Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Co-founder of the Milestones Project
Value of Adelphi degree: “Being trained in social work gives you a license to be a responsible adult.”
Adelphi memory: “Joining with other School of Social Work students to raise money to send three classmates to Alabama for the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in 1965.”
First job after Adelphi: Two years in St. Lucia, documenting community change projects for the University of the West Indies.
They are the photographs we all take: images of birthday parties, a child’s first faltering steps, gap-toothed grins, and funny costumes.
And yet, compiled by Richard Steckel M.S.W. ’66, they become tools to counter prejudice, intolerance, and hatred around the world.
Dr. Steckel and his wife Michele founded the Milestones Project in 1998, vowing to do more to help foster global understanding and acceptance. Their goal was to use captivating images to demonstrate that the significant moments of childhood and adolescence are truly universal.
With no formal training in photography and only their personal funding, they began taking pictures of children, following Dr. Steckel’s business travels to various countries. Seven years later, the Milestones Project has captured more than 35,000 award-winning photographs in 24 countries.
It has also captured the hearts and minds of more than 100 million people. In airports, museums, and schools from Denver to London to Auckland, people have been inspired by its mission.
Dr. Steckel, a pioneer in sustainable nonprofit management and fund-raising strategies, has partnered with schools, community groups, and corporations to further promote the project. Their photographs have been adapted into books, puzzles, posters, and other learning tools.
Even with numerous future exhibitions planned, including one at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Dr. Steckel is eager to push on to the final element of the project: an International Peace Prize for Children.
“We want to inspire, recognize, and reward the potential that young people have to break down social and cultural barriers,” he says.
The Milestones Project has gained recognition of its own. In 2003, it received the Global Peace and Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations, and in 2007, Dr. Steckel and his wife were named Purpose Prize fellows.
Prior to creating Milestones, Dr. Steckel was the president of Addventure Network, a consulting firm specializing in social enterprise and nonprofit entrepreneurship. He is the author of several best-selling books including Filthy Rich: Turning Nonprofit Fantasies into Cold, Hard Cash and Making Money while Making a Difference. He also served as executive director of the Denver Children’s Museum for eight years.
“Social Work was an accident in my life,” he says. “I got to where I am by always trying to do the unexpected. I enjoy hearing people say, ‘Gee, you didn’t have to do that!’”
Dr. Steckel and Michele live in Denver, Colorado. When they’re not working on the Milestones Project, they enjoy spending time with their three children and seven grandchildren. An avid boxer, Dr. Steckel has recently added cooking to his list of hobbies.
As he says, “Life is taken up by cash flow, timing, and trade-offs; in the end only relationships and memorable meals really count!”