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In memoriam: Edward Bernard Klein

November 17, 2016

Edward Bernard Klein, PhD, a former clinical faculty member with the Yale Department of Psychiatry who embraced the community psychology movement, died on November 8. He was 85.

Klein began his career in research and clinical psychology at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital and at the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) in New Haven. CMHC was one of the first community-based mental health centers in the country. Klein was involved in The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and The AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems. His scholarship, clinical work and community activities were informed by his understanding of how unconscious thoughts and feelings affect groups of all kinds, including families, workplaces and larger communities.

As a professor at Yale in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, he was immersed in the community psychology movement. He developed a social systems perspective on teaching, research, supervision, clinical work and consultation. He embraced a multi-disciplinary approach that continued throughout his career and which lead to work with diverse groups such as the New Haven Police and Black Panthers, managers and workers at every level in the corporate and non-profit world. He worked with training programs that honed organizational skills to enable people living under extreme conflict to be more effective leaders in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

His research during his time at Yale focused on group and inter-group relations as well as human development across the life-span. He was an integral part of the research team lead by Daniel Levinson that explored and explained the common pattern underlying adult development. Their research on stability and transition through adult life offered a new way of thinking about growing older. In particular, the idea of transition at mid-life sparked the notion of “mid-life crisis,” which became a reference point for shifts in the popular culture. Published in 1978, "The Seasons of a Man’s Life" was translated into many languages and published widely for both academic and popular audiences.

Klein left Yale in 1975 to direct the clinical psychology program including the mental health center at the University of Cincinnati. In 1978, AK Rice designated Klein a fellow for his enduring and significant contributions to the field of group relations. During this time, he continued to deepen his research in organizational behavior, as well as personal training in individual and group therapy.

His increasing work in group relations and organizational dynamics lead him back to Yale as a visiting professor at the School of Management (SOM) in 1984. While at SOM he honored the clerical workers strike by holding his classes off-campus. He also arranged for union members and students to meet and learn from each other. He was a champion for working women, first generation and other non-traditional students.

Back at UC, Klein consulted with Proctor and Gamble and other organizations in Cincinnati and around the world. He edited and contributed to several books about leadership, anxiety, economic insecurity, and other aspects of the changing workplace. He was an active member of the Cincinnati Analytic Institute and director of the Midwest Group Relations Conference

Born in 1931 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Klein was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who instilled in him a strong work ethic, deep sense of social justice and love of learning. As a young boy he sold penny cigarettes on the boardwalk, played baseball, learned to dance from his father and to organize from his mother who was PTO president and a community activist. He was accepted to Brooklyn Tech High School, which he credits with steering him on the path to higher education. He majored in sociology and psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where he was supported by the GI bill for his army service during the Korean War. While working on his doctorate in psychology at Columbia University in New York City, he met Teri Youngman, a fellow Ann Arbor graduate. They were married across from Compo Beach in Westport, where Teri’s parents lived

Klein's priority for human connection informed all of his decisions. He often said that good social research was not neutral. He understood and appreciated the context of his research and showed genuine concern for the communities in which he worked. He believed that people needed to be heard in order to feel valued and appreciated for their unique contributions.

He was a serious and brave scholar and a dedicated mentor and advocate. His PhD students were an eclectic mix of people working on creative and multi-disciplinary projects. He was a critical and thoughtful person who was truly engaged in the life of the mind.

Klein was a wonderful father. As a young divorced dad, he was devoted to his daughters, Laura and Karen, and enjoyed taking them to work, reading aloud, creating interesting and beautiful games on rainy days, going to art museums, libraries, and jazz concerts, participating in political rallies and breaking rules. He had a great sense of humor and introduced them to Saturday Night Live in its first season. He enjoyed going to baseball games and taking them to cheer on the Cincinnati Reds in their World Series winning seasons when he first moved to Cincinnati.

Klein especially loved his grandchildren, Eli and Iris Parsons, Rebecca Klein and Charis Jones, and was incredibly proud of them. His favorite place to be with them was near the ocean. He enjoyed running on the trails in Stony Creek, walking through the woods to swim in the kettle ponds of Wellfleet, catching a wave at Newcomb Hollow and reading at the beach until sunset.

In the past few years, after a quadruple bypass, he struggled with atypical Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia with Lewy bodies. Even in illness, he maintained his unusual gift for connectedness until the end of his life. He was well-cared for at home by his loving partner Liz with support from his primary care physician, Hospice of the Blue Grass and a team of caregivers who appreciated his generosity, sense of humor, and encouragement for their own professional development.

Klein died peacefully at home with his family before the polls opened on Election Day, 2016, his final protest against bigotry and hatred. In his death as in his life, he affirmed his deep respect for humanity, his love for his family and his hope for the world.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on November 18, 2016