Obituary: George Levinger, Professor Emeritus of Psychology; Ann Levinger, Former Lecturer

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George Levinger, 90, of Amherst, professor emeritus of psychology, died July 3, 12 days after the passing of his wife, Ann C. Levinger, 86, a former lecturer in education.

George Levinger was born Feb. 5, 1927, in Berlin, Germany. In 1935, his family fled the Nazi regime, first to Switzerland, then to London. They entered the U.S. in 1941. At age 16, he enrolled at Columbia University. Drafted in 1945, he served in the Army Counterintelligence Corps in Japan.

After the war, he studied clinical psychology at Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his master’s degree. He earned a doctorate in social psychology at the University of Michigan in 1955.

Ann Cotton was born Jan. 21, 1931, in Laurel, Mississippi, during the Depression in the Jim Crow South. She learned empathy and respect for others from her parents, her African-American nannies, and her Presbyterian Sunday School teachers. Ann received a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and education the University of Michigan in 1952.

Her early work for civil rights and the disadvantaged included serving briefly during her freshman year as the vice president of an interracial Southern Students’ Social Club, which attracted national press coverage and stirred controversy back home in Mississippi.

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, and they married in 1952.

George taught at the Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and Social Research and later at Western Reserve University. In 1965, he joined UMass Amherst, becoming a full professor in 1967.

He 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.

He retired in 1992. 

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.”

In the 1970s, Ann had returned to graduate school, receiving a doctorate in counseling from the College 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, and she lectured in the College of Education from 1989-96.

Ann and George strongly believed in and practiced nonviolence, particularly for civil rights and in opposition to the Vietnam Wear. George continued to publish articles on the psychology of conflict and peace well into retirement. Both continued to participated in numerous efforts toward social justice and were active in the Quaker Alternatives to Violence Project, teaching conflict resolution skills to prison inmates in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Among their many post-retirement adventures, they spent several months teaching English to schoolchildren in China and Vietnam. They were members of the Mount Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett for 52 years.

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, Maryland, and David and Angela of Santa Rosa, California; 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, Hadley.

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

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