The Pittsburgh Foundation

Margaret McFarland Fund

Established: 3/1/1989

“In her presence, you seemed to be able to do more, think more, feel more, understand more than you ever dreamed you could.”
-Fred Rogers

This fund was established in 1989 in memory of world-renowned educator and child psychologist Margaret McFarland.

As co-founder and director of the groundbreaking Arsenal Family and Children’s Center in Pittsburgh, McFarland and her colleague, Dr. Benjamin Spock, revolutionized the study of childhood development. McFarland’s work at the center drew international attention, with psychologist Erik Erikson coming in to consult and Fred Rogers taking courses under McFarland’s mentorship. (Their friendship became a long-lasting one—Rodgers frequently cited McFarland as “the most major influence on [his] professional life,” while McFarland reviewed scripts and song lyrics as a consultant for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.)

An Oakdale native and a graduate of Goucher College, McFarland went on to Columbia University, where she earned a Master’s degree in 1928 and a doctorate a decade later. She lived, worked, and taught in Melbourne, Australia for a few years until her return in 1941, when she helped found the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Child Development and Child Care.

In Pittsburgh, McFarland developed a teaching philosophy based on love and compassion. “For her, learning could only take place in the context of love,” wrote her friend and colleague, Rev. Douglas Nowicki. “She believed that if a child doesn’t sense that the teacher cares for him or her, then that child will not be able to learn very much.”

McFarland was a loving person outside the classroom, too. After her death in 1988 at the age of 83, Fred Rogers often wrote of how McFarland would stay up late baking friends and neighbors cookies, delivering them at dawn on holidays and birthdays. “She was so other-directed that…you felt you were important,” Rogers wrote.

Less than a year after her passing, McFarland’s many friends and colleagues created the Margaret McFarland Fund in her honor. Today the fund continues to amplify her legacy, focusing on projects and programs that benefit McFarland’s favorite population—children six and under.

Type of Fund

  • Advised