To be what we are . . . and to become whatever we are
capable of becoming, is the only end in
- Robert Louis Stevenson
When human beings
reflect on their lives they not only wonder about who they are - but
also about how they became whoever they are. This autobiography is
an attempt to reveal something about who I am . . . and to shed some
light on my personal journey in becoming whoever I am.
I was born on April
18, 1929, in the Borough of Manhattan, New York City. My mother was
a housewife and my father was a beginning plumber. The years from
1929 into the early 1940s were the great depression years and my
father, a plumber, moved his family to wherever he could find work.
Our family, Mom and Dad, my younger sister, Alva, and brother, Bob,
and I, lived in 8 different places during the first 10 years of my
life: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and finally in 1939 we
moved to Arlington County, in Northern Virginia.
From 1944 to1947 I
attended Washington-Lee High School. After graduation I worked in
the printing business for Cooper and Trent, a printing company in
Arlington, Virginia, and then for Whitlock Press in Washington,
D.C., between 1947-1948. In August 1948 I joined the U.S. Marine
Corps. I was sent to Parris Island, N. C., for Boot Camp. Then I was
stationed at the printing plant at Quantico Marine Base, at
Quantico, Virginia, from December 1948 to April 1949. In April 1949
I was transferred to the printing plant at Fleet Marine Force
Pacific, Camp Catlin on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. With the
closing of Camp Catlin [and its old WWII wooden buildings] we were
moved to new quarters across the quadrangle from the Marine Barracks
at Pearl Harbor, Oahu. I remained there until I was discharged from
the Marine Corps at San Diego, California on August 15, 1952. I had
attained the rank of Staff Sgt. in four years.
Upon returning home
to Arlington, Virginia in 1952 I went to work in the printing plant
of the Hill Directory in Alexandria, Virginia, making printing
plates for the presses and working in the photo and layout areas. In
December of 1952 I flew to Rochester, N.Y., where I had been
accepted for a 3-4 year course in the printing field at Rochester
Institute of Technology. I was given a battery of tests and one of
the tests was the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey. The test
results and evaluation of the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey
"...interests are strongest in the
social service and musical areas."
There were a number
of other indicators that were telling me that I had the interests,
abilities and skills to do well in the printing field. I was,
therefore, faced with a problem. Back on July 8, 1948, before I went
into the Marine Corps, I had taken the Kuder Occupational Interest
Survey at a counseling clinic at George Washington University in
Washington, D. C. The Kuder results at that time, 4 years earlier,
stated that my highest interests were in social service and musical
as well as literary fields. I have in my files some old papers (4-5
pages typed in Hawaii) with some thoughts about my life, past,
present and future, and the fact that I was about to leave Hawaii to
be discharged from the Marine Corps. The thoughts on these pages
indicate that I was already thinking seriously about a change from
the printing field to something else, but what that something else
might be was yet to be discovered.
The Kuder survey was
indicating something in me that appeared to be a constant and I did
not understand it. It seemed to be saying to me that although I had
strong interests, plenty of ability and years of experience in the
printing field - that in terms of a career I would be "better
off" if I were doing some other kind of work apparently in
something called "social service." I had no idea what this
meant or could mean. Both of my working parents in the late 1920s
had only been able to go as far as the 10th grade in high school. My
class rank in graduating from high school was 275 out of about 400.
I was about a C average student. I did not have a strong, confident
self-image. I was an unknown quantity. I weighed 125 lbs when I went
into the Marine Corps in 1948. I was the last man in the marching
line in Platoon 222 in boot camp. I was short in height and my
nickname among my friends growing up in Arlington - was Peewee! I
was to be, apparently, what most would call . . . a late bloomer!
With this "fork
in the road" as to what I was to do with my life at age 24, I
spent a few days hiking and camping out, by myself, on the
Appalachian Trail near the Pass Mt. region of Thornton Gap in N.
Virginia. I was in a state of meditation [Webster's dictionary
states that this means: (1) to engage in thought or contemplation,
(2) to plan in the mind]. I talked it over with myself and the sky
full of stars . . . and I decided to stride off in a new direction
in my life keeping the faith that somewhere out there in the unknown
there was, perhaps, an occupation or a way of life that was better
"suited" to whomever and whatever I was that was different
from a career in the printing field.
