September 26, 2005
Urie Bronfenbrenner, visionary
September 26, 2005, 1:53 PM EDT
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Urie Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University professor emeritus who helped found the national Head Start program, died at his home Sunday from complications from diabetes, the school announced Monday. He was 88.
The Russian-born Bronfenbrenner _ who was credited with creating the interdisciplinary domain of human ecology _ was widely regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in developmental psychology and child-rearing.
In 1979, Bronfenbrenner developed his groundbreaking concept on the ecology of human development _ the study of human beings and how they interact with their environments. His work led to new directions in basic research and to applications in the design of programs and policies affecting the well-being of children and families both in the United States and abroad.
Earlier in his career, Bronfenbrenner _ along with developmental psychologists Mamie Clark and Edward Zigler _ helped spur the creation of Head Start, the federal child development program for low-income children and their families. Some 20 million children and families have participated in Head Start since its inception in 1965.
Before Bronfenbrenner, child psychologists studied the child, sociologists examined the family, anthropologists the society, economists the economic framework of the times and political scientists the structure. Bronfenbrenner viewed them all as part of the life course, embracing both childhood and adulthood.
Cornell colleague Stephen Ceci, a professor of human ecology who worked closely with Bronfenbrenner for nearly a quarter-century, said Bronfenbrenner's "bioecological" approach to human development shattered barriers among the social sciences and forged bridges among the disciplines.
"Urie was the quintessential person for spurring psychologists to look up and realize that interpersonal relationships, even the smallest level of the child and the parent-child relationship, did not exist in a social vacuum but were embedded in the larger social structures of community, society, economics and politics, while encouraging sociologists to look down to see what people were doing," said Melvin L. Kohn, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, who studied under Bronfenbrenner some 40 years ago.
In his later years, Bronfenbrenner warned that the process that makes human beings human was breaking down as disruptive trends in American society produced ever more chaos in the lives of America's children.
"The hectic pace of modern life poses a threat to our children second only to poverty and unemployment," he said. "The signs of this breakdown are all around us in the ever growing rates of alienation, apathy, rebellion, delinquency and violence among American youth."
Born in Moscow, Russia, in 1917, Bronfenbrenner came to the United States at age 6. He received a bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1938, completing a double major in psychology and music. He later received an M.A. at Harvard followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942.
After graduation, he was inducted into the Army where he served as a psychologist. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1948.
He held many honorary doctoral degrees from American and European universities. The American Psychological Association annually gives an award for "lifetime contribution to developmental psychology" in Bronfenbrenner's name.
He was the author, co-author or editor of more than 300 articles and chapters and 14 books.
At his death, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Sherman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and of Psychology at Cornell University. In 1993, Cornell renamed its Life Course Institute after Bronfenbrenner.
A memorial service organized by his family is planned for Oct. 8. A service for the Cornell community will be announced later, the school said.
He is survived by his wife, Liese; six children, including Kate, who is the director of labor education research at Cornell.
Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press
September 11, 2005
A Week of Tributes
Amidst the shock of the last two weeks post-Katrina and today's sadness of honoring those who died in 9/11, this week brings an opportunity for me to honor three people who have been very important in my life: my father, Floyd Grotevant; my long-time research colleague, Ruth McRoy; and my dissertation co-advisor and mentor/colleague, Richard Weinberg.
My father celebrates his 85th birthday on September 20, but family and friends are gathering this weekend in Dallas to honor him. My sister and I have had a good time planning the event, if for no other reason than it's given us the chance to be in touch more frequently; communicate with cousins, aunts, and uncles we haven't seen in years; and reminisce as we go over old pictures and receive tributes from FOD (friends of dad). Here are 4 generations of Grotevant men.
The occasion has also given me the opportunity to reflect on the contributions my father has made to my life as an adult. Not in terms of possessions, but in terms of enduring qualities that I've seen him exemplify and that I strive to show in my life. Among them...
**optimism – having a positive outlook about the future and relishing each new day for what it will bring
**integrity – “doing the right thing” and expecting others to do so as well
**commitment – unswerving dedication to loved ones and ideals
**engagement – being active in the community and the world
**follow-through – keeping commitments and doing what you said you’d do
**pride – in a job well-done
I'm ready to party!
This week also marks a career transition for my long-time colleague Ruth McRoy. Ruth is retiring from "active duty" as a full time professor at UT, but will be serving for many years to come as a Research Professor based in California but continuing to conduct research, write, mentor, and provide leadership for the field. Ruth and I have been research partners for over 25 years, reaching back to her days as a graduate student and my days as a newbie assistant professor at UT Austin. Here we are celebrating our work together at a favorite Austin site, the Oasis Cantina on Lake Travis. (Sadly, the Oasis burned down last December after being struck by lightning; I hope it will rebuild soon!)
Together, we have written scores of grant applications, interviewed hundreds of adoptive families and birth parents, mentored countless students, celebrated many publications, and traveled all over the world to present our work. It's all been a great privilege and a great adventure to work with such a talented colleague. Ruth's academic talents combine in powerful ways with her commitment to her field (social work) and to all people ultimately served by her work. Words that come to mind include passion, energy, zeal, intelligence, savvy, and leadership.
This Thursday, Richard Weinberg will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota. I can’t think of a better candidate for this recognition. By my reckoning, it was 30 years ago this fall that I was a student in Rich's School Psychology Assessment sequence. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my doctoral program. What I learned in that class about being a keen observer (among many other things) has stood me in good stead throughout my career. He has served as a significant role model from my first year as a graduate student to the present, as we are serving together as senior faculty members in our respective departments. Rich especially taught me how important it is to have faith in people (even when they aren't so confident in themselves), to provide opportunities, to give people room to grow, and to simultaneously and paradoxically be close and let go.
How lucky can I be -- to have three such amazing people in my life for so many years and to be able to honor them in the same week? (My only regret is that our geographical separation means that I will not be able to attend all three events.) The qualities that the three of them embody have been important touchstones in my adult life -- and they are qualities that I hope to pass on to the people whose lives I touch. My love, admiration, and appreciation go out to all three of you!
September 5, 2005
The Federal Government's 'Strange Paralysis'
Daniel Schorr had a brilliant piece on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon. Listen to it here ... (The link will take you to the NPR website, at which you can choose to hear the commentary either on Real Player or Windows Media Player.)
He began with the quote, "Government is the enemy until you need a friend" but added, "and then your friend may turn out to be dysfunctional." Among the many disgusting revelations of this affair is that the Times-Picayune ran a series of articles several years ago predicting that exactly this scenario would occur if a category 4 hurricane were to strike. And no one listened. On a website I read this morning, it mentioned that when a huge hurricane passed through Cuba in 2004. 1.5 million people were evacuated, and 20,000 homes were destroyed, but NOT ONE life was lost. It's because the government had a plan to evacuate everyone -- it didn't just tell people "You're on your own. Get the hell out!" It took responsibility. Where is our concern for the common good? Where is our responsibility?
September 4, 2005
Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?
Anne Rice had an eloquent, moving op-ed piece in the New York Times this morning:
"Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?"
Read it here.
...or by going to http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rice.html
Sadness beyond belief...