Remembering Selim Iltus

It is with profound sadness for us to write that on Sunday July 12th Dr. Selim Iltus passed away. Selim was a wonderful man and a brilliant scholar who worked centrally with the Children’s Environments Research Group from its foundation. He was deeply committed to children’s rights and had a significant impact on the lives of children in many countries. Selim was only 60 years of age and had big plans to continue his work with children back here in New York, working with CERG again. Selim returned in February of this year after serving for six years as the Research and Evaluation Officer for the Bernard van Leer Foundation in The Hague, The Netherlands. He was enthusiastically commenting on our research reports in hospital the week before he died.

We have received dozens of emails from all over the world over the past several weeks and they reveal a remarkable consistency in their summaries of Selim’s character: a calm, wise presence and a wonderful, ironic, sense of humor. We were excited to have him back amongst us in New York. On a personal level I need to say that most of the engaged scholarship that I have done over the years has been done in close partnership with Selim and it is difficult for me to imagine my work without him. On his return to New York Selim had his own research agenda, but he is a natural collaborator and he was desirous to work with us all on our various initiatives for children. We will do our very best to follow through on the research plans Selim intended to carry out with us but, even more importantly, we will endeavor to remember him in how we engage with each other and in our research with young people.

We plan to remember and honor our beloved scholar, friend & change-maker in the world, Selim in a public event this Fall. We will be in touch through this website and our periodic bulletin about our plans for this.

You are profoundly missed Selim,

Roger Hart,

On behalf of his friends in the Children’s Environments Research Group


For those of you who didn’t know Selim we offer here a summary of his impressive career:

Selim graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey in 1979. He graduated from the Graduate School of the City University of New York with a PhD in Environmental Psychology in 1994.

He was the Co-Director of the Children’s Environments Research Group, Center for Human Environments at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York from 1998 to 2008. In that position he designed and executed dozens of research and evaluation projects and trained and managed by many doctoral students.

In the early part of this period, Selim also served as planner and architect to the Department of Juvenile Justice of New York City and was responsible for the programming, design and construction supervision of two juvenile detention centers in New York City for a cost of $65 Million.

During the later part of this period an increasing amount of Selim’s consulting work was on international development projects. He became a Regional Consultant for UNICEF in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic States, designing and implementing evaluation studies on UNICEF country programs and developing policy options. He also worked on post-tsunami construction and development in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia.

With this background in international development Selim moved in 2008 to the Bernard van Leer Foundation in The Hague, The Netherlands, to take up the position of Research and Evaluation Officer. There he managed a large research and evaluation portfolio, supervised evaluations in eight countries, and developed a research and evaluation strategy for the foundation. While at the foundation Selim influenced the direction of the foundation, developing a concern with the physical environment of childhood that had been surprisingly absent from the agendas of all children’s funding agencies. He worked to find ways to develop a focus on urban planning for children’s rights and had a particular concern with supporting children’s’ right to play.

He returned this year to the City University of New York as a Visiting Professor with a three year grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundations to conduct research on the physical environment of early childhood and the impact of development interventions on children during the early years within the nations served by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. During this time, he also wanted to complete much of the writing projects that he had been unable to work on because of his many years as a consultant and as an overseer of the research of others.

It is impossible to list all of his work in this post but some of his selected work could be seen here for readers who would like to connect him via his writing in the future.