So I attended night
school at Washington-Lee High School in the summer of 1953 for a
refresher course in Algebra and English. I chose a small college in
Pulaski, Tennessee - Martin Jr. College - to begin my exploration in
a new direction. These college years were to be some of the finest
times in my life. At both Martin Jr. College and later at
Birmingham-Southern College I sang in the college choir, I created
Barbershop Quartets and we sang all over Tennessee and Alabama. I
had the lead role in plays at both schools. I was a member of the
tennis team. My grades were A's and B's. I was open to life, to new
experiences, in a continuing discovery of (a) the knowledge and the
wisdom of the human journey upon this earth and (b) the unknown
dimensions of my being, as I "unfolded from within" - in
my own becoming.
I do not know what
personal experiences, events, life conditions or whatever variables
existed - that can account for the human being that I have become.
From time to time small pieces seem to fall into place . . . but I
will have never enough pieces to complete the story of my becoming.
We are all unknown mysteries flowing out of the past - - into the
present - -towards some unknown future: DNA + LCs + Time = on our
unfolding vMeme journeys. However, I do know this: I was able to go
to college because of the G.I. Bill or I would not be where I am
Between 1953 and 1955
I went to Martin Jr. College in Pulaski, Tennessee, where I earned a
Jr. College Diploma. During the summer of 1955 I went to George
Washington University, Washington, D. C. for a course in Psychology.
Beginning in Sept.1955 to June 1957 I was at Birmingham-Southern
College, Birmingham, Alabama, where I received a B. A. Degree -
Major in Psychology and enjoyed Theta Chi Fraternity, Beta Xi
chapter. While at Birmingham-Southern, I also worked, from time to
time, at the City Board of Education and the Jefferson County Board
of Education operating their IBM test scoring machines. A few times
I worked in a local printing company in Birmingham. During the
summer I worked in printing plants in Northern Virginia. I had to
find ways to support myself since the G.I. Bill, which took care of
a lot of things, was not enough to carry me through college, e.g., a
car to maintain and transportation to and from college. During the
summer of 1956 and fall of 1957 I attended American University in
Washington, D.C. In college I had discovered the field of
Psychology. I knew that Psychology was the career field for me and I
set out to learn as much as I could about Psychology and any related
areas of knowledge.
I graduated from
Birmingham-Southern College in June 1957 and came home to Virginia.
While I was looking around and thinking about what could I do with a
B.A. in Psychology and helping around the old house on Garfield
Street . . . .my father was killed in an auto accident . . . so my
"life conditions" changed. I spent the next year taking
care of my mother and the house . . . and working at Hillcrest
Children's Center in Washington D.C. as a counselor/ cottage parent/
working with emotional disturbed children, ages 6 to 13. In August
of 1958 I moved to Hawthorne, New York and began working at a Jewish
Board of Guardians facility, Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School. I was a
cottage parent alternating between two cottages with about 30
emotionally disturbed children (15 boys per a cottage) ranging in
age from 8 to 16. There were regular, permanent
"substitute" parents living in each cottage and my
responsibility was to take over for a couple of days or more each
week so that these "substitute" parents would not be
working a seven day week. I became, in a sense, a
"substitute" parent also. It was quite an experience
learning to relate in a meaningful way, hopefully in a helping
manner, to 30 young boys each uniquely different and coming from all
kinds of different life conditions. Each of them seemed to need a
mentally healthy, stable home environment, which we tried to
provide, and which they tested to check it out on a regular basis.
During the fall of 1958 and spring of 1959 I
audited Dr. Soloman Asch in Social Psychology and Dr. Irving Rock in
Perception at The Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science
of the New School of Social Research, Greenwich Village, New York
City. I left Hawthorne in the fall of 1959 to begin a Masters Degree
Graduate program in Psychology at Michigan State University where
one of my courses was Social Psychology taught by Dr. Milton Rokeach.
However, the G.I. Bill and $$ ran out - so I was there for only one
quarter and then I came back to Arlington, Va.
In the late fall of
1959 I met Jean, a wonderful woman who became my wife. (I had met
Jean in the 7th grade, but our lives had gone in different
directions until this time.) I "settled down" and applied
for a teaching job at my old high school, Washington-Lee, in early
1960 and took over teaching world history from a man who transferred
to a government job. I was now in the Arlington County Public School
system. Jean and I were married in June of 1960. Jean and I have
been married for 41 years. We have three children - two girls,
Barbara and Donna, and one boy, Billy. Barbara, a Virginia Tech
graduate, has worked for over 25 years as a Director of Food
Services for a hospital. Donna, a graduate of Northern Virginia
Community College, is a registered nurse, and Billy, a graduate of
Virginia Tech, is partner in a building company. They have given us
eight wonderful grandchildren.
