University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

Professor Emeritus George Albee Passes Away

University Communications
Release Date: July 10, 2006
Author: Jon C. Reidel

George Albee, known internationally as the father of the preventionist movement and a professor of psychology at the University of Vermont from 1971 to 1995, died on Saturday, July 8 at his home in Longboat Key, Fla.

Albee, past president of the American Psychological Association (1969-1970), was a staunch believer that mental illness was a result of social inequities such as poverty and discrimination, curable through political and social change. His rejection of the commonly held belief that mental illness was genetically or biologically based was considered controversial and influenced generations of prevention-based psychologists.

"George believed that the only way to eliminate disorders was by preventing them, not treating them," said Justin Joffe, UVM professor of psychology who recently co-wrote an article with Albee on the subject of prevention. "He felt strongly that social inequities like poverty were the real sources of depression and other mental illness. His views were not popular with the pharmaceutical industry which makes billions of dollars a year selling drugs for these 'conditions'. George influenced a lot of people, including myself."

Born in 1921, Albee grew up in Saint Mary's, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia in 1943 and spent three years in the Air Force before entering graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate in 1949 and spent the next two years in a research appointment at Western Psychiatric Institute. After working for the APA as assistant executive secretary, Albee went to Finland for a year on a Fulbright Professorship at Helsinki University. He returned as an associate professor at Western Reserve University and was named professor in 1956 and in 1958 became the George Trumbull Ladd Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Lynn Bond, professor of psychology who first met Albee as a three-year-old while living next door in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, said Albee was very supportive of young faculty and was a mentor to people in need of guidance. "He was very passionate about people's potential," said Bond, who co-authored papers with Albee early in her career. "He was especially supportive of women and women of color. He really took on the major isms of the day such as racism, sexism and ageism. He's the reason I came to UVM. No exaggeration, there are 100 other people like myself who could tell the same story about him. He exuded faith in people."

Albee joined the UVM faculty in 1971. During his long career at the university, Albee established the Vermont Conference on the Primary Prevention of Psychopathology. The VCPPP, which would hold 17 conferences after its inception in 1975, brought together researchers, policymakers, and implementers of prevention programs from throughout the world.

Albee wrote more than a dozen books and countless articles on the merits of prevention and received numerous awards for his work. He was awarded the Gold Medal Award for Public Service from the APA in 1993 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Applied Prevention Psychology in 1997. Albee, who served on the Eisenhower and Carter Presidential Commissions on Mental Health, remained active speaking and writing as an emeritus professor and Courtesy Professor at the Florida Mental Health Institute and the University of South Florida. In 2001, the president of the APA came to UVM to award Albee the rarely-awarded Distinguished Presidential Citation.

A memorial ceremony to be held in August in Burlington is currently being planned by Albee's family.

Last modified July 26 2010 10:07 AM