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The Centre for Research in Human Development honours the late Alex E. Schwartzman

FEB. 7: The first Schwartzman Lecture welcomes guest speaker Deborah Capaldi, senior scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center
January 30, 2019
By Daniel Bartlett

For more than 40 years, Alex E. Schwartzman led innovative research projects in Concordia’s Department of Psychology and the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH).

Now, the CRDH is commemorating the distinguished professor emeritus, who passed away in March 2018, with an annual lecture in his name.

On February 7, the first Schwartzman Lecture will take place in the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre.

Deborah Capaldi, senior scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, will deliver the inaugural address, “Connections Through Life and Across Generations: The Oregon Youth Study.”

William Bukowski, former director of the CRDH, remembers Schwartzman as a professor and dedicated researcher who led by example throughout his five decades at Concordia.

“Alex believed in potential and the desire for self-improvement more than he believed in the importance of one’s background and current functioning,” Bukowski recalls.

“He believed that people could change.”

‘He continues to guide our work’

In 1976, Schwartzman began the Concordia Longitudinal Research Project, an initiative that follows the health and well-being of more than 4,000 families from inner-city neighbourhoods in Montreal.

Concordia psychology professors Lisa Serbin and Dale Stack now serve as the project’s co-directors, carrying on the work Schwartzman began more than four decades ago.

“He set up and maintained a remarkable archive of data and research on lives over time and across family generations,” Serbin says. “This is an invaluable resource for studying the lives of Quebecers across a period of intense social and economic change.

Serbin describes Schwartzman as both an inspirational colleague and close friend. She recalls how he was the perfect person to consult about a new research idea, especially since he would often provide suggestions for solving complex problems.

“The work he initiated in 1976 continues and expands today, with new studies recently initiated with colleagues in a wide variety of health-related disciplines,” Serbin says.

“He continues to guide our work into new and exciting directions.”

For Stack, Schwartzman’s devotion to maintain, build and expand the Concordia Longitudinal Research Project is a testament to the hard work he put in as a researcher and mentor, as well as his heartfelt concern for others.

“On his way home from the office in the evenings, we often had moments to catch up and exchange,” she says. “He was always genuinely interested in our lives and our families.”

Like Serbin, Stack believes Schwartzman’s tireless efforts on the project is a gift for society and research to better understand people and their lives over time.

“For Alex the importance of mental health and development was paramount,” she says. “He strived to understand the human experience in its context along with its sensitive and more vulnerable points, and he truly understood the richness and value of long-term studies.”

‘An admired professor and admirable man’

Frederick Lowy, former Concordia president, has very fond memories of Schwartzman that precede their time together at the university. Both Schwartzman and Lowy attended Baron Byng High School in Montreal, and later enrolled as psychology students at McGill University.

Once Lowy joined Concordia in 1995, he gained a newfound admiration for Schwartzman as a leader and professor.

“I was delighted to see how solid a researcher and student supervisor he was, and how effectively he chaired the psychology department,” he says.

“Alex was indeed an admired professor and — more important — an admirable man who was always modest despite his accomplishments.”

More than anything, Lowy is grateful to have known Schwartzman professionally and personally.

“He was respected for good reason by his students and colleagues,” Lowy says. “Concordia, developmental psychology and his friends are all richer because Alex was there so long.”

‘Alex was an important father figure’

Concordia grad Alastair Younger (MA 79, PhD 85), professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Ottawa, had Schwartzman as his doctoral thesis supervisor.

He was also one of the original student team members of the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project.

“Our research team always thought of Alex as a kind of father figure,” Younger says. “We never knew how old he really was, but we did lots of speculating.”

In April 2011, Younger chatted with Schwartzman at the Society for Research in Child Development Conference in Montreal. During their lunch together, Schwartzman — who was 83 years old at the time — told Younger he was continuing his research plans with the participants of the original Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project.

“I am not sure which I found more amazing — that this same group was still being studied after 35 years or that it was Alex who was following up on this research and making plans for future studies,” he says.

The first
Schwartzman Lecture takes place Thursday, February 7, in the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre (7141 Sherbrooke W).

Professors Lisa Serbin and Dale Stack will also give an overview of the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project and Schwartzman’s many contributions at the Centre for Research in Human Development Annual Conference on Friday, February 8.

Find out more about Concordia’s Department of Psychology.


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