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The Jean Rustici - Dianne Warner Memorial Fund
This memorial fund was created in 2016 by a group of Jean Rustici’s friends and is sustained by CTAEYC’s willingness to manage the fund and implement an annual lecture as part of their conference. In 2021, following the passing of Jean’s colleague and close friend Dianne Warner, the fund was renamed the Jean Rustici – Dianne Warner Memorial Fund, to continue the purpose for which it was established.
The Rustici – Warner Endowed Lecture honors, celebrates, and preserves the memory and influence of Jean Rustici and Dianne Warner as champions of early childhood professionals, the Connecticut Association for the Education of Young Children, quality early childhood education, and children and families everywhere.
A native of Connecticut, Jean graduated from Smith College in 1947, and earned graduate degrees from Columbia University. She was the daughter of a mother who started a day care in her home during the depression, which Jean later turned into a highly regarded nursery school that continued operating until the 1980’s.
Jean was heavily involved in establishing the original Head Start Program and worked for the Connecticut State Department of Education and for the Yale University Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. In these diverse capacities, Jean got to know, guide, and lead the field. She tirelessly traversed the State and saw the condition of programs and children first-hand; these experiences made her a national champion for quality enhancement. As such Jean, never content with the mediocre, advanced the quality of life for thousands of young children in the State and in the country.
Jean was an active NAEYC member and leader, and a stalwart advocate for NAEYC’s accreditation program, nudging the state forward to have the greatest percentage of accredited centers in the country. Jean had a way of reaching out to young leaders and bringing them into local and state AEYC roles. Using NAEYC’s position papers and publications as a foundation for her outreach, she urged and supported emerging leaders to advocate for children and families.
Jean loved and supported CAEYC. In the spirit of being a learner and leader, Jean was a mentor to cascades of young professionals in Connecticut and further afield, imbuing us with her passion for, sheer delight in, and knowledge about young children.
Dianne Warner began her early childhood journey as a student at Penn State University where she received her BS in Child Development and then went on to earn an MA in Adult Education from the University of Michigan. After graduation, Dianne moved to Philadelphia, Pa., to live in a settlement house and run its child care program. That experience carried forward in her later work, driving dedication to advancing relationships between children, families, and their early education providers.
Dianne delighted in working with young children and also the adults who raised or educated them. Some of her advice: parents ought never lie to their children, should teach them to care about others, and “read to them, constantly, for years.” “Enjoy them,” she wrote. “That’s why you had them, remember?”
Dianne co-wrote in 1967 the booklet “Beautiful Junk” with Jeanne Quill for Project Head Start, detailing the way in which everyday or discarded objects could be recycled for child-centered creativity. (It’s available at Google Books.)
She worked for 15 years as a consultant to the State of Connecticut Department of Education, aiding in curriculum development, and licensure and consultation for child care centers. She kept meticulous records on index cards of her visits so that she could follow up from one visit to the next, encouraging program leaders to pursue continuous improvement before we applied that language to the effort.
After retirement she dedicated her efforts to advancing the field of early childhood through volunteering that required as much time as her previous employment. She was a founding member and original grant writer along with her daughter Lynn, of the Accreditation Facilitation Project, now known as Accreditation Quality Improvement Support. In her role as chair of the AFP Advisory Committee she gave guidance and brought good humor to the early challenges of securing funding, persuading programs to seek accreditation and integrating the concept of quality improvement into the learning process for teachers, administrators and board members. Dianne’s commitment to advancing program quality through work with administrators, teachers and families continues to influence the philosophy of accreditation support in CT. Dianne served as president of the Connecticut Association for the Education of Young Children (CTAEYC), and was also active in the National AEYC.
A miraculous teacher, a compassionate advocate, and a loyal friend, no task was ever too tall for Dianne, and no meeting too boring or frivolous. She relished in making the world better for kids, and through her support, enthusiasm, and dry humor, better for all who serve them.
Each in their own way, these women passed the torch to a new generation. We cherish their wisdom, memory and inspiration, and so it is incumbent upon us to continue to nourish and nurture the field as they did. To memorialize their impact on Connecticut, their names and passion for early childhood education will continue to be associated with this fund as a lasting tribute to their memories, sustaining the memory of two dynamic educators and human beings and their impact on young children and early childhood professionals.
Tax deductible donations may be sent to CTAEYC, 415 Silas Deane Hwy, Suite 402, Wethersfield, CT 06109. Please note that your donation is for the Jean Rustici - Diane Warner Memorial Lecture. You can also opt to donate online by clicking the link below. CTAEYC Tax ID: 06-1156469