Robert S. Wallerstein Memorial
Marin County, California | April, 11, 2015
Welcome and thank you.
Amy Wallerstein Friedman
I am honestly overwhelmed and truly touched by this turnout and responsiveness. It is so sad to be here now, but lessened by your presence and support.
It has been an incredible joy and honor to learn from all of you through your cards, e-mails, and stories, all the ways my father touched your lives. Many of you wrote about him being one of the last legends standing, or that he was a true lion in the field, and you also wrote about his absolute regard for consensus, inclusion, and always respecting the process and everyone along the way, you shared how he had changed your lives.
My father was a very simple man. He loved two things, and he loved them fiercely. First, he loved psychoanalysis, he loved the theory, he loved the research, he loved the learning within each clinical hour, he loved the thinking back and forth through articles and differing opinions, and he loved his role and his ideal of uniting all the dispersant factions and working together towards a common understanding.
And he loved my mother. He felt blessed by her. He spent a lifetime pleasing her, taking care of her, and always listening to her. She led the pack and we followed. My father wanted nothing more than to make her smile and that was the world to him. He never fought with her, the most he would say is “Oh Judy”, and then he would find a way to make it right by her.
She was his light, his muse and always his reason for doing all that he did. She supported his career, his writing, his successes, and all his honors. She was his solid support every inch along the way.
If you look at every part of his life, and every action he took, it was led by those two very strong and very clear values. His love of psychoanalysis and his love of my mother.
My father was born in Germany in 1921. His father had been a Rabbinical scholar, and by age 16 was well on his way to be a very respected leader in his community. However, after a young marriage, and Jewish divorce in his mid-20’s he left his village, and his Jewish studies, and went to Berlin and entered medical school. There my grandfather met my grandmother who was an artist. They married. Dad was born. In 1922, my grandfather was worried about life in Berlin as a young Jewish doctor, and he set out for New York. In 1923, he sent for his wife and my father. So, although born in Germany, Dad was raised in the Bronx. When he was 9 his parents had a second child Immanuel.
Dad remembered his childhood fondly, playing in the streets, and not taking school too seriously. However, he was a smart child and skipping students ahead was common practice, Dad graduate high school at 15 ½ years of age at 5’2” tall.
My grandmother felt that sending a 15 year old to college was a bad idea, so instead she sent my father to live with her bachelor brother, Marcus who was a doctor, at that time living in Mexico. My grandmother was not the typical Jewish Mother; she wanted her son to be an artist. So, Dad study art in Mexico and was sent to the same teacher who was teaching Diego Rivera. My father loved this year in Mexico, living with his uncle, who had a flare for the good life, plenty of parties, enjoying the company of well-connected people, and feeling very sophisticated.
Upon return he entered Columbia University, and then continued into Columbia Medical School. My grandmother was disappointed, she had wanted an artist.
In college, through his involvement in Avocah a Zionist organization he met my mother. He could describe up to his death his clear exact memory of seeing her across the room, and how he would always say, that he knew she was the one. She was a student from Hunter College, recently back from living in Palestine, and he was swept off his feet. Mom was more mildly impressed, in that Dad had a job, which was to manually move the numbers on the football score board during a Columbia football game, however, he was at least employed which for her was a true plus.
Due to his required army service as a doctor, and lack of money, their courtship took a few bumps and bruises and it was not until 1947 that they married.
Dad was stationed in Washington State running an infectious disease ward. Mom was working as a social worker in NY. They wrote to each other once if not twice daily. After Mom died I unearthed Dad’s old army trunk. Inside he had kept all the letters she wrote him. He re-read every single one. And for those who knew, my mother’s handwriting that was not an easy task. He felt in as much love with her after 65 years as he had as a young courting soldier.
After the war they returned to NY, and Dad aimed to continue his studies in infectious diseases. His residency was not supposed to begin immediately and to fill the time, Dad accepted a rotation on a psychiatric unit. It was during this period that Dad’s sense of his interest and his clear second love affair began. The story goes that during this time he learned of Menninger’s Foundation, and applied to them for a residency. His Chief of Staff on internal medicine, a famous doctor named Snapper said, you will be lucky and given the gift of a lifetime if they turn you down. Well, he was accepted. Dad returned home that night, excited, told Mom that they were moving to Topeka, Kansas. Mom, still not that knowledgeable about the US, said great, thinking it was a suburb of New York. It was a great shock when she learned that Topeka was in Kansas.
In 1949, my parents moved to Topeka. In 1951, my brother Michael was born, Nina followed, and I was the youngest. Topeka was true middle class small town America, except all the family friends were transplanted psychiatrists.
Dad’s career there began as a psychiatric resident, he completed his analytic training there, and he rose to become the director of training. They were there 17 years. They loved the community, the friendships, the ease of raising the children, and sense of safety.
However, Topeka began to feel smaller each year. Dad was invited to be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science for a 9 month period. We all moved to Stanford for one year. Upon return they knew it was time to move on.
In the next year, 1966, we moved to Belvedere, California. The rest of the story is more locally known. 9 years at Mt. Zion, San Francisco, and in 1975 moving over to University of California San Francisco, UCSF, there as Chairman for many years, and then slowing down to just a 25 hour/week practice in 1990, and fully retiring from practice in 2000. In these years Dad became involved in the American Psychoanalytic Association, as well as the International Psychoanalytic Association, created the Doctor of Mental Health (DMH) program, and tried to hold onto psychoanalytically oriented leaderships in medical departments of psychiatry. On these fronts Dad’s career began gradually, but by the early ‘70’s he was travelling a lot, and becoming more and more involved in organizational politics.
My sister and brother were already off to college and beyond, and it was just me at home. So, instead of passing on these professional opportunities, I was taken along. I had been to 6 American congresses, and 3 international congresses, as well as yearly meetings at Hampstead by the time I was 17. Mom saw these career opportunities for Dad, and we were off. Her support for him and his career was unwavering.
