated and methodologically rigorous research is unequaled.
Richard M. Lerner, Ph.D.
Professor, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development
Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science
Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development