Sept. 20, 2001
Vol. 21 No. 1

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    Professor Emeritus Neugarten dies at 85

    Bernice Neugarten, Professor Emeritus in Behavioral Science and a pioneer in the study of aging, died Sunday, July 22, in her Hyde Park apartment. She was 85.

    Her work on the aging process, which began almost accidentally when she was asked to teach a course on the subject at the University, disproved many of the common myths about aging in the 1950s.

    “Bernice Neugarten was intellectually tough-minded and personally supportive and nurturing,” said colleague Richard Shweder, Professor in the Committee on Human Development. “She gave her junior colleagues the confidence that they could think big and research narrowly, and make a contribution to a humanistic science of adult lives in different cultural and historical settings.”

    Neugarten, who had taken high school courses as an 11-year-old in her native Nebraska, completed a bachelor’s degree in 1936 at the University and received an A.M. in 1937 at the age of 21. She enrolled in the University’s Committee on Child Development, which later expanded its work to include adults. She was the first person to receive a Ph.D. in 1943 from the interdisciplinary program after its name was changed to the Committee on Human Development.

    After taking time off to begin a family, she returned part time to the committee in 1951. In 1958, she was named Director of the University’s Graduate Training Program in Adult Development and Aging and guided more than 80 students in their doctoral research on the topic of aging.

    “Bernice Neugarten had a broad vision of the course of life from earliest childhood to oldest age. While much of her work focused on the second-half of life, she viewed older lives in terms of both earlier life experiences and social context, which led to her interest in social policy.

    She was the author and co-author of numerous articles and several important books, including Society and Education (1957), Personality in Middle and Late Life (1964), Middle Age and Aging (1968), Adjustment to Retirement (1969), and Social Status in the City (1971). 

    Neugarten  was named a member of the Technical Committee on Research and Demonstration for the 1971 White House Conference on Aging. She was a member of the Technical Committee on Aging Research of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and was a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging.

    She also was instrumental in organizing the 1982 White House Conference on Aging.

    She received numerous awards,  including the Gold Medal Award for Life Contributions by a Psychologist in the Public Interest in 1994 from the American Psychological Association.

    Her husband, Fritz Neugarten, died in 1990. She is survived by a brother, Jack Levin, of Omaha, Neb.; daughter, Dail, of Denver, Colo.; and a son, Jerrold, of Hannacroix, N.Y.  Other survivors are two granddaughters, Rachel and Sadie; and a grandson, Carter. A memorial service at the University is planned for November.