Through all these times, and in fact even when he was a doctor specializing in infectious disease, Dad wrote. And Dad wrote. And Dad wrote. Most evenings Dad was at as his table, every house had a table where Dad wrote. Dad wrote over 20 books, and 400 articles. In fact there are still 2 articles in the pipeline that will be published in the next year. Dad wrote all his papers long hand, he never learned to type, blue pen, single draft, totally and fully organized in his head. He would self-edit his own papers once with a red pen, changing comma’s, punctuation, and maybe even adding a phase, but that was all. He was definitely a prolific writer, perhaps not an elegant writer, and one that might have used a good editor, but he certainly had ideas. After Mom died he said he was done and out of ideas. That year he wrote 4 more articles.
Dad was truly saddened by the changing pressures and expectations on the field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in that he felt practionerers were working too hard, and did not have the time to think and to write. He felt very strongly that writing should be part of the job, part of the contribution, to give back, and to use that information to learn and to grow this profession collectively. He so loved this profession he felt that without the writing, and research, and continued learning the profession would become isolated, and self-righteous, and obsolete.
My father was a true intellect; he felt ideas were the most important thing in the world. And he was passionate about the world of ideas within psychoanalysis. He fought hard through his involvement in the American Psychoanalytic Association and International Psychoanalytic Association, to keep everyone in the fold, and to have an acceptance of differences and to work toward that common ground. He felt that the only way to bridge this over space and time was through consensus building and writing.
Dad was also a man with a huge breathe of knowledge. He practically had a photographic memory. He and mom would love to go to museums, and years later Dad could recall what pieces of art had been in that exhibit and on which wall. If you have the opportunity to visit his home, he loved walking you through their art and telling you the story behind each piece. He truly loved music; my parents would frequent the symphony, the opera, and chamber music. He found great solace in continuing to go to music after mom died. Dad loved to read. He read all and I will repeat all the articles in the professional journals that he received monthly or quarterly. He did not pick and choose. He read the entire journal. He also read the New York Times daily, the regular subscription of magazines like the New Yorker, the Economist, and the Jerusalem Report to just begin the list. He finally felt he had time after Mom died and he decided to re-read himself through the classics.
My father would rarely judge and if so, so mildly you needed to know him to know it was a negative judgment. If we were at the theater or concert and the first act was horrible, we never, and I repeat never left, perhaps the second half would improve. Not only would he not judge, he seldom got mad… not at Mom, and even in professional situations, like his more conflictual exiting of the chairmanship at UCSF, he was not one to rage or be upset, he was just profoundly saddened by peoples behaviors and their needs for power and fractionization. I spent my entire adolescents trying to get my father to yell at me. My brother and sister both failed in this regard. I have a recollection of barely accomplishing this once.
My Dad’s life did hold a profound sadness. The death of his son, Michael, in 2006 rocked him and this family to the core. I was in awe how at the funeral less than 2 days after Michael’s death, Dad was able to stand in a room such as this and speak extemporaneously about Michael, his childhood, his marriage, his career, and his children. He was a truly amazing speaker.
And most of all my father was a great story teller. He always had the perfect story, or joke, and comment on any situation. I used to marvel at how he could remember the most mundane joke, or the perfect situation, and even the right quote. He would just shrug. Dad loved his stories. As my kids got older and could drive they would often have dinner with my parents on their own. The family joke was always that at each meal, never remembering that he had told it before, he would tell them the train story. The basic story is that my dad as a Captain in the army commandeered a train carrying patients from Washington State to NYC so he could have a date with my mother. He could tell this story in loving and exaggerated details, simply wanting the grandchildren to hear the depth of his love for my mother, and his one time he did something slightly mischievous in using his last $10 to bribe the engineer to find a fault with the train so it needed a 24 hour period to fix something before it could return. He loved that story.
Dad’s life changed in June 2012. He never thought he would outlive Mom. Mom was his light, his entertainment, his connection to social relationships, his muse, his reason for living.
She gave him flight.
He found the most comfort being in their home of 50 years, and remembering her. He was a man of routine, and the routines of reading, of writing, attending every concert or play kept a rhythm to his life.
After 2+ years he was ready.
My mother started a tradition that the Wallersteins get together for 4-5 days every December to celebrate Hanukah. She was flexible, it does not have to actually be on Hanukah, but everyone must come, it was called a command performance. The Wallersteins were coming together to celebrate Hanukah on 12/19/14. Dad had gathered the entire family. He got up to walk down the hall, I held his arm, he collapsed in my arms, and died with the entire family around him. He was just done.
Dad had done mom’s bidding one last time, brought the family together. He died with all of us. With no pain, no medical interventions, no decisions, just us together.
Dad’s two passions kept him alive and connected to the end. His impact on psychoanalysis will be read and discussed for years ahead, and this family is together and tight and lovingly supportive due to their partnership.
W. Walter Menninger, M.D.
Robert Wallerstein – The Topeka Years: 1949-1966
On this auspicious occasion, I have been asked to share some thoughts regarding the years of Bob Wallerstein’s life in Kansas, where he went in 1949 to get his psychiatric and later psychoanalytic training at the Menninger School of Psychiatry and the Topeka Institute of Psychoanalysis. The Menninger Clinic had been approved for training in psychiatry in the late 1930’s, but an unprecedented expansion in that training program following World War II made the Menninger School of Psychiatry, for a while, the largest training program for psychiatrists in the world.
A word about Topeka in the 1940’s: It was a relatively small, homogenous community of 40,000; a state capital; home of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway; more rural than urban. The Menninger Clinic was a significant enterprise and employer in the community. The Clinic attracted a number of émigré psychoanalysts escaping the holocaust in Europe in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. They strengthened the institution’s commitment to psychoanalysis and helped form the nucleus for the sixth Training Psychoanalytic Institute in the United States, the first established west of the Mississippi River.
With the advent of the Menninger School of Psychiatry in the late 40’s, there was an influx of highly motivated, challenging doctors from all over the country and world, many who were veterans from World War II and had young families. This group became a close-knit professional community of colleagues whose families shared similar interests and activities. Many who received their professional training in Topeka established friendships that continued well after they left to pursue their careers elsewhere. Bob and Judy’s years in Topeka were the years of their developing family. Their three children grew up with the children of other analysts, celebrated holidays together and bar and bat mitzvahs, and established lifelong friendships with their young friends.
It is my privilege to share these thoughts here today because one of Bob’s dear friends and former Topeka colleague Howard Shevrin, now living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was scheduled to share his thoughts about Bob’s Topeka years. Regrettably, Howie’s health prevents him from being with us today.
