In addition to his lifelong career in psychology, Werner Joseph Koppitz, PhD, has left a legacy that will support aspiring child psychologists for years to come.
Koppitz, who died last January, bequeathed more than $3 million to the American Psychological Foundation (APF). The gift, which is the largest single contribution by an individual in the foundation's 47-year history, will establish a scholarship fund in memory of Koppitz's late wife, Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz, PhD, a school and educational psychologist, who died of leukemia in 1983 at the age of 64.
A German native, Elizabeth Koppitz immigrated to the United States in 1939. During her first years in America, she served as a group worker at a community center in Indianapolis and as head of the Fiske University Social Center for Children in Nashville, Tenn. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 from Fiske's George Peabody College for Teachers and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Ohio State University in 1955.
Elizabeth Koppitz worked as a clinical psychologist in various centers for children in Ohio and at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Putnam and Westchester counties in New York for more than 20 years. Her career was marked by a number of major contributions to the field of psychoeducational assessment of children, including authoring scholarly articles and six books. She is probably best known as the first psychologist to carry out extensive standardization of the Bender-Gestalt test. Her version of the instrument included an objective developmental scoring system designed to assess the levels of maturity in visual-motor perception acquired by age 12.
In the spirit of her work, her husband stipulated that his bequest should provide scholarships for talented child psychology students through the APF.
"Dr. Koppitz was a quiet, unassuming man who expressed his interest in accomplishing two things with his bequest to the American Psychological Foundation," notes Elisabeth R. Straus, APF executive director. "He wanted to express his love for his wife as well as his respect for her significant contributions to the field, and he wanted to give back to psychology, the field to which he and his wife had devoted their careers. This extremely generous gift was a way for him to do both."
Koppitz, also a German native, immigrated to the United States in 1952, after receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology from Humboldt University in Berlin. His master's and doctoral degrees were earned at Ohio State University, where he married his wife. An APA member, Koppitz specialized in sensory and perceptual processes as well as vision. He served as research psychologists at the IBM Corporation's Glendale Laboratory and in the same capacity at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center until 1971. Koppitz then became a reserach psychologist at the State University of New York-New Paltz until his retirement.