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Prof. Karilyn Crockett ’95 B.A. ’06 M.A.R. ’13 Ph.D.
The Coffin award is given in honor of William Sloane Coffin, former Chaplain to the University and one of the most significant religious leaders of the last century. The recipient of this award shares Coffin’s prophetic witness, a courageous devotion to the dignity of all persons, and has made a notable contribution to the work of peace and reconciliation. We are excited this year to honor Professor Karilyn Crockett.
Karilyn Crockett has trained her eye and heart on the big picture of life in modern cities—the many ways that land use policies affect people, reinforce prejudices, or liberate individuals and make better citizens.
In an fragmented era of specialization, her scholarly interests make connections across disciplines, including the geography of poverty, cultural anthropology, issues of equity, and the role of theology.
She earned three degrees from Yale and another from the London School of Economics. After Yale she combined her interest in place, race, and poverty by founding MYTOWN in your beloved Boston, a nonprofit that employed some 300 lower-income teenagers as neighborhood tour guides during its 15 years of operation.
Her dissertation in the American studies program at Yale resulted in an acclaimed book, People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making (UMass Press, 2018).
She worked seven years for the City of Boston, first as Director of Economic Policy and Research, then as Director of Small Business Development, finally as the city’s first Chief of Equity. Her work there focused on dismantling racism in the city, reducing the racial wealth gap, and addressing racism as a public health crisis.
Today she teaches at MIT as Professor of Urban History, Public Policy and Planning. She is also a research fellow at the Religion and Public Life program at Harvard Divinity School. In addition, she is Research and Policy Consultant for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Through her work on many fronts, she is creating new pathways of reform, making fresh connections between urban planning, justice issues, and ethical vision. She has spoken of staying alert to how our inner selves affect our public lives in times of crisis. “We are all driven by what we believe, whether we are theists or not,” you said in a Harvard Divinity School interview. “Being able to name, clarify, and nurture what propels us professionally and personally is critical for living fulfilled and healthy lives in any age, and especially in … a time of crisis and change.”