Let me offer a disclaimer here, insofar as my familiarity with Bob’s life in Topeka. At the time he came to Topeka for training, I departed Topeka for my undergraduate and graduate education, returning for my own psychiatric training in 1958, only to spend another three plus years away in uniformed service. So during most of Bob’s time in Topeka, I was not involved with the institution. I was aware of the high regard for him held by my father (Dr. Will Menninger) and uncle (Dr. Karl Menninger), and their great respect and appreciation for his commitment to and leadership in the research area, especially in a pioneering psychotherapy research project.
It was subsequent to his completion of the psychiatric residency, that Bob joined the Menninger staff, completed training in psychoanalysis, and assumed a significant research responsibility, ultimately heading the Menninger Research Department. In the early 1950’s, he joined a group of Menninger psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts in a comprehensive study of psychotherapy, serving as secretary and later as the director of that project. In 1956, he detailed the concepts of that seminal research project in the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic [BMC 20:239-252, 1956]. Subsequently he authored progress reports on the project in the Menninger Bulletin [BMC 22:115-166, 1958; BMC 24:157-216, 1960]. His book, “Forty-two Lives in Treatment,” is a definitive overview and summary of significant findings of that study, and was required reading in my psychoanalytic training. After Bob left Menninger, the study leadership was taken over by Otto Kernberg, but Bob authored a preface to the final report of the psychotherapy research project in 1972 [BMC 36:vii-ix, 1972].
Colleagues who did work with Bob describe him as “Mr. Decency personified.” They remember him as a fair, judicious and balanced administrator. He is quoted as observing “you can get an awful lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit for it.” He focused on bringing colleagues together by finding a common ground, and he worked hard to get everybody’s input in to the mix. He valued the personal touch in relationships. He was also recalled as being a thoroughly loving and dedicated husband to Judy. I do recall that his decision to depart Topeka to move to San Francisco was profoundly disappointing to my father and uncle. But, as with many other “alumni” of the Menninger experience, he left to share his talents with a larger professional community.
The first decade of this century, it was my privilege to edit the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. During this time, I was deeply grateful for Bob’s continued commitment to that publication and his assistance to me in myriad ways as a member of the editorial board. I was deeply moved when Amy sent to me, after his death, a letter he had not yet signed, composed in response to my annual letter to friends. He observed that I was the one remaining strong contact that he still had with Menninger and Topeka and “the wonderful life I had there.” We are profoundly grateful that he spent an important part of his early professional life in Topeka.
Bob Wallerstein was born in Berlin in 1921. His father, a physician who was descended from a family of rabbinical scholars in Prague, his mother an artist from Galicia, had both come to Berlin where they married in 1919. Bob moved to New York at the age of 2, started kindergarten at 3, was double promoted five times, and graduated high school third in his class of 1250 at age 15. (He was also 3rd shortest.) He spent a gap year living with a bachelor uncle in Mexico, and then entered Columbia College in 1937. He had wanted to go to Harvard and was accepted there, but couldn’t afford the cost; Columbia meant that he could live at home and commute. He was a superior student, Phi Beta Kappa, valedictorian at Columbia in 1941, and his leadership and organizational skills became apparent early as he developed and ran a study group of peers that met regularly in his home.
In high school, Bob had been interested in a career in architecture or engineering, but his father dissuaded him, arguing that a physician was not dependent on getting along with a firm or an institution. This may have been true about medicine in 1940, and perhaps particularly about Jews in medicine in 1940, but it certainly wasn’t true about Bob Wallerstein, whose organizational and leadership skills defined a major theme of his career. The picture was further complicated by Bob’s mother, a Jewish mother who didn’t want her son to be a doctor but rather an artist.
Nevertheless, after Columbia College, Bob went to medical school. Once again he wanted Harvard but couldn’t afford it and went to Columbia, aiming at internal medicine. He graduated AOA in ’44 (a three year program because of World War II) and went to Mt. Sinai in New York City for his internship and medical residency. He spent five years in internal medicine, two in the army, and three at Mt. Sinai, including a year as Chief Resident. He was married in ’47 and made a major decision, to shift to psychiatry. He started training at Menninger in January of ’49, when he and Judy moved to Topeka. He had completed college, medical school and medical residency, but was only 28.
II. 1949 – 1975
Bob spent 17 years at Menninger, first as a resident, then as Assistant Director, and Director of Research. For him, psychiatric training was a prelude to psychoanalytic training. He had originally planned to return to New York, Mt. Sinai and the New York Psychoanalytic Institute for psychoanalytic training, but to his and everyone else’s astonishment, he was rejected by the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. (To an outsider, it is clear evidence of their error, but Bob may have been too close to see this. When he told the story, he added in a footnote that the New York Psychoanalytic later honored him with the Heinz Hartmann Award, the Freud Anniversary Lecture, and the Charles Fisher Memorial Lecture. Menninger and San Francisco owe New York Psychoanalytic their gratitude.)
It was at Menninger that Bob received his psychoanalytic training, and that several themes that marked his professional career emerged: (1) enthusiam for interdisciplinary collaboration among psychiatrists, psychologists and others, and the removal of barriers to the psychoanalytic training of non-psychiatrists; (2) systematic empirical research on the process and outcome of treatment, and; (3) the relationship of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. His leadership role at Menninger research further developed and demonstrated his organizational skills and his extraordinary ability to bring people of different views together and to moderate, integrate and synthesize collaborative results that surpassed what any of them might have accomplished separately. He was a skilled clinician, teacher and researcher, but his most remarkable genius was as a leader of other skilled peers. His father was wrong; Bob was able to get along with institutions.
His success led to his next and final move—to the leadership of Psychiatry at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and a Professorship at the University of California, San Francisco Department of Psychiatry in 1966. He also began his rapid rise in the leadership of the American Psychoanalytic Association, which he had joined in 1960. He was Chair of the Committee on Training for Research, Chair of the Committee on Scientific Activities, Chair of the Fund for Psychoanalytic Research, and in 1970-72 President Elect and then President. For the first time he established research as a basic mission of the psychoanalytic profession and of the American Psychoanalytic Association, alongside clinical and teaching activities.