Due to enrollment
changes at W-L, I was transferred to Gunston Junior High School in
Arlington where I taught world geography from September 1960 to June
1962. In Sept. 1962 I move to Yorktown High School in Arlington,
Virginia where I began to teach Psychology (about 90% of the time).
The Introductory Psychology course I taught for over 29 years
(1962-1991+) was equivalent to a college level Introductory
Psychology course. We used a top-level college introductory
psychology textbook, Psychology and Life, (Floyd Ruch and then
Philip Zimbardo). For a couple of years, in the 1970's, I also
taught a class in American History and in the 1980's, due to
enrollment changes, I also taught a class each year in World
History. Interacting with students each day made teaching a lifetime
of rewarding experiences. The "late bloomer" had grown up!
As a teacher I was, in a sense, always a student . . . always
learning and always growing.
Over the years I was
involved in further formal education at American University (1960
and 1964), Claremont Graduate School in California (1967), and the
University of Maryland (1967-1968), where I earned a Master's of
Education in Human Development. In the summer of 1970 I attended the
University of Virginia. I've also taken courses, through the
University of California Extension, in (1978), and other courses at
Trinity College, Washington, D.C. (1978), at the University of
Richmond (1978 and 1979), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University (1984), and George Mason University (1988 and 1990).
Meeting Dr. Clare W. Graves
In the summer of 1966
I had been teaching for 6 years and I was 37 years old. I decided to
do some reading. I reached over to my shelves of books and picked
up, at random, Motivation and Personality by Abraham Maslow which I
had not finished reading. I was glancing through the book and I
stopped on chapter 12, which is about "Self-Actualizing People:
A Study of Psychological Health." As I read this chapter I
suddenly felt like I was being "frozen in time" as my
total attention focused on what Dr. Maslow had written. I slowly
read chapters 12 and 13 . . . along with other sections of the book.
For the next few days, as I moved around the house, I felt like I
was "caught-up in a personal mystery" and I didn't have a
clue as to what was happening or had been happening in my life that
could account for this . . . and I could not talk to anyone about
what I was thinking and feeling. The reason for this was that I
knew, beyond a doubt - - that no one in my family -
father-mother-sister-brother - and no one in my home - my wife-two
daughters and a son - and no relative or friend that I have ever
known . . . knew me as well as Dr. Maslow knew me . . . as revealed
in what he had written - and I was confronted with the fact that I
had never met Dr. Maslow. And I could not explain how all that was
happening was possible. This puzzled state of mind was with me
throughout the remainder of 1966 and into the spring of 1967. I
looked into a number of books during this puzzling time period
without finding any explanation for what I had experienced and was
continuing to experience.
Then in May of 1967,
at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Washington, D.
C., a new friend, Dick Wakefield, introduced me to Dr. Clare W.
Graves who was presenting a paper, "Theory of Values."
Meeting Dr. Graves and becoming aware of his research, his
theoretical framework, the Levels of Existence Theory, opened up a
new phase in my life. Things that I had never understood about my
life began to make sense. My experiences when reading those chapters
in Maslow's Motivation and Personality were now explainable. Dr.
Graves became my mentor who has continued to teach me more and more
about what it means - to be a human being.
From this first
meeting, Dick and I formed a "Values Group" or as it soon
was called by some people, the "Graves Group." We gathered
together each month from the fall of 1967 until some time around
1979. The group consisted of about 15 to 25 or more men and women
per a meeting from all over the Washington metropolitan area . . .
NIMH, Walter Reed Hospital, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the Census
bureau, nearby colleges and organizations, governmental and private.
The members of the "Values Group" were very interested in
the role of values in human life and in the research of Dr. Graves.
We would decide on some topic related to values research and explore
that topic. Dr. Graves, and his theory of Levels of Human Existence
or Theory of Values, was the center of our concern but we openly
explored the work of Lawrence Kohlberg, O.J. Harvey, John B.
Calhoun, Piaget, Erickson and many other researchers and
psychologists who were engaged in research involving hierarchical
systems thinking or who were exploring the role of values in the
lives of human beings. When possible we would have a guest speaker.
