Robert S. Wallerstein – in memoriam

Robert Wallerstein


It is with sadness that we announce that Dr. Robert Wallerstein, the great psychoanalyst and a former President of the IPA, died on Friday 19th December, peacefully, in the evening, at the age of 94.


With his passing we have lost a great psychoanalyst, and an enormously significant figure in the history of psychoanalysis and of our organization.


Other colleagues will report in due course about his scientific contributions and his prestigious institutional career, which started in 1949 at the Topeka Clinic with Karl Menninger, one of the “two genial” masters he acknowledged as his main teachers (the other had been Erik Erikson).


I only want to mention here, with sincere gratitude, his importance for so many young analysts all over the world when he, as the President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, supported with serene strength the dignity of Psychoanalysis and the idea of a common psychoanalytic ground in our IPA community.


Like many others, I admired his innovative vision, his courage and his highly civil, democratic, but also firm way of discussion when he debated these topics with other renowned, more traditional analysts who didn’t always share these ideas.


In my view, he was a founder of a really international psychoanalytic culture, open to recognize the richness and diversity of the many schools that grew up in so many countries in one century of Psychoanalysis.


When I was elected as IPA President, Dr. Wallerstein kindly wrote to me warmly recommending that I take great care of the IPA, in a way which revealed his authentic love for our Association, and I felt moved and honoured for this supplementary, very personal mandate – to be shared with so many colleagues - that I received from him.


I think we can say goodbye to Dr. Wallerstein in a respectful and grateful way, giving him his rightful place in the history of Psychoanalysis.


Stefano Bolognini

IPA President

In response to this message, we received a number of moving tributes from people who knew Dr Wallerstein, a selection of which are below:


Howard B Levine: “He was innovative, creative, a true scholar and gentleman. We can be proud of all he accomplished, celebrate his life and many contributions and express appreciation for all that he did to open up psychoanalysis and help create a truly productive interregional dialogue within the IPA. He will be missed.”

Maureen Murphy: “Just two weeks ago I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the premier of a film /interview about Bob. There was Bob at his best - taking the floor as the undisputed champion of psychoanalysis… I left feeling, as so often when being around Bob, inspired, challenged and honored to be part of his legacy.”

Ruggero Levy:
“It's really sad to lose a colleague, a man, of Wallerstein's status. But, at the same time, we can be proud of having had a Psychoanalyst (such) as Robert.  His efforts on integration and democratization must be exalted. ”

Cláudio Eizirik –
“This is really a sad moment for psychoanalysis and for the IPA. Bob was a great thinker, a great President, an example and a great inspirational presence for me since I was a young psychiatrist and met him for the first time and remained so through my analytic career”.

De Léon de Bernardi: Many analysts from different regions feel a deep gratefulness towards Wallerstein and his contributions, which have sought to respect the diversity of psychoanalytic thought at the same time as the unity of our discipline. His brilliant contributions also showed humility towards knowledge.”


Nancy Julia Chodorow: “With Bob Wallerstein, even though one can name all the amazing contributions, research, institutional, clinical, running a major department of psychiatry, writing, what is so much harder to convey… it's really about a pervasive integrity and generosity.”

Charles Hanly:
The faculty that I most admired in him was his ability, at the end of a conference of several days, to succinctly summarize the essential points of the contributions made by diverse speakers in the course of complex, sometimes oppositional, discussions providing us all with a useful overview for further reflection.”

Otto F. Kernberg
His clarity and precision of thinking, his gentleness and warmth marked his personal relations as well as his leadership style. He was the first in recognizing the essential importance of reorientation to the University for the future of psychoanalytic science.”