III. 1975 – 2014
In 1975 Bob moved across town from Mt. Zion to become Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, a position that he occupied until 1985 During this period he continued to work on his favorite themes—the role of empirical research in psychoanalysis, the relationship between psychoanalytic institutes and universities, the training of psychoanalysts who are not psychiatrists, and the survival and flourishing of the profession of psychoanalysis.
His leadership of the International Psychoanalytic Association was particularly important in the last of these. He was Vice President from 1977 – 1985 and President from 1985 – 1989, particularly fateful years for the organization and the profession. He presided over a major reorganization, for the first time recognizing three equal regions—Europe, North America and Latin America. He established a new publications policy. He managed a particularly difficult political and ethical crisis in Brazil, and in so doing established the authority of the International over ethical problems in its member institutes.
He initiated research and research training as a central mission of the organization. Perhaps most important, and certainly most time consuming, he was the central figure in the management and eventual resolution of the conflict over the psychoanalytic training of nonphysicians by the American Psychoanalytic Association. His handling of this was exemplary.
Bob was a prominent leader of medicine, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, a Past-President of the American Psychoanalytic Association and President of the International Psychoanalytic Association, a close friend and colleague of leading psychiatrist and psychologist psychoanalysts, and was intellectually committed to studying problems and identifying solutions without simply accepting traditional authority. The result, which owes more to Bob than to any other single person, is that a conflict that had generated years of intense acrimony has been followed by a successful, essentially non-controversial and highly productive resolution. If Freud was the profession’s George Washington, and the obstacles to lay analysis was its slavery, Bob was its Abraham Lincoln.
Bob was a prolific writer and communicator. He was eager to share his own ideas, always attentive to the ideas of others, and was a neutral, fair and careful recorder of events. He not only presented his own views clearly and effectively, but usually offered the clearest and fairest presentation of opposing views as well. His central intellectual contribution during his IPA presidency, and the subject of his two plenary addresses, was our understanding of and attitude toward theoretical pluralism in psychoanalysis. His position, characteristically, was balanced and nuanced. There was one common clinical core, but many different theoretical superstructures; some differences might be resolved by empirical clinical research, others might enrich the clinical discourse. It was important that we listen, participate in the dialogue, invite other disciplines to join in our inquiry, employ systematic research whenever possible, strengthen our ties to the academic community, and stay faithful to our ethical commitment to the welfare of our patients.
Bob was 15 years older than I, and my career followed his at a number of points. We both entered college at 15. We both interned at Mt. Sinai, and received psychiatric and psychoanalytic training afterwards. We both became training and supervising psychoanalysts, editors of major psychoanalytic journals, chairmen of major Departments of Psychiatry in the 70s and 80s, and Chairmen of the Fund for Psychoanalytic Research. The 15-year difference gave me an advantage. At several major choice points in my career I sought his counsel. He was always wise, generous with his time, and able to understand the issues from the perspective of the other. On three occasions I believe that he reached out to include me. Two of them gave me great pleasure. First, I was invited by the San Francisco Institute to participate with him in the 2000 celebration of his life and work. Second, I was invited by the Department at UCSF to give the 7th Annual Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D. Lecture in 2012, which included dinner with him and Judy at their home. The third was bittersweet; he wanted me to speak today.
I don’t know to whom I might turn when faced with the next choice point in my career. Bob was a good friend, a keen intellect and superb leader. He cannot be replaced, but his legacy will last for many decades.
Bob’s Research Contribution
I am Kathy Dewitt and I will be making brief comments about what it was like to work with Bob, the Researcher.
As an introduction, I first met Bob Wallerstein through Judy. A group of three fellow graduate students in Berkeley’s Psychology Department, and I, hired Judy as a clinical consultant around 1972 or so and continued working with her for around 10 years.
After graduation, Judy and Bob helped me to secure a position at UCSF. I came to know Bob well because he ran a Consultation Group for Junior Faculty – which was where I learned lots of Yiddish terms – like “schlep” and “mensch” – and formed a number of treasured friendships.
In 1983, Bob set up a small Research group of Junior Faculty that had the goal of continuing his work at the Menninger Clinic. It was my good fortune to continue working with Bob from that time on, including after I left UCSF and affiliated with Stanford’s Psychiatry Department, until the time of his passing.
Bob was simply the most positive and productive person that I have known. I loved working with Bob, both as a person and as a researcher. He was a true empiricist. He designed studies to gather information that would answer questions and challenge assumptions, rather than designing them to prove what he already believed to be true. It was clear to all of us who worked with him that he had a compelling interest in finding ways to certify the effectiveness of psychoanalytic treatments. To paraphrase Bob’s position – stated more plainly in private than in public – he strongly felt that psychoanalysis is not a shared belief system or intellectual exercise; rather, it is a treatment for people who are suffering, and, as such, its effectiveness needs to be thoroughly validated and its workings exhaustively studied so as to be constantly improving its effectiveness. Supporting and conducting efforts to make that possible was a professional mission.
I do not have time today to do justice to the breadth and depth of Bob’s contributions to psychoanalytic research. A full-day conference at the 2001 meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association was devoted to chronicling his research, highlighting in detail, his accomplishments related to:
The Menninger Foundations’ Psychotherapy Research Project,
The Collaborative Analytic Multi-site Project,
The International Psychoanalytic Research Advisory Board, and
The Scales of Psychological Capacities.
Presentations from the conference are available in a book, edited by Bucci and Freedman. The conference was held on the occasion of Bob’s so-called, “official retirement” from active research. I must say, here, that Bob’s activity level in retirement matched that of most humans at the height of their careers. He did step back from holding official national and international research positions, but he continued to play a very active role in our ongoing project on the Scales of Psychological Capacities and he continued to devote considerable, constant, international effort to activities that encouraged and supported psychoanalytic research.
A 1988 paper introducing the Scales of Psychological Capacities as a measure of structural change, is typical of Bob’s attitude toward, and approach to, research. He began the paper with a 12-page scholarly review of concepts and issues in the definition of structural change, included a clinical case example from his practice and, then, went on to note that the claim that long-term psychoanalytic treatments produce significant, lasting change is an assumption that needed to be tested and proven to be true, and that, in order to do so, it would be necessary to determine: - here I quote him – “How we will choose to define structures in empirically meaningful ways.” Bob then went on to put together a research group and take on the complex task of developing a measure that would meet his selfdefined goal.
