Renowned social psychologist Carmi Schooler ’54 recently received an award that represents the highest achievement in the field of sociological social psychology: the Cooley Mead Lifetime Achievement Award from the Social Psychology Section of the American Sociological Association.
Schooler’s groundbreaking significant methodological and analytical contributions to understanding social and structural influences of personality, as well as his thoughtful acknowledgement of cultural context in his deep and diverse body of work, earned him this recognition.
Schooler began his career in social psychology during his senior year at Hamilton with a coin toss—heads meant studying social psychology and New York University, and tails meant studying philosophy at Brown University. Schooler remarked, “When the coin landed on heads I found that I was greatly relieved. Since then I have recommended the coin toss method as a way of clarifying which of two choices one actually prefers.”
After his second year at NYU, Schooler accepted a position as a social psychology trainee in a veterans administration psychiatric hospital where he helped conduct a study investigating the importance of increasing social contacts and strengthening social relationships. “As a result of this experience, throughout most of my career I continued to do research on schizophrenia at levels ranging from the biological, through the psychological, to the social,” he explained. “My continuing interest in psychopathology provided the impetus to consider multiple levels of causation in understanding human behavior and is reflected in my sociological social psychology research.”
He received his doctorate degree in psychology in 1958. In 1959, he came to the Laboratory of Socioenivornmental Sciences (LSES) at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he spent the next half-century researching the socioenvironmental conditions on human psychological functioning. He became chief of the unit from 1985 until 2007, when he joined the sociology department at the University of Maryland in College Park, where he is currently a senior research scientist.
Among his myriad achievements, Schooler helped pioneer an advanced linear-structural equation modeling technique, is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and member of the Sociological Research Association, was elected chair of the social psychology section of the American Sociological Association in 2003, held four fellowships from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, and published well over 100 articles and books based on his psychological and sociological research. Two of these articles have been declared Current Content Citation Classics.
This award also inspired Schooler’s fascinating reflection on his time at Hamilton. He commented, “In thinking about and writing about my professional award I could not help turning back to relevant events that form an interesting picture of the Hamilton that I went to.” Schooler continued:
“While writing this I was looking at my Class of 1954 Squires Club Beer Mug which still sits on my desk. Years ago, I pasted a note from B.F. Skinner (Class of 1926) to the Hamilton Alumni Review on the mug. Skinner is probably the most famous psychologist alumnus and among the most famous psychologists in general. His theory stressed the importance of operant conditioning and dismissed the relevance of conscious to behavior. Nevertheless, Skinner wrote to the Alumni Review: ‘It is pretty clear that “glade and glen” is doing the work of the adjective sylvestris and is probably in apposition.’ A good Hamilton education really does stick.
“My experience in entering Hamilton (February 1951), shared by I believe about 50 others, was unique. At the time, Hamilton had pretty much seen the matriculation of the last World War II veteran students and clearly felt the need to find a new source of potentially good students. The new sources that were tapped and who entered in February were Jewish mid-year graduates from select New York City high schools and promising Italian graduates from Utica high schools. Both groups entered Hamilton in February.
“In order to accommodate the mid-year matriculants, Hamilton set up a moderately small scale catch-up summer program that was also open to other Hamilton students who needed additional course work. I was a waiter at the Commons—the only place on campus in which to eat. While waiting-table, I saw that a student from Chi Psi was harassing my friend and roommate Jerry Vogel ’54 (whose lengthy obituary appeared in a recent Alumni Review). In response I poured a pitcher of milk over the harasser’s head. After the two of us were quickly separated, it was agreed that we would meet later in the day near the front of the Sig house to formally ‘fight it out’ and preserve my opponent’s honor. As it turned out, one ‘round’ was actually carried out with no harm done before the ‘fight’ was broken up. Why and by whom remains unclear. I later learned that Professor Barrett was somewhere in the background—somehow brought in to witness the event, although it is not clear by whom or what his role was supposed to be.
“For me (and my friend Jerry—a notably better student than I) Hamilton turned out to be a great place to go to school. I was able to complete significant coursework in three areas (psychology, philosophy and history) as well as to complete the required course distribution needed to graduate.
“I was also able to make to make real life long friends. A notable number of my close friends now are Hamilton connected—Leonard Rubin (one of the Bronx Science boys who arrived at Hamilton as part of the mid-winter admission) and Marcia Reecer (Jerry’s first wife). Finally, Hamilton left me (a semi-jock) with a true carry-over sport—squash. As I write this I am in the process of recovering from knee surgery so that I can go back to being beaten—in a reasonable game—by nationally ranked players in my age category.
“Finally, my views and reported memories of my Hamilton experience may well have played a part in the college choices of my son, Jonathan Schooler ’81, and his daughter, Rachel Schooler ’19.”