Luster, Tom Ph.D.


Tom Photograph




Tom Luster will be remembered for his many contributions to the study of child development as well his mentoring of young scholars who continue his work. Tom joined the faculty in the Department of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University in 1985 after completing his doctoral studies under the direction of Urie Bronfenbrenner at Cornell University, who remained a continual influence in his life and work. Tom's passion for the most vulnerable citizens led him to study resilience and positive developmental outcomes among adolescent mothers and their children, among the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, and among Japanese youth. His dedication to the well-being of children and families permeated his life and his work. When the Sudanese "Lost Boys" arrived at the Lansing airport in 2001, Tom was there to meet them. Tom and his wife, Carol, came to know these youth, and in the years to follow, became an integral part of their lives and community.

Tom was a generous scholar, eagerly mentoring students and other emerging young scholars. Students at Michigan State University recall a caring teacher whose investment in their learning was clear at every class. He took great care to know his students, and the concern and affection with which he mentored his graduate students was well-known. That influence now reaches countries as far as Thailand, Korea, China and Japan, where former students, now professionals, are continuing to produce excellent work based upon their training with Tom. Ever concerned for the launching of new careers, Tom actively involved his students and his colleagues who were beginning their academic careers in the publication process. Colleagues describe Tom as a thoughtful scholar, whose wisdom and knowledge of the field was well recognized.

During the course of his productive career at Michigan State University, Tom published 45 articles in respected scholarly journals such as Child Development. Always determined to move the work forward in a timely fashion, his research in the areas of child development and resiliency resulted in 4 edited books, 11 book chapters and further dissemination at innumerable scholarly conferences. Tom's work, disseminated in well known papers, such as Luster & McAdoo (1994), changed the way we understand development and achievement outcomes among diverse groups of children. His service to the profession included appointments to the editorial boards of Parenting: Science and Practice and to the Journal of Marriage and the Family, involvement as an active reviewer for 13 scholarly journals, and his inclusion on review panels for the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.

As a scholar, Tom was always mindful of contributing to the community. He was concerned that new knowledge generated from his research be used to benefit the communities in which he worked, and, in particular, the most vulnerable people in those communities. He approached his community work with the same sense of humility, respect for others, and high ethical standards, that he displayed in all of his scholarly efforts. He had great respect for the hard work that community partners did and was careful that his research complemented that work. As a result he was loved and respected by his community partners. Tom's deep commitment to the community led to his involvement on the boards of the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, the Office for Young Children, the South Sudanese Relief Association, and Lansing Child Abuse Prevention Services.