Bob was courageous in standing up for research findings that seemed radical at the time. His work on, and summary of, the findings of the Menninger Study, validating the effectiveness of supportive techniques in promoting lasting change, is a typical example. I recall watching him present his conclusions at a UCSF Grand Rounds in 1981. As I listened to the grumblings and pointed questions from a subset of members of the audience, I reflected that it was fortunate for the development of psychoanalytic technique that someone of his standing and level of scholarship was delivering those results. This was not an unusual position for Bob to occupy. He did it with clarity and conviction.
Bob had a strong commitment to a psychoanalytic perspective but, also an embracing openmindedness about alternate conceptual systems, both within and without the analytic umbrella. No useful source of information was neglected.
As I am sure that every one of you who knew him realize, Bob was an absolute treasure trove of information and relationships. His encyclopedic knowledge of the history of ideas, people, and events within psychoanalysis, along with general academic psychiatry and psychology, was astounding. The members of our research group quickly learned that we should not waste time on background reading on any topic until we had checked with Bob to get one of his invaluable synopses of concepts, issues, and research progress in that particular area. If he did not know a fact or could not personally supply a resource, a phone call to someone in his vast network would produce it. I recall watching him go about his process and thinking: “Bob is a walking Rolodex, library reference section and United Nations Committee on Mental Health Resources rolled into one.” (For those of you under the age of 40, a Rolodex was a primitive form of non-computerized contact list.)
My last research meeting with Bob was over lunch at Piatti’s in June of last year. Our work on the ongoing project was winding down and he was interested in knowing how a paper summarizing that work had been received by the journal to which it had been sent. He was having some difficulty with his hearing but absolutely no difficulty with his intellect. He told me that he had been devoting his time to completing three papers on topics of importance to him. His final publication before he died, restated his position that both qualitative and quantitative methods make valuable contributions to psychoanalytic research. It was typical of him to find ways to be as inclusive and gracefully appreciative as possible.
As an addendum, I received an email this morning from Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber, Chair of the Freud Institute in Frankfurt, saying that she regretted not being able to attend Bob’s memorial and would be dedicating the Third Edition of the Open Door Review on Outcome and Process Research of the International Psychoanalytic Association to Bob, in gratitude for his encouragement and support.
Working with Bob Wallerstein for 31 years was a wonderful trip, exhausting at times, but wonderful.He was a true phenomenon and our world is a better place for having had him in it. I thank the Wallerstein family for including me in this opportunity to celebrate his life.
This morning, 9 of the 11 surviving members of my particular class in the Doctor of Mental Health Program met for our first reunion— many of us have not been in touch since our graduation in 1981. We are here for Bob, although several of us have hardly seen or spoken with him since then. As many of you know, Bob spearheaded the Program in the 1970’s, along with a group of his colleagues at Mount Zion Hospital, eventually including the University of California campuses at Berkeley, and then San Francisco after his appointment as chair at UCSF. Bob’s idea was to combine the best of the component sciences contributing to mental health practice to create a new profession with its own distinct identity and expertise, able to do what psychiatrists did, without the distractions and inefficiencies of full medical training. This was for Bob a realization of the potentials that he saw in a number of earlier experiences of his own, especially at the Menninger School of Psychiatry, as well as the proposals of various colleagues and forebears—most of all Freud’s idea that psychoanalysis should finally, find its place in the University. This was a treasured dream for Bob, one that he promoted for his entire career. It’s a loss that the Program did not, finally, take hold, so that Bob’s vision of a new and more appropriate mental health profession could have been realized.
Later this afternoon, there will be another reunion, this time with more than half of the 60 or so DMH graduates, the first since the 1980’s. They came from New York, Texas, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Boston, British Columbia and elsewhere, as well as the disparate parts of the Bay Area. It’s somehow no surprise that so many would show up to honor Bob, although few of us have a close personal or even professional relationship with him. What was it about Bob Wallerstein that continues to inspire this kind of loyalty and gratitude?
Bob affected our lives directly, creating opportunities for satisfying careers that made a difference in the social world, providing a framework for our lives that may well not have otherwise have been available. The graduates from my class alone have worked in settings as varied and immediate as child protective services, the Kaiser Health system,Christian counseling, family courts, child and infant mental health and directed mental health agencies, as well as in the more expectable psychoanalytic and academic venues. The program captured the democratizing and even radical social and historical currents of its moment: On the one hand, it reflected and anticipated the shifts toward biology in psychiatry (something that Bob wrote about in a prescient 1980 paper), along with the increased public support for mental health services (which was, sadly, to wane in the next years). In doing so, it mobilized the interest of an emerging group of talented young people, from diverse backgrounds, whose experiences in both cultural and political movements and other professions had left us distanced from many of the usual professional pathways but nonetheless looking for highlevel work and new identity syntheses that could accommodate our independent-mindedness and emerging values. Bob’s friend Erik Erikson (who taught at Mount Zion and the DMH Program), of course, wrote about identity: Bob molded institutions to support new ones.
From within the institutions in which he worked, then, Bob had his fingers on the pulse of his “historical moment.” He enabled the elegantly psychoanalytic Psychiatry Department at Mount Zion to establish an extraordinary collaboration with its substantially African-American community during a time of marked racial tension. He consolidated the programs at the UCSF Psychiatry Department—including the more outwardly oriented programs at San Francisco General and the Veterans Administration Hospitals. He risked his positions at International Psychoanalytical Association when he threatened to resign if the IPA did not appropriately discipline its Brazilian group for its role in state terror. He stood for the inclusion of non-medical practitioners in the American Psychoanalytic Association for many years before that idea’s time had come and shepherded the settlement of the lawsuit that finally opened things up, with a heroic effort during his presidency of the IPA, holding that organization together while securing the necessary change. He called for the elimination of the training analyst system in psychoanalytic education. Both psychiatric and psychoanalytic education remained a central concern of his; two of his last papers took up this concern. Into his nineties—indeed up until the days before his death, Bob continued to write a series of papers with the same perception, comprehension and insight that always characterized his work.
