Memorial: Two of the Best

Our profession has recently lost two of the most influential figures in the history of psychology! One of the most influential scientists in the field of human development and learning, and media psychology, Albert Bandura, died at age 95, and one of the most influential psychotherapists since Freud, Aaron T. Beck, passed at 100. These two icons bestrode the fields of psychology and psychiatry like collosi, each contributing monumental advances to our science and practice, Bandura on social learning theory and more, Beck on cognitive behavior therapy, dethroning Freud along the way, and more. I knew both very well and treasured our friendship. As an ongoing effort at our APA Annual Conventions, I have each year for many years had live Conversation Hours with the giants of our field, and that, of course, included. Beck and Bandura. With Tim Beck, the Conversation Hours go back over a decade. These were always SRO sessions, among the very largest at the Convention. And for the Beck sessions, as his birthday was shortly before the time of the Convention, I led the audience, whom I sometimes dubbed ‘The Cognitive Science Singers,’ in a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ With the help of volunteers, I passed out birthday cards so the many hundreds in attendance could leave him a greeting and message. He loved that! He loved the wonderful comments, best wishes, and the hand-written thanks for his contributions!

These two scientist-practitioners would have warranted Nobel Prizes if there was such an award for psychology, which regrettably, there is not. But Beck certainly warranted the prize in medicine, which to my knowledge has never been given to a psychiatrist. I note here that although Beck was a psychiatrist, he was elected a Fellow of our APA, and his contributions were as much or greater in the broad field of psychology than psychiatry. These two leaders had amazing staying powers, doing important work right to the end of their long lives.

I first met Al Bandura when he was APA President, and I discovered that we were born but a few miles apart in Alberta, Canada, and I discovered that we were both born but a few miles apart in Alberta, Canada! Several years later I was elected President, bringing the historical number of Canadian APA Presidents to four!

One feature of my long-time friendship with Beck and Bandura was their continuing willingness to join my doctoral course on History and Systems of Psychology: Know the Profession, by telephone or Skype, chatting with the students and taking their questions. On occasion in my Personality and Psychotherapy graduate course Tim Beck invited the students to the renowned Beck Institute and onetime invited the entire class to his home—”We’ll have tea!” Upon leaving the Beck home at the end of that wonderful evening, I noted the students lined up on the street around the mailbox labeled ‘Beck’ taking pictures. They felt that the evening must have been like an evening at the home of Freud over a hundred years ago and were so excited about that sense!

Both Beck and Bandura were warm, open, engaging, and wonderfully friendly people. Both made enormous contributions to our understanding of life, and how to better our lives. Their combined impact has historically been as great or greater than any pair of outstanding scholar-practitioners one could mention!

In closing, I note that at Tim Beck’s invitation, I had a wonderful evening with him at age 100, at his apartment in Philadelphia, shortly before his passing. We have lost two of the best.

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