Yale Convocation Celebrates 80 Years of Psi Chi

Attendees at the convocation celebrating 80 years since the Ninth International Congress of Psychology and the founding of Psi Chi in 1929.

On September 4, 2009, over 50 faculty and students converged on the stately Presidents Room of Yale University for a convocation to mark “80 years of excellence” since the Ninth International Congress of Psychology and the founding of Psi Chi in 1929. The Ninth International Congress of Psychology, held at Yale on September 1-7, 1929, was called “the most impressive gathering of psychologists in the history of the field” with 826 participants from 21 nations, including such notables as Ivan Pavlov, Jean Piaget, Kurt Lewin, and Alexander Luria (Hogan, 2000).

In a two-part keynote message, historian John Hogan went beyond the 1929 meeting to share scenes of the near-forgotten First International Congress in 1889, held at the then-new Eiffel Tower in Paris. Barely 10 years after Wundt’s first laboratory, this Congress also brought together such diverse notables as Francis Galton of the United Kingdom, Alfred Binet of France, William James of the United States, Cesar Lombroso of Italy, and Ivan Sechenov of Russia.

Hogan also detailed the founding of Psi Chi on September 4, 1929, at the Yale Congress, by two University of Kansas students, Edwin Newman and Frederick “Bud” Lewis. Despite Harvard professor Edwin Boring’s warning against starting yet “another abortive, debilitating organization,” these two students persisted to form Psi Chi, which has now grown into the world’s largest honor society in any field — touching the lives of over 500,000 life members at 1,100 campuses. Psi Chi has been an affiliate of APS since the Association was established in 1988.

The convocation was hosted by Yale professors Peter Salovey, an APS Fellow and Charter Member, and APS Fellow Woo-Kyoung Ahn, who noted Yale’s continuing commitment not only to scholarship, but to undergraduate teaching — a message underscored by student officer Meg Martinez of the Yale Psi Chi chapter. Laurie Santos also served as host for the event.

Psi Chi Eastern Vice President and APS Charter Member Jason Young and Psi Chi Past-President Vincent Prohaska, announced the recent vote in 2009 to re-name Psi Chi “the International Honor Society in Psychology” — with new chapters now forming outside of North America.  In 1981, Psi Chi also formed a new honor society for students at two-year colleges: Psi Beta. Psi Beta past-President L. William Cheney detailed how his society has expanded to 200 U.S. schools.

On behalf of the conferees, Psi Chi presented a commemoration plaque to Yale, saluting  “80 years of excellence.” In addition, Jane Levine presented a Proclamation signed by Mayor John DeStefano, proclaiming September 4, 2009, as “Psychology Day” in the City of New Haven. The Proclamation saluted Yale, Psi Chi, and Psi Beta and saluted APS and APA for growing “into international organizations, with vigorous programs to advance psychology globally.”

Before the two-hour convocation segued into a reception complete with birthday cake, a group photo was taken beneath the picture of two beloved former Executive Officers of Psi Chi and Psi Beta — Ruth Hubbard Cousins (1958-1991) and her daughter Carol Tracy (1981-1999), who boldly shaped their honor societies. This convocation was taped by Richard Velayo and Steven Salbod, and a DVD is available (contact Harold Takooshian at takoosh@aol.com to obtain a copy). Details on the convocation appear at www.psichi.org and www.psibeta.org.

References and Further Reading:


Hogan, J.D. (2000). The founding of Psi Chi at the Ninth International Congress of Psychology, 1929. Eye on Psi Chi, 4, 11-13.
Observer Vol.22, No.8 October, 2009

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