Bob improved so many lives. His institutional efforts improved the quality of mental health care in the Bay Area and increased access to it for many; his scientific contributions and political leadership supported the ongoing evolution of psychoanalysis for the better that continues as part of his legacy. He didn’t go about this with any showiness (though Bob was without a doubt a superstar), but through the often tough and persistent work of finding ways to support new ideas and talents. One of Bob’s first accomplishments after becoming chair at UCSF was to bring Selma Fraiberg and her colleagues to San Francisco.
This required some coaxing, and I’m sure that Judy’s charm and powers of persuasion had a role in this along with the abundant grants and space that Bob offered. Fraiberg had recently developed the first formal modality for “infant-parent psychotherapy,” proposing that therapists could help the children of parents who were repeating the abuse they had suffered in their own childhoods by helping those parents see how they were transmitting their own agonies to their babies. The infant mental health field has since grown worldwide, with thousands of practitioners and widespread recognition as the most effective form of developmental intervention available. The UCSF Infant-Parent Program, founded by Fraiberg with Bob’s support, has trained hundreds of practitioners and spawned a network of developmental services in the Bay Area that is widely thought to be the most extensive and refined in the entire nation, and the first endowed chair of infant mental health anywhere has been established at in the UCSF Psychiatry Department. Even more strikingly, a statewide referendum now provides for a tax on all birth certificates issued in California that supports a broad network of services for children five and under, improving children’s lives and saving the taxpayers millions of dollars through the direct and preventive efforts of practitioners working in such extraordinary situations, for example, as those of children who have been abused or neglected, whose mothers have been incarcerated or have severe developmental disabilities, among so many others. It is not hard to imagine that much of this might well not have happened if Bob had not managed to bring Selma to San Francisco.
Bob was a bold innovator in his scientific work, too. Take, for example, the finding of his Menninger Psychotherapy Research Project, that formal psychoanalysis was no more effective in bringing about “structural ego change” than psychoanalytic psychotherapy, a finding that Bob described this in his final paper as “aberrant” (with an ironic touch that could be hidden by his steadiness and poise) and also, as saying something that “so many had…clinically experienced but had only dared to whisper to close colleagues.” In his way, Bob was a quiet radical, more than many of us knew, and maybe more than even he realized. In addition to all this institutional and scientific work, Bob supported an extraordinary number of us through his teaching, his counsel and his mentorship: I am constantly surprised in my travels at how many colleagues in far-flung destinations he helped, directly and indirectly: It’s as if he were everyone’s good uncle. And he brought people together to support one another, too. Bob and Judy organized what he called “the Semi-baked Seminar” where local analytic (and some non-analytic) writers shared our work, often in the most preliminary form, with a sense that we could show our uncertainties and wonderings in a congenial and acceptant atmosphere. Many friendships and collaborations flowered from those groups, and many well-known ideas and papers were first presented there. Bob kept an eye out for his mentees and friends, too: At our last dinner, shortly before the January meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and as he talked ruefully about he could no longer go to these annual meetings after many decades of continuous attendance, Bob spoke proudly about how three members of the Semi-Baked Group were among the handful of presenters at the four major panels to be offered there.
In all these ways, at all these levels, Bob brought people together and enabled their talents, and his efforts had an impact organizationally, personally, and among the thousands of patients who would not be as well-served, if served at all, if were not for what he has left behind. (And I’ve not yet mentioned his own patients and supervisees.) He did all of this, I believe, on behalf of his social and political principles, on behalf of what he felt could be accomplished with clear thinking, and out of plain human decency. One of my DMH colleagues recalled how Bob intervened to arrange for her to finish the Program on the East Coast so that she could join the man whom she was soon to marry—and is happily with today, forty years later. This same ordinary kindness energized Bob’s institutional efforts. In all, Wallerstein was a practical visionary in the institutional sphere, as he was a dedicated to science and to theory in the intellectual, as well as a man of exceptional integrity. I think that he understood how organizations could serve human purposes, intuitively, and perhaps in large part because they had served him so well. This confidence, along with his discipline and intelligence, I believe, led him to implement what was in fact a more innovative agenda than might have been apparent: And if the political currents had not turned away from the deep values that energized Bob, his exceptional legacy would be even more extensive.
In his final paper, entitled, “My Life in Psychoanalysis,” Bob locates his career in the context of the times in which he grew up and moved through his adult years. With typical clarity and openness, he presents himself as affected by his parents’ German-Jewish immigrant status, the Great Depression, the left-wing political movements of the thirties and forties, World War II, the surging American postwar prosperity, with its support for scientific and medical progress and so on. Bob’s commitment of history has always been there. But given his visibility and articulateness as a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, it is not until recently that the centrality and depth of this commitment has become as visible, along with the political values
that such a commitment calls forth. I think that Bob, explicitly and to an even greater extent implicitly, understood himself in his historical surround--as a son of the Depression, as a man of the Left, as a reformer and scientist in an era when science and reform had traction and pride of place, and a proud proponent of what was beautiful and fair in psychoanalysis and healing in medical practice. Bob was quite a member of that “greatest generation” of postwar American leaders, and we are better because of him.
“My Brother and I"
I am listed in the program as "brother," which I am. But I am also here as the elder in the family. This latter role is not one to which I ever aspired. I am not sure I am prepared to play it. I have spent my life learning how to be the youngest, not the oldest. I am the Benjamin among my siblings. I was usually the youngest among my educational and professional peers. So was my brother. But he was learning to be the elder, whereas I was learning to be the younger. One learns these roles and one learns what is expected of those who play them.
My brother was exactly nine years and eight months older than I. This meant that the month he entered college was the month I entered first grade. I hardly knew him then. And he quite possibly thought of me as a pest with whom he shared little or nothing. Most siblings grow apart as they grow older. My experience was quite the opposite. I first came to know my brother in any meaningful sense when I was an adult. And, instead of growing apart, we spent the rest of our lives growing closer.
So it was that in 1988 he sent me the published version of his second presidential address that he had delivered in 1987 as president of the International Psychoanalytical Association. It was entitled "One Psychoanalysis or Many?" Some of you here may have heard him give the talk. Others of you read it when it was published. But since many of you are probably unfamiliar with this talk, and since it had a big impact on my relations with my brother, let me tell you what my brother says, or rather what I believe is my brother's message to his colleagues and to the world.
