Obituary for George Levinger

It is with great sadness that I share the loss of my colleague of many years, George Levinger. As many of you know, George was one of the founders of close relationships theory and research, and his work was instrumental in bringing the study of close relationships into mainstream social psychology.  George died of a heart attack only 12 days after Ann (his wife of 65 years) passed away. Below is their joint obituary.  George and Ann will be greatly missed.

- Paula Pietromonaco

Ann & George Levinger Obituary AMHERST – Ann C. Levinger (1931-2017) and George K. Levinger (1927- 2017), Educators and Psychologists.

When the time came near, Ann's family gathered around her bed and George, her husband of 65 years, sang to her:

Keep the love-light glowing In your eyes so blue Let me call you sweetheart I'm in love with you.

Ann Levinger died peacefully, June 21, 2017, just before sunset on the summer solstice. 12 days later, July 3, George Levinger followed her after his heart suddenly gave out.

United in life in so many ways and on so many levels, Ann and George had adventures all over the world. They reached out and embraced the world, dedicating their lives in service to their family, friends, community and people around the globe. They thought nationally and internationally and engaged in all they did with passion and commitment to their ideals.

Early Years

George Levinger was born February 5, 1927, to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. In 1935, his family fled the Nazi regime, first moving to Switzerland and then to London. The family finally entered the United States after a long and winding immigration process, landing on Ellis Island in 1941. At age 16 George enrolled at Columbia University, where he rose to champion chess-player status, placing sixth in the 1944 National Amateur Chess Tournament. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945 and, after completing Japanese language training at the University of Pennsylvania, served in the Army Counterintelligence Corps in Japan.

Soon after his return to New York, he decided to attend graduate school in psychology. He studied Clinical Psychology first at Columbia University and then at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his masters degree in 1951. He then transferred to the Social Psychology program at the University of Michigan, earning his Ph.D. in 1955.

Ann Cotton was born January 21, 1931, in Laurel, Mississippi, to two loving parents from northern states. Growing up during the Depression in the Jim Crow South, Ann learned to treat others with empathy and respect from the role models around her: her parents, her African American nannies, and her Presbyterian Sunday School teachers. Ann attended the University of Michigan, her father's alma mater, receiving a dual bachelors degree in Psychology and Education in 1952.

Already during these college years, Ann displayed the passion for social justice and civil rights that became her lifelong commitment. During her freshman year at the University of Michigan, she served briefly as the vice president of an interracial Southern Students' Social Club, which attracted national press coverage and stirred controversy back home in Mississippi. As president of the Student Religious Association at the university, she worked on projects that helped the disadvantaged, such as advocating the 1951 Congressional Bill on Wheat for India.

Ann and George met in California in 1950 at the Lisle Fellowship, a program that promoted international understanding among young adults from around the world. They found common spiritual ground between their Jewish and Presbyterian traditions in the Quaker meeting at Ann Arbor, Michigan, spurring their commitment to nonviolence and social activism. They married on June 14, 1952.

Professional and Family Life

After their marriage, Ann and George remained in Ann Arbor while George completed his doctoral studies and took up a postdoctoral research position. George then worked for three years as an Assistant Professor at the Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and Social Research. In 1960, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where George was an Associate Professor of Social Research at Western Reserve University. In 1965, George became an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass). He was promoted to Full Professor in 1967 and remained at UMass until his retirement in 1992.

Ann taught fifth grade for several years in Ann Arbor before becoming the full-time mother of four boisterous boys born between 1955 and 1962. As a mother, she was known for her creative birthday parties and cakes, her inventive ways of resolving conflicts, and the various ways in which she helped as a school volunteer. In the 1970's, she returned to graduate school, receiving a doctorate in counseling from the University of Massachusetts School of Education in 1982 and a clinical psychology license, and working for 12 years as a school psychologist at Swift River Elementary School in New Salem as well as teaching as an adjunct faculty member at UMass throughout this time.

George did pioneering research on interpersonal attraction and close relationships, publishing dozens of scholarly articles and co-editing or co-authoring three influential books: “Close Relationships: Perspectives on the Meaning of Intimacy”, “Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences”, and “Close Relationships”. He also served as editor of “The Journal of Social Issues” from 1984 to 1987. Ann and George used their own long relationship as a case study for their 2003 jointly authored article “Winds of Time and Place: How Context Has Affected a 50-Year Marriage.”

Activism and Community Service

Ann and George strongly believed in and practiced nonviolence. In Cleveland during the early 1960's, Ann was active in the Civil Rights movement, joining local protests for school and housing desegregation. They were staunch opponents of the Vietnam War, participating in weekly anti-war vigils on the Amherst Common and other local and national demonstrations. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Ann volunteered as a draft counselor, assisting young men who wished to apply for Conscientious Objector status.

As an academic, George sought to apply his knowledge of interpersonal conflicts to promoting the nonviolent resolution of international conflicts. While teaching at Bryn Mawr, he chaired a Quaker working group that examined alternatives to fighting and war, and he was the lead author of a 1961 booklet titled “The Use of Force in International Affairs.” He continued to publish articles on the psychology of conflict and peace well into retirement.

Perhaps their greatest impact was felt at the local level. Many years after Ann's elementary school teaching in the early 1950's, some of her now-adult students have corresponded with her to thank her for her influence on their lives. Ann and George's volunteer work led to lifelong friendships with their surrogate son Bill Foster and with the Cambodian families that they helped resettle in Amherst during the early 1980's.

After retirement, Ann and George participated actively in the Quaker Alternatives to Violence Project, teaching conflict resolution skills to prison inmates in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ann led discussion groups with young parents at a local family center, and George became active in an organization sponsoring affordable housing for low-income people, and worked with the National Priorities Project, which critically analyzes federal budget priorities.

They traveled widely around the world. Among their many post-retirement adventures, they spent several months teaching English to schoolchildren in China and Vietnam. And as members of the Mount Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett for 52 years, their kindness and wisdom inspired generations of younger Quakers and other friends.

Ann and George are survived by their four sons and their spouses. Bill and Tracy of Westminster, Jim and Leah of Concord, Matthew and Cristin of Rockville, Marylan, and David and Angela of Santa Rosa, California; along with eight grandchildren; Ann's two sisters, Jane and Nancy and their families in California and Oregon; and George's brother Bernie and his family in Colorado.

A joint memorial meeting for Ann and George will be held Saturday, Sept. 9, at 2 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, 98 North Maple Street in Hadley, MA.

Contributions in their memory may be made to the American Friends Service Committee or the Amherst Survival Center.

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