John K. Holton: Understanding the Life Course

John K. Holton, PhD, is an educator and public servant trained in understanding the life course of human development. He is Director for the Center on Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago, which is the second of its kind in the Midwest. Prior to his assuming his current role at Concordia-Chicago, Dr. Holton was appointed as Director of the Illinois Department on Aging, a cabinet member for Governors Patrick Quinn and Bruce Rauner. Under his leadership, the Department on Aging grew to become the state’s third largest human services department with resource capacities exceeding $1 billion to support a network of private organizations and faith-based institutions providing home and community-based services, protective services, housing, meals, transportation, and counseling services for more than 400,000 Illinoisans over age 60 and their caregivers.

Dr. Holton began his career in public education in Hartford, Connecticut, opening the first alternative high school for adolescents characterized as being high-risk, living in group homes. Later, in Chicago, he was the founding Site Director of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods conducted by the Harvard T.A. Chan School of Public Health. This large-scale groundbreaking longitudinal study found that collective efficacy, a type of social capital in which neighbors build reciprocity, trust, and cohesiveness, is an impactful buffer against crime, violence, child maltreatment, and school failure. Dr. Holton provided testimony in Congressional hearings on these findings. 

In the field of human development, Dr. Holton has held leadership roles in initiatives including infant mortality reduction in low-income communities and community based strategies aimed at preventing juvenile delinquency and school failure. He directed the first Chicago Chapter of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (now Prevent Child Abuse America). 

Dr. Holton has evaluated nationally funded programs with the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. He has been a speaker at international, national and state professional conferences on different stages of human development over the life course. He has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, and DePaul University. Dr. Holton has been recognized at the China Association of Social Welfare, the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State of Illinois, Circuit Court of Cook County, City of Chicago, Prevent Child Abuse America, Coalition of Limited Speaking Elderly, Cambodian American Association, and Asian American Association of Retired Persons, among others.

A social psychologist who earned a PhD from Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Holton holds a Master of Urban Education from the University of Hartford and Bachelor in Political Science from Howard University. His research has been published by Child and Family Policy and Practice Review, Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community and Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, among others.

Dr. John K. Holton (left) moderated a national panel at the inaugural convention of United Chinese Americans, held in Washington, DC, on September 8-10, 2016. In the panel, African-American, Jewish, Latino, and Asian scholars discussed issues of pluralistic democracy. 

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