Alberta Engvall Siegel -- Professional Years
Excerpts from an interview with Alberta E. Siegel (AES) by Lloyd Borstelmann (LB), at Stanford University on September 15th, 1992.

LB: Oh yes. Right. So then you had the extra year to do research there [Penn State] and you did this second study, but then

AES: Then I went into the faculty at Penn State. I was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child Development. And did that for a couple of years. Mostly teaching graduate students. That had been predominantly an undergraduate program and I think the Dean and the Chairman of the department saw me as somebody who could help build up the graduate program. And then Sid was invited out to the center. So

LB: To Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

AES: Which had started up actually just as we were leaving, I think it opened in 1954, just as we left. And Bob Sears had been quite active in getting that started. He had helped facilitate the location of the center at Stanford. Ralph Tyler was getting the center going and inviting the people. but he didn't have a place to locate it. And Sears suggested that he locate here at Stanford. So Sid was a fellow at the center in '57-'58. And I came out and taught at Stanford, replacing Lois, who had retired that year. At that time Stanford had a rule that you retired at age 65. So Lois retired, and she remained active for a number of years, teaching freshman seminars, and doing research. But she didn't do the primary teaching in child --- and they hadn't yet found her replacement, which was Eleanor Maccoby. And so for that intervening year, I did the teaching, I was the acting assistant professor. And I remember one of the wives of one of the men up at the center, when she was introduced to me said. "Oh, I know about you, you're the lucky one, she said, you're the only wife at the center who has a job."

LB: Oh isn't that interesting.

AES: And the rest of us are all just stuck here for this year, was the implication, twiddling our thumbs. But you're the lucky one. Well I didn't think I was so lucky.

LB: Yeah you were busy working.

AES: I was overworked and underpaid. But I enjoyed teaching at Stanford. And Lois had a student named, Lynette Cofer. And Lynette, Lois kind of turned Lynette over to me, and Lunette and did a study together that year out at the Stanford Village Nursery School.

LB: Uh huh. I didn't know that connection.

AES: In which we followed up on some of the things I had found in my dissertation and had never had a chance to follow-up on. Mainly that there are differences between the first time you watch children's aggressive behavior and the second time you watch it, regardless of whether you've shown them one kind of film or another kind of a film. They're just sequence effects. Which I had counter-balanced for those in my dissertation but they were there. And I'd counter-balanced in the design, and therefore when they were there, I knew they were there. And so we did a study, in which we looked at that and we also looked at children's aggressive play in the presence of an adult and in the absence of an adult. And found that children behave more aggressively when an adult is present, to each other. More aggressively to each other, than when an adult is absent. And I had some explanation that had to do with, I think I used the word super-ego.

LB: Super-ego.

AES: It isn't a word I would use any more. But my idea was that if an adult is present, the adult is playing the super-ego function. Where if an adult is absent

LB: Control function, yeah.

AES: The children have to fall back on their own, understanding of what's allowable. So their more aggressive when permissive adults are present. So that was Lynette's first paper, and was one of my early papers. And then of course, Lunette went on to study the effects of television, and she really did have television by then. And she took her Ph.D. at Cornell, with Al Baldwin. And then went on the faculty at Penn State.

LB: So after your year out here [Stanfor], you went back to Penn State?

AES: That's right- for another three nears.

LB: Now when did Sid die?

AES: When we came back to the center

LB: Another time?

AES: Another time. And he died after we had gotten here for that second visit, in November of 1961. He died at the center of a heart attack. So I just stayed on at Stanford. We had become friends with David Hamburg, who was also a fellow at the center at that time. And he had been asked, in 1957-58, while he was at the center, to become the chairman of the psychiatry department at Stanford. But he had an obligation to go to the National Institute of Mental Health, in the intramural program, which he honored. And he went to the NIMH and ran that intramural program for three years. Meanwhile Stanford horsed around and horsed around and then periodically they would come back to him and offer him the chairmanship again. And finally after he had been at the NIMH for three years, he had felt like he had honored that obligation, and had done some of the things that he wanted to do there. And I guess Stanford wasn't going to take no for an answer. So in 1961 he came to Stanford as chairman of the psychiatry department. And actually the Hamburg's lived down the street from us on campus from Sidney. And so immediately after Sid died, he asked me if I would join his new department. And I had already realized that I probably would not want to go to a new place. I would probably either go back to Penn State or it would be nice to stay here. So I thought that sounded very nice. And I staved on at the center for a total of two years because after Sid died. I took on the task of finishing some of the things that he was writing, that I wanted to get out. And his assistant came out from Penn State and worked with me. And we had friends from the National Science Foundation to make that happen. Everybody cooperated really beautifully. The Center gave me an extra year and the NSF put some money behind it and we got that worked out. And then I joined this [the Stanford Psychiatry] department.

LB: That's how that came about.

AES: And I've been here every since.

LB: Now were there any psychologists in that department at that time.

Yes. David had recruited Gig, Seymour, Levin, who is a comparative psychologist. And he has been here ever since. And I think Rudy Moose had come about the same time I came, maybe a little earlier, and he's been here ever since. And of course. Carl Prebroom was in the department at the time that David got here. And staved on for many years, and he was actually a neuro-surgeon by training, but he functioned as a psychologist. And then David recruited Bill Dement, who is an M.D., never took a residency, and has Ph.D. in physiology. But he really functions as a psychologist, in his sleep research. Then there were some clinical psychologists as well. But clinical psychology hasn't really thrived at Stanford over my life time.

LB: Well and of course, the psych department gave up the training program along in there someplace.

AES: That's right.

LB: So there was no connection there to bolster psychology here I would think, clinical psychology. But now what were the expectations of you, in coming to this department.

AES: David was truing to build an interdisciplinary institute of behavioral sciences. So I was expected to represent the field of Child Development in that. And we had an anthropologist at that time named Peggy Goldy, she was a women who had got into anthropology. I talked to you about the fact that I would have liked to at one time. We had a geneticist. we had a social psychologist. I did social psychologist too some, but Rudy Moose is kind of a social psychologist personality psychologist type. And then the field of psychiatry over the years went increasingly biological. David's interests went increasingly biological. Department Chairmen you know have a lot to do with what happens in a medical school department. David became interested in primatology. We had primatologists on our faculty, