Southeastern Psychological Association

The Founding of the Southeastern
Psychological Association

The founding of the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) is rather unusual in that a regional organization of psychologists, the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SSPP), existed in the same geographic region at the time that the SEPA was founded.

John B. Wolfe, who was from the University of Mississippi and was mainly responsible for the founding of the SEPA, had undertaken a survey of southeastern psychologists to determine whether they wished to establish a new regional association. A substantial number of psychologists wanted to have a regional association exclusively for psychologists, and thus, the founding meeting of the SEPA was held on Monday, September 6, 1954, in New York, in conjunction with the meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Two reasons were given for founding a second organization of psychologists in the southeastern region. First, it was argued that the methods of philosophy and psychology were so dissimilar that the two disciplines no longer could communicate. W. N. Kellogg, a founding member, made this argument and indicated that he did not want to belong to an organization that included philosophers. The second reason given for the founding of the SEPA was that the SSPP could not be an official affiliate of the APA because the philosophy members were not eligible for membership in the APA. The SEPA quickly satisfied the requirements for affiliate status, and at the 1956 meeting, it was announced that the new organization had become an affiliate of the APA.

Wolfe, who had collected the survey data and was instrumental in arranging the founding meeting, was elected Temporary President at the 1954 organizational meeting and, subsequently, was elected President at the first annual meeting in 1955. Thus, Wolfe served as president of the SEPA from September 1954 until the end of the second annual meeting, which was in May 1956. There was no presidential address at the first annual meeting, in part, because Wolfe was merely the temporary president for that meeting. His presidential address, given at the second annual meeting, was entitled "Selecting and Connecting." Two other officers were selected at the founding meeting. Dorothy Adkins, from the University of North Carolina, was the Vice-President, and M. C. Langhorne, from Emory University, who would become the fifth SEPA president, was the Secretary-Treasurer. From September 1954, until May 1955, these three officers served as the Executive Committee of the organization. E. E. Cureton, who would become the third SEPA president, drafted a constitution, which was approved by the charter members at the first annual meeting.

The first annual meeting was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, from May 22 to May 24, 1955. At the close of the first annual meeting, 585 people were designated charter members. For that first meeting, 268 people registered.

At the organizational meeting, as previously indicated, three temporary officers were elected and served as the Executive Committee until the first annual meeting, at which time a full slate of officers assumed their offices. John B. Wolfe, who had been Temporary President, was elected President, and M. C. Langhorne, who had served as Temporary Secretary-Treasurer, was elected Secretary-Treasurer. Nicholas Hobbs was the first President-Elect, and three council members (Arthur C. Combs, John F. Dashiell, and C. H. Calhoon) were elected.

The 1954 survey was not the first regarding the establishment of a separate organization of psychologists. In the first attempt to found a separate organization, A. G. Bayroff sent a questionnaire to 297 psychologists in the southeast on January 13, 1940. The total number of respondents is unknown, but 85 respondents favored establishing a separate organization of psychologists. Of those 85, 37 were members of the SSPP, which had 200 psychology members at the time. The positive responses were not sufficient to continue with the plans for a new organization, but the SSPP, at its 1940 meeting, passed a resolution indicating that it did not oppose the founding of a new organization and would seek to cooperate with that organization should it be founded, which it was approximately 14 years later.

Copyright © 2002 by James L. Pate

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