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Urie Bronfenbrenner


Urie Bronfenbrenner, co-founder of Head Start and widely regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in developmental psychology, child-rearing and human ecology, died at Kendal at Ithaca yesterday after a long illness. He was 88. Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology, Emeritus at Cornell University.Urie Bronfenbrenner was born on April 29, 1917 in Moscow, Russia, son of Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner and Eugenie Kamenetski Bronfenbrenner. Six years later he came to the United States. After a brief stay in Pittsburgh, the family settled in Letchworth Village, the home of the New York State Institution for the Mentally Retarded, where his father worked as a clinical pathologist and research director.After his graduation from Haverstraw High School, Urie attended Cornell University where he completed a double major in psychology and music in 1938. He went on to graduate work in developmental psychology, completing an M.A. at Harvard followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942. Twenty-four hours after receiving his doctorate he was inducted into the Army where he served as a psychologist in a variety of assignments in the Air Corps and the Office of Strategic Services. After completing officer training he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.Right after the war, Bronfenbrenner worked briefly as Assistant Chief Clinical Psychologist for Administration and Research for the Veterans' Administration before beginning his work as Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Michigan. In 1948 he accepted a professorship in Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology at Cornell University, his Alma Mater. He became well known at Cornell and beyond, for his extensive research and writings in the field of human development, international comparisons of child rearing, and his development of the theories of Human Ecology and the Bio-ecological Model. His extensive writings on these subjects include the books Two Worlds of Childhood, The Ecology of Human Development, and his final work, Making Human Beings Human. He was well known for his large classes that filled Bailey Hall, in which he challenged his students to think critically, engaging more than 900 students in one large discussion section.In November 1942, Urie Bronfenbrenner and Liese Price were married in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the first years of their marriage Urie was in the military, then after the war moving first to Michigan in 1946, and then in 1948 with their two eldest children returning to Cornell. Shortly after coming back to Cornell, the family moved to Forest Home, an area with good neighbors, near the woods and gorges the family grew to love, and within biking distance to Urie's Cornell office in Martha Van Rensselear Hall. Urie also loved music--classical, folk, and jazz, and passed on his love of music to his children, and, most especially, his grandchildren.Urie Bronfenbrenner was an active member of numerous professional and government organizations both in this country and abroad. He has received many awards, including six honorary degrees, including three from European universities. In 1996 he received the first American Psychological Association Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the service of Science and Society. This award is now given in his name. As one of the founders of Head Start, he was also given the Life-long Mentor Award presented by the Program Committee for Head Start at the first National Research Conference in 2000. In recognition of his scholarship and leadership in linking basic research to social policy, the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center was named in his honor in 1993 in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell.Bronfenbrenner taught, lectured, attended international conferences, and carried out research in North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Rim. He worked as a fellow for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; at the Max Planck Institute for Bildungsforschung in Berlin-Dahlem; and at universities in Bern, Switzerland; Moscow, Russia; Munich, Germany; Melbourne, Australia; Tel Aviv, Israel; Kobe, Japan; as well as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Center for the Study of Family and Society at the University of Konstanz, Germany.Urie Bronfenbrenner is survived by his wife, Liese and his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild including: Beth Soll of New York City (child: Jacob Soll (Ellen Wayland-Smith) child: Sophia); Ann Stambler (Monty Stambler) of Newton Center, MA (children: Liz (Tom Pasquini), Ben, and Sam); Mary Bronfenbrenner of Ithaca (children: Maggie, Sara, and Nikolas Mateer); Michael Bronfenbrenner (Jacqueline Cox) of Seal Beach, CA (children: Skye, Nina, and AJ); Kate Bronfenbrenner (Coert Bonthius) of Ithaca (children: Daniel and Rosa Bonthius); and Steven Bronfenbrenner (Elena Bales) of San Anselmo, CA (child: Ross).A memorial service for friends, colleagues, and family will be at 3 pm, Saturday, October 8, 2005 at the Kendal at Ithaca Auditorium.Memorial donations can be made in Urie Bronfenbrenner's name to the following:Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, Beebe Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853.
Published in Ithaca Journal on Sept. 27, 2005
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