In 2005, the historic Merrill-Palmer Institute for Child Development was merged with the Skillman Center for Children and Families to form the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute (MPSI) for Child & Family Development. The shared vision of both of these institutes is to promote the well-being of children, especially in urban settings. Functioning as a free-standing institute within Wayne State University increases our effectiveness in the areas of child development research, community outreach and advocacy.
History of the Merrill-Palmer Institute
In 1916, Lizzie Pitts Merrill-Palmer left a bequest to found The Merrill-Palmer School (later, Institute). Up and running in 1920, the Institute's early efforts were aimed at serving Detroit's children through formalized, academic programs in child development. The Institute has a long and respected history of producing research in the area of child development and providing training and education to scientists in the field. The Institute served as a model for child development laboratories across the country, playing a role in the development of national standards for the federal Head Start program. In 1981, the Institute was incorporated into Wayne State University.
History of the Skillman Center
The Skillman Center for Children was established in 1991 through an endowment from the Skillman Family Foundation, serving children in the Detroit Metropolitan area. The mission of the Center is to translate research on children for community application. The Center activities include a seminar series and a resource library.
The MPSI faculty and administrative offices and meeting rooms are housed in the historic Charles Lang Freer House, one of the premier works of Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre, Jr. Built in 1890, Freer designed the house to hold his extensive collection of American art. Today, the majority of that art work hangs in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. The Freer House itself, listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, remains a major work of art, a Detroit monument, and a landmark on the WSU campus.