Remembering Phil Schoggen, pioneer of ecological psychology

Photo of Psychologist Phil Schoggen from 1968

Psychologist Phil Schoggen, pioneer of behavioral ecology and former Kennedy Center associate director, died June 9 at age 92.

Schoggen helped develop the community of “scholars with a social conscience” who formed the faculty at the Kennedy Center.

In 1966, Schoggen was recruited to Peabody College, where he served as chair of the Department of Psychology and Human Development from 1966 to 1974. From 1974 to 1975, he served as associate director of the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Education and Human Development, known today as the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

“Phil’s great contribution was his working, as chair of Psychology, to integrate the teaching and research missions of the college,” said H. Carl Haywood, Ph.D., professor of Psychology Emeritus and director of the Kennedy Center, 1971-1983. “He worked closely with the first three directors of the Kennedy Center in recruitment of researchers and members of the teaching faculty—the same people—assuring that candidates met high standards in both realms. Our principle was that all research faculty personnel would teach, and all teaching faculty would be engaged in research. Phil was, in very important ways, the bridge between the research and teaching functions of the College.”

In 1972, Roger G. Barker, and Schoggen co-authored the ground-breaking book, Qualities of Community Life: Methods of Measuring Environment and Behavior Applied to an American and an English Town, in which they defined and explained new methods for describing the quality of a town’s life and living conditions. By supporting methodological innovations with direct data, the book made a major methodological contribution. It was a seminal study of ways to assess quality of life in terms of the environments that communities provide their inhabitants and the behavior those environments engender. The work of Phil and Maxine (“Dikkie”) Schoggen and their colleagues provided convincing demonstrations of the power of human environments to produce direct effects on behavior and development.

In 1975, Schoggen moved to Toronto, Canada, as professor of Psychology at York University (1975-1977) and then joined the faculty of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he was professor (1977-1990) and chair (1977-1982) of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Ecology. In 1990, he was made Professor Emeritus and returned to Nashville where he volunteered in Nashville public schools, advocated for voter rights and election reform, and served as State chairman of Common Cause.

Headshot of Phil Schoggen, Ph.D.

Phil Schoggen, Ph.D.

Throughout his academic career in developmental and ecological psychology and his volunteer work, Schoggen maintained a commitment to improving the lives of children. He was a member of the American Psychological Association for over 60 years.

Schoggen served in the Navy in both World War II and Korea, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and continued in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1961. He pursued graduate work in psychology at the University of Kansas in the emerging field of ecological psychology. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Kansas and in 1957 joined the faculty at the University of Oregon in Eugene as professor and director of a new graduate program in rehabilitation counseling.

Schoggen had a deep and infectious appreciation for all kinds of good music and performed himself at various times as a big band bass player, barbershop quartet singer, singer of songs in the car with his family on cross-country trips, ukulele player and pianist. He also was a founding member and manager of The Vincibles, who performed songs from the musical “Aging Grace,” written by Dikkie Schoggen. The Vincibles, most of whom have ties to the Kennedy Center, performed at community centers and retirement communities around Nashville.

Schoggen was an avid small boat sailor, skippering, with his son Christopher as crew, his 14 foot Blue Jay, “Flotsam” in friendly competitions on the West Coast and in Nashville. In 1977 with his wife Dikkie and daughter Susan, he sailed his 22-foot sloop across Lake Ontario from Toronto to Ithaca, where he continued to sail in the calmer waters of Cayuga Lake. He was a repeat attendee at The Tennessean Three-Star Forum Banquet for writers of excellent Letters to the Editor.

Schoggen is survived by his wife of 72 years, Dikkie, his four children and their spouses, his brother Joe Schoggen, ten grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Jan Rosemergy is VKC deputy director and director of Communications. Much of this article is indebted to the obituary that the Schoggen family provided.

Pictured top of page: Psychologist Phil Schoggen in 1968 (Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Library Special Collections)

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