The Founding of the Southeastern
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
Return to History of SEPA