His opening paragraph explains what is his theme:
“our increasing psychoanalytic diversity, or pluralism as we have come to call it, a pluralism of theoretical perspectives, of linguistic and thought conventions, of distinctive regional, cultural and language emphases, and what it is, in view of this increasing diversity, that still holds us together as common adherents of a shared psychoanalytic science and profession.”
In order to discuss this theme, he starts by what many may believe to be a strange diversion. He says that Freud thought of psychoanalysis not only as a science and as a profession - both obvious assertions that my brother repeats - but also as a Movement, a word that my brother capitalizes. After all, many scientists, perhaps even most scientists, reject the idea that they could be, or should be, involved in a Movement. A Movement sounds like a political commitment, and supposedly something antithetical to science, which is said by them to involve the search for truth, universal truths, that should not be distorted by the extra-scientific commitments of the scientist.
Movements, all Movements, face an elementary dilemma. If they define their boundaries too narrowly, they end up being a sect that constantly expels deviants, and consequently has much too little strength to effect the changes for which they are striving. But if they define their boundaries too loosely, they lose the critical power that distinguishes them from others and with which they can effectuate the changes for which they are striving. And between Scylla and Charybdis there is not much room to navigate. It is akin to using a swaying rope bridge to cross a wide chasm. The crossing is perilous. The missteps are frequent.
My brother's paper proceeds with a detailed and very comprehensive survey of the views of a very large list of analysts. It was comprehensive of course as of 1988. One can only imagine how much larger the list would be if his text were written in 2015. He includes in this discussion the views of Freud himself, the modifications Freud made to his own theorizing, and the judgments he made right up to his death about the theorizing of other analysts.
I am not competent to review my brother's survey or assess his judgments. I am interested rather in the conclusions he draws from this survey. It seems to me there are in this paper two major conclusions. My brother seeks to draw the line of inclusion in the Movement. He says that, for Freud, the central psychoanalytic concepts were "the facts of transference and resistance." And my brother then continues: "Of course we must add here that the key words `transference' and `resistance' also imply the concepts of the unconscious, of psychic conflict, and defense, the key building stones of our shared psychoanalytic edifice."
Freud, my brother reminds us, did not begrudge others pursuing other views of the psyche. He only insisted they not call these other views psychoanalysis. There is only "intellectual destructiveness" in the idea that any theorizing about the mental can be labeled psychoanalysis.
In seeking to draw conclusions from this survey, he intrudes a second, somewhat unusual, concept - that of metaphor. For most scientists, metaphors are something that so called humanists deal with, not something that is in the domain of science. My brother seeks to demonstrate the opposite. He starts by noting an anomaly. There are, as of his writing (and still today), several different theoretical perspectives within psychoanalysis as defined by the International Psychoanalytic Association. Despite this, the adherents of the various perspectives "all seem to do reasonably comparable clinical work and bring about reasonably comparable clinical change in the (comparable enough) patients that (they) deal with."
This is where the concept of metaphor plays a role. He draws on the distinction made by the Sandlers between past unconscious and present unconscious. My brother cites them: "Whereas the past unconscious acts and reacts according to the past, the present unconscious is concerned with maintaining equilibrium in the present and regards the impulse from the past unconscious as intrusive and upsetting." How, my brother asks, does this relate to theoretical pluralism?
The data the analyst has, he says, are data of the present unconscious. This is clinical data and their meaning is embedded in Freud's definition of the fundamental elements of interpreting this data, the theory of transference and resistance, of conflict and defense. Our various theoretical perspectives are ways of "reconstructing" the past out of which the present developed. These reconstructions of the past are metaphors created "to satisfy our variously conditioned needs for closure and coherence and overall theoretical understanding." They are "heuristically useful" for us. Metaphors are essential for science, whose warp is the observations we make and whose woof is the symbolism we use, the metaphors that interpret for us. We are reminded how famous Freud is for his metaphors.
The conclusion is therefore clear. Psychoanalysis has a unified clinical theory that is empirically testable and a pluralistic set of metaphors. One deals with the present, the direct relationship of the analyst with the patient. The other deals with the reconstructed interpretation of the past which the analyst makes in collaboration with the patient. My brother says of this general statement about the clinical present and the reconstructed past that it "can be understood in either scientific or political terms." There is no conflict because, I would add myself, every knowledge activity can be understood in both scientific and political terms.
When I read this paper, I wrote my brother a message in longhand (the mode of communication of yesteryear) and which I therefore no longer possess. I told him that I had no pretentions of being a psychoanalyst or even someone who might be called a psychologist. I myself was active in quite another field, which I called historical social science. Within this field I worked within a theoretical framework that I called worldsystems analysis.
Despite the fact that we were in quite different fields of work, his paper resonated strongly with me. The concepts of Movement and of metaphor were more or less exactly what I was using, sometimes with different language. We explored together the similarities of our approaches. We continued to exchange papers. He came to hear me give talks in the Bay area. Our emotional relationship was now being bolstered by our intellectual relationship.
Let me end by turning to my brother and his role as the elder in the family, the role that I doubt I can play as well. It seems to me he utilized the same basic approach in this role as elder in the family as he had done in his role as a leading figure, and elder, in the world of psychoanalysis.
On the one hand, he established routines with his family that he maintained throughout his adult life. Each Chanukah he convened at his expense his children and grandchildren to be together with him and Judy for a vacation at Lake Tahoe. And each year he celebrated with as much of the extended family as he could a Seder at Pesach. He conducted in a version that he had constructed, retelling the same anecdotes and calling for the same songs. It was in a sense the common present. It constituted the rules of participation in the family.
At the same time, he never sought to impose his views about life-time career choices on the immediate family, or on me, or for that matter on his beloved wife. He refrained even from counseling any of us. They each were pursuing their individual metaphor, their interpretation of what should be done, what could be done. And he gave his blessing to their choices. Considering what we all know about how families tend to operate, this self-constraint was exceptional. It built a strong family, one avoiding the Scylla of forcing deviants out and the Charybdis of not having certain minimal obligations, of permitting anything to go. He succeeded with his family. I believe he succeeded too in helping to maintain a viable psychoanalytic Movement. He was both loved and admired, as the very large turnout for this memorial demonstrates, with so many people coming from a very far distance.