Dr. Graves would
often attend our meetings or we would set up a special meeting when
we knew that he was coming through Washington, D. C. Dr. Graves
would explain his research and his latest theoretical position, and
we all had dozens of questions to ask him. He came through
Washington, D.C., to and from his home in Rexford, New York on a
regular basis, for a while, because he was working with the Virginia
Department of Corrections and Welfare in Richmond, Virginia. The
whole "Values Group" really looked forward to these visits
of Dr. Graves. Two of the members of our group were working on their
Ph.D. dissertations that involved Dr. Graves' theory.
I do not know the
number of meetings of the American Psychological Association, the
Association of Humanistic Psychology, the World Futurist Society,
the "Graves Group," the National Institutes of Mental
Health, the National Institute of Health, the National Values Center
and other groups or meetings where Dr. Graves gave presentations . .
. that I have personally attended. I do know that at every
opportunity, I collected Dr. Graves' papers and, when I could,
I would tape-record his presentation and any discussion that
followed. My basement study is filled with the collected papers and
books of many different scholars, with at least eight full filing
cabinets, over 3500 books and more video and audio tapes and related
items than I seem to be able to count. Most of my
"library" is devoted to the field of Psychology . . . and
to the work of Dr. Graves.
Moreover, the quest
to try and answer the question "what does it mean to be a human
being?" involves a vast knowledge base that ranges over a large
number of fields of human endeavor. The Levels of Existence Theory
that Dr. Graves evolved was based primarily on his own research . .
. and he readily acknowledged that the thinking of many different
scholars from many different areas also influenced his thinking in
the development of the theory.
I had been fortunate
enough to be accepted to a National Science Foundation Summer
Institute in Psychology at Claremont Graduate School in Claremont,
California during the summer of 1967. The NSF grant enabled me to
move my whole family to Claremont for the summer where another
psychology teacher, Howard A. Peele, and I, put together a research
project for our contribution in the institute. The research project
originated from my classes with Dr. Milton Rokeach at Michigan State
and his studies of Dogmatism. The research project was entitled,
"Anxiety and The Open and Closed Mind" and included some
references to the paper, Theory of Values, which Dr. Graves had
presented at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D. C.
in May 1967.
From 1967 through
1991, as a Psychology teacher at Yorktown High School in Arlington,
Virginia, I introduced my students each year to the latest research
of Dr. Graves. Each year for about 22 years (1969 through 1991) I
gave my students some of the same tests that Dr. Graves had given
his students and a number of other widely known tests that were
related to the theoretical work of Dr. Graves. I am still organizing
and analyzing all the data that I have gathered from approximately
2658 psychology students. I introduced Dr. Graves' research and
thinking throughout the teaching year in small doses when
appropriate in the field of psychology. Then, in the opening weeks
of the last quarter in the area of Personality, the students entered
the room and on all sides of the room were charts and posters and
sources of information, including the chalked front blackboard. The
walls were covered with colored poster boards containing the latest
information pertaining to, over the years, Levels of Existence
theory - then with slight emphasis changes - Coping Systems theory -
then the Psychological Map - then Spiral Dynamics. For about two to
three weeks I presented the story of Dr. Graves' research and his
findings, using slides and overheads and passing out all manner of
papers to the students. We went over the various tests that the
students had taken during the year and related their test results,
as best we could, to the Gravesian theoretical framework that
encircled them on all the walls. For over 22 years at Yorktown High
School approximately 2658 high school psychology students have
learned about Dr. Clare W. Graves, his life, his research and his
efforts to understand why human beings behave as they do.
Albert Einstein once
said: "Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us
comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seem to
divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there
is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men
- above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own
happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with
whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day
I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the
labors of my fellowmen, both living and dead, and how earnestly I
must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have
This is the way I
feel about how the life work of Dr. Clare W. Graves has meant to my
life and why I will continue to do whatever I can to "protect,
maintain and enhance" the legacy of Dr. Clare W. Graves.
At this moment there
are websites that enable those who are associated with the legacy of
Dr. Graves to interact, to share their own research, their
experiences and questions with people all over the world. It is a
very exciting time. At this point, I want to thank Don Beck and
Chris Cowan, who I met in the mid-1970s, for their friendship and
for all that they have done in continuing the legacy of Dr. Clare W.
Graves. Knowledge of Dr. Graves' work is spreading across the
planet. And, as always . . . since life is problem solving . . .
there is a great deal of work yet to be done. If there was ever a
"labor of love", this is it!
-- Bill Lee, August 2001