Running Commentary

For the first 60 of its 108 years, APA was a small organization, but after World War II it experienced a period of growth almost unprecedented among scientific and professional organizations. Many of the new psychologists, having lived through one of history's worst wars, came to psychology with the dream of helping to build a better society. As part of that idealism, they established the American Psychological Foundation (APF) in 1953. Their purpose was to provide a way for psychologists to make voluntary contributions to promote and communicate the contributions of psychology to society, and to support and encourage students and young psychologists in their careers.

The Foundation has benefited from the generosity of psychologists for 48 years, but in the past decade, APF's growth has been meteoric. Since 1991, the Foundation's value has increased from almost $1 million to $11 million, and the growth continues.

Contributions support research, scholarship and awards

The Foundation supports research that may be key to understanding and solving some of society's most pressing challenges. Current research topics include injury and death in young children, homophobia, serious mental illness, families and gifted children. Through its scholarships, APF also supports the most promising and deserving high school and graduate students. Psychology cannot thrive without encouraging our most intelligent and inquiring young minds.

APF also recognizes the talent, dedication and contributions of eminent psychologists. Each year, the APF presents awards to recognize outstanding contributions made by psychologists throughout their professional lives. The APF Gold Medal Award is widely viewed as one of the highest honors a psychologist can receive.

Each year, many APA members contribute to the Foundation through the voluntary check-off on their dues statement. Contributions can also be made throughout the year as cash gifts or as pledges that can be paid over time. Many psychologists honor their colleagues, living or deceased, with a contribution to the APF Recognition Fund. APF acknowledges these honor and memorial gifts by sending a letter to the honoree or to the family. Some members have made substantial contributions in this way.

A growing number of APA members are making bequests to the Foundation in their wills through the APF Legacy Club. I became a member of the Legacy Club to express my appreciation for the opportunities psychology has given me for a rewarding career.

Strong leadership

APF has been fortunate to have strong leaders who have unselfishly contributed their time and resources to promote the APF. From 1994­2000, APA Past President Joe Matarazzo served as APF president. During his tenure, the net worth of the Foundation grew by $3 million. Joe has been a tireless APF advocate and fundraiser, who was willing to make any call, visit any individual and personally sign hundreds of letters. Since 1991, he and his wife, Ruth, also a psychologist, have donated generously to the APF. On behalf of all our members, including those in future generations who will benefit from his efforts, I would like to thank Joe for his dedicated service to the APF.

APA Past President Dorothy Cantor, the new APF president, will serve until 2004. Dorothy, with her typical whirlwind energy, has been working hard to develop cutting-edge programs for the APF and to strengthen existing programs. She is also proving to be a tireless fund-raiser.

Many individuals and groups have made major contributions to the APF. Just recently, representatives of Trammell Crow, our partners in our two buildings, made a completely unexpected contribution of $250,000, and Past President Brewster Smith made an extremely generous gift. Last year, APF received the largest single contribution from an individual in its history. Werner Joseph Koppitz died last January and left a $3.7 million bequest to APF that will support the work of aspiring child psychologists for years to come. Dr. Koppitz made the gift to establish a scholarship fund in memory of his late wife, psychologist Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz.

Most of us do not have $3 million to contribute to APF, but all contributions are welcome and needed. Psychologists of all ages, backgrounds and income levels make contributions of all sizes to APF throughout each year, and every contribution helps APF to accomplish its important goals.

Contributors to the Foundation are becoming a rapidly growing subgroup of APA members who are helping to ensure a bright future for psychology. If you would like to learn more about the Foundation, contact Elisabeth Straus, APF executive director, by phone at (202) 336-5824 or by e-mail.