It feels appropriate that my grandfather’s memorial marks the end of a familial era, being the last of my grandparents to pass. Appropriate, as my grandfather was always the arbiter of ritual, the paternal function incarnate, the “Bobby” my grandmother called upon, referenced, revered.
He often seemed to me a man of a different generation—reserved, formal, quietly authoritative. Very different from my own father, who I don’t think even owned a full suit, was fairly oblivious to social convention, and left much of the disciplining to my mother. But now I am reminded of their similarities—gentle, patient, just. Two great minds, two men others loved to love.
My earliest memories of my grandfather are subtle. The bearer of Chanukah gifts, the “Bobby!” in my Grandmother’s voice, her co-listener and sporadic coquestion asker, the one who kissed me and squeezed me tight when I came and left—an always surprising tenderness from an otherwise modest man.
As I grew older and became curious about my grandparents, he played tour guide and historian—remembering more than anyone else I knew. This took on a new focus when I decided to pursue clinical psychology, leading to many afternoons spent with the chronicles of psychoanalytic organizational development. I believe this imparting of history was central to how my grandfather understood his role for us grandchildren more generally—he wanted us to know the past. To remember what had been, to understand its implications for the future.
In a letter he wrote me shortly after my grandmother died he summarized this beautifully:
From now on we will live—indefinitely—with our memories.
He was right—and yet the sad truth now, is that we no longer have his.
So in saying goodbye to my quiet grandfather, with his tender hugs and love of ideas, I also mourn the history he carried—my grandmother’s Bobby, my father’s father, may we carry forward the legacy you started, and never forget to return to the past.
Farewell to my Father
Thank you all for coming. We’ve just heard a set of marvelous tributes and deep love for my father from different times and walks of his life. I’d like to just end the memorial with a few of my own stories, and how I’ll remember him.
But before I honor my dad, I’d like to publicly thank my sister, for her years of being in the Bay Area with my parents, and for her special caretaking in the last two and a half years after my mom died, making sure my dad saw friends, continued to write, continued to go to the symphony, opera, and plays, and to just live his full active life. So, thank you Amy.
I’d also like to mention that Helen Hamlin, mom’s oldest friend since high school, and probably aside from Immanuel the person in this room that’s known Dad the longest, is with us today. Thanks also to those here who spoke at mom’s memorial 2 and a half years ago. Being here today brings back both my mother’s and brother’s deaths.
I’ve been thinking over the past three months what I have been missing most about my dad. As people have said, my father was an extraordinary man, in his breadth of knowledge about psychoanalysis, about history, about literature, about current news. We all know he could keep more facts in his head of historical events and his personal life, better than almost any of us. He was also generous, humble, and non-judgmental (not something I can say about my mom), but Dad loving and caring for his family, and especially the five grandkids and how proud he was of each one of them. Four are with us today.
I think I have missed most his warm presence and kindness, knowing I could call him and talk to him across the distance, seeing his smile when I walked through the door, his interest in the latest New Yorker piece or biography or NY Times article he was reading. And when together, yes, his stories that he told over and over again.
For the last six years, I had the opportunity to teach in the spring in the Bay Area and to see my parents and then my dad on a weekly basis and more. A few years ago, I decided to interview my parents on tape. I had originally thought I would talk to them separately, maybe expecting to hear something that they wouldn't tell each other. But as you would imagine, they insisted on doing the taping together, always a duo, always united, listening and prodding each other’s memory or to go deeper. So I got to hear their stories, and yes, I can remember vividly, my mom saying, come on Bobby, tell Nina about your name, or Nina wants to know really about your relationship with your parents.
So his name, given the name of Solomon by his parents, or Schlomo, Ben Lazar v’ Sarah, when he got to kindergarten, his teacher asked his mom what his name was. She said she called him Bubie, which the teacher understood as Bobby, and from that point on, he became Bobby, Bob or Robert, and Solomon became his middle name; or as he became. Robert S. Wallerstein.
It is true what Amy has said about Dad, how he had two passions: his life work and mom. So, I want to show a clip from Shelly Nathan’s film, a film in which Dad primarily talked about his life long career in psychoanalysis, but Shelley also realized mom’s importance to him, and she captured him talking about he met and fell in love with my mom.
[Clip where dad talks about meeting mom at an Avukah meeting, and saying to himself, she’s the one, and how he then wrote and sent her two letters which he
was too shy to sign. A friend of mom’s figured out who had sent the letters, they went on a date, and the rest is history
As part of loving mom, he loved us his kids by extension. He was the one who drove 400 - 450 miles a day on our month long August vacations. He and mom always would choose a direction from Topeka and take off for Maine or the Southwest or California or Lake Michigan; while he must have been exhausted, it was his way of ensuring we were together as a family.
He was the one when we were little who used to read to us at the dinner table, Wind of the Willows, the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings. He was the one who presided over our family seder, choosing which story he was going to tell each year, the one where Moses was born and led the Jews out of Egypt; or the one where Joseph was sold into slavery and Jews prospered under the Pharaohs until he would declare (and I would always wait for this, “a Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph.” And he was the one who set us the example (fortunately or unfortunately) of an all round work ethic, getting up after dinner and then continuing his writing every night. He also was the one who helped me negotiate my own issues that I was struggling with a while ago at my medical school. Pushed by my mom, Bobby, go talk to Nina, he helped me find my way.
The last years have been hard, but I also saw my father grow. After my mom died, as Amy said, he fell in love with her again finding in a trunk and then rereading the love letters she sent him in her early twenties when he was working in an army hospital outside Seattle, far from her in New York. In these letters and in his own memories, he found a new sense of his own self in the marriage and it was beautiful to see.
So, Dad I miss our talks that we used to have when I visited, our private times. I do miss not being able to call and say, did you see that article in the New Yorker, what did you think? I already have missed you at our Seder this year, and I will continue to miss you as the patriarch presiding over our family holidays. But we have your words and your stories. In these memories, we have you in our hearts. As a father and brother, uncle, grandfather, colleague and friend, we will miss you terribly.
May your memory be a blessing.
I’d like to end with the final stanza of the Kaddish. Please join with me in singing Oseh Shalom.