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Week of October 15, 2012


Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson, a professor of psychology and organizational studies whose research dealt with character strengths and how they relate to such outcomes as happiness, achievement and physical well-being, died Oct. 9. He was 62.

Peterson, who had been at U-M since 1986, was internationally recognized for his research and dedication to students.

“This is a tremendous loss for all of us in the department and university community,” said Rob Seller, Department of Psychology chair.  “Chris was a very special member of our family and will be forever remembered.”

Fiona Lee, associate professor of management and organizations and a psychology professor, added, “To all who have met him, Dr. Peterson was well-liked and respected. In every way, he has made the University of Michigan a better institution.”

In 2010, he won the prestigious Golden Apple Award, which honors faculty members. It is the only teaching award at U-M given by students.

“He challenged us students to find meaning and purpose to live a happy life,” said sophomore Daniel Park. “To me, he serves as a salient model of someone who genuinely loved life.”

Psychology Today, to which he contributed regular blogs, named him among the 100 most widely cited psychologists in the world. His last column, dated Oct. 5, was titled “Awesome: E Pluribus Unum. We are all the same, and each of us is unique, in death and in life.”

“His very popular PT column was titled ‘The Good Life,’ and he certainly knew how to live it that way,” said Psychology Today Deputy Editor Lybi Ma.

He recently received the Toy Caldwell-Colbert Award for a Distinguished Educator in Clinical Psychology from the American Psychological Association.

“His death is a profound loss to the college and our wonderful Department of Psychology,” said LSA Dean Terrence J. McDonald. “Chris was the complete package: a renowned scholar who was one of the founders of the new field of positive psychology, an absolutely outstanding teacher who earned the title of Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a beloved and highly respected colleague who trained scores of graduate students. He served countless terms on the Psychology Executive Committee because his colleagues so respected his wise judgment. He was also beloved by alumni who felt that his accessible lectures on his research actually helped them improve their lives. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Funeral arrangements were pending as of press time.



Christine Modey, lecturer with the Sweetland Center for Writing, on a memorable time in the classroom: "Any moment when I see an idea 'click' for a student."


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