Volume 55, Number 3 Summer 2022

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Remembering Dr. Edison “Ed” Trickett

Written by Department of Psychology, University of Illinois Chicago

*Republished with permission

processed_2730465.pngThe Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) was saddened by the news of the passing of former faculty member and friend, Dr. Edison “Ed” Trickett. Ed grew up in Washington, DC where he attended St. Albans School at the National Cathedral. He completed his undergraduate degree at Trinity College, earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the Ohio State University, and went on to complete his post-doctoral work at Stanford University. He held faculty positions at Yale University and the University of Maryland before joining UIC from 2000 until 2015, alongside his wife, Dr. Dina Birman. Ed was known for bringing complex and elegant insights with unassuming style and great sense of humor to articulating a social ecological approach to psychology. He published over 150 academic papers over the course of his career. He had served as President of the Community Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association/Society for Community Research and Action, Editor of its flagship journal, the American Journal of Community Psychology  and received awards for distinguished contributions.  Together with James G. Kelly, he articulated the ecological metaphor for understanding people in context. In the letter nominating him for the Seymour Sarason Award in 2014, his colleagues wrote:

In theory development, in rich empirical study, and in the conduct of community-level interventions, Ed has progressively challenged and expanded the boundaries of a community psychology that held a limited as well as a ‘thin’ view of social context and intervention, had largely omitted human diversity in its work, and had neglected community-level interventions in favor of narrowly prescribed person-centered approaches.  Reading Ed’s groundbreaking critiques creates what has been described as the Sarasonian “ah ha” experience, where readers are irrevocably changed in how they understand a social phenomenon.  Ed has also been a forceful and innovative contributor to the growing body of empirical work that addresses these dimensions of culture, context, and community-level interventions, for which he provides visionary and inspiring leadership. Dr. Rhona Weinstein, Professor, University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Gloria Levin, Community Activist.

After dedicating 15 years to UIC and his students, Ed and Dina moved to the Sunshine State and he continued his work at the University of Miami. Though he was no longer walking the halls of BSB or seen teaching in our classrooms, Ed’s spirit has always seemed to fill these halls. The impact he left on our discipline and department is larger than words can describe. Ed is considered a founding member of Community Psychology and a pioneer for the early research that led to the development of our Community and Prevention Research (CPR) program. During his time as a faculty member, Ed served as the Chair for the CPR program and the Graduate Educational Outcomes Committee, now known as the Diversity Advancement Committee for some time. He was a mentor and friend whose generosity, kindness, and character left everyone in awe. His commitment to diversity and “challenging” his students and colleagues to conduct research in both quantitative and qualitative traditions showed his optimism and acceptance of new ideas and differences, which speaks to his character and ability to lead and cultivate these qualities in others.

We had a chance to speak with a few of Ed’s former colleagues and students who are quoted below sharing their personal experiences with Ed.

Ed was a giant in community psychology. With his mentor Jim Kelly, he fostered awareness and appreciation of the centrality of ecology for our discipline for decades. One moment I will always remember was at the First Chicago Conference on Community Psychological Research in about 1988. The full group of attendees was discussing the importance of adventuresome research. At the time anything qualitative was considered beyond the bounds of normal science in psychology. An untenured faculty member said she could not afford to do adventuresome research because it would put her career at risk. Ed responded and said that it was the responsibility of senior faculty who had tenure to do and support adventuresome research. His comment was pivotal in shifting the conversation to what senior members of the field could do to move the field forward. He lived this value in his research. Subsequently, with his former advisee Rod Watts, he also co-edited one of the first if not the first volume on diversity in community psychology. When he was editor of [American Journal of Community Psychology] AJCP, Ed worked to encourage adventuresome research even when it countered some of his own previous work. His presence, insight and enactment of our values have advanced community psychology significantly. – Dr. Chris Keys, Professor Emeritus and Former Psychology Department Chair at UIC

Read a few more thoughtful comments about Ed here.

Aside from academia, Ed was a well-loved musician in the folk music community. As a child he sang in the choir at the National Cathedral in Washington, and the harmonies were an inspiration for his musical arrangements. Musicians in the folk community cite his influence as an interpreter of songs who always put the song first, filling in harmonies without becoming the centerpiece. He appeared on over 40 recordings with Folk Legacy Records, now at the Smithsonian. His discography includes 4 solo records, 11 as a trio with Gordon Bok and Ann Mayo Muir, and countless recordings with other artists. Despite persistent pressure early in his academic career to give up music and focus on psychology, he remained steadfast in his commitment to doing what he loved on his own terms. In a recent interview he described how in 1969 in his first week of his term as Assistant Professor at Yale he had to tell the psychology department chair that he would be taking time off to go to perform at Woodstock.

We have shared some of Ed’s performances below.

Ed continued working part-time at the University of Miami – School of Education in the PhD program for Community Wellbeing. He continued his research with interests including the study of acculturation and adaption of refugee and immigrant adolescents. In 2020 he gave the keynote lecture at the International Forum on Teacher Education (IFTE) held virtually in Kazan, Russia and contributed a commentary to the American Journal of Community Psychology in 2021. A 2016 interview podcast with him appears below as well.

Check out a few more of his works focusing on multi-level interventions, collaboration and social inquiry, and diversity below.

Ed was so well-versed and able to connect with people through several mediums and will always be admired for the life he has lived and shared. He will be remembered as a giant, not just as a scholar or folksinger, but for the nature of his heart, which has left lasting impressions on all those he connected with over the years. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Dina, their children, and all those who knew and called him family or friend. For we know his life and legacy will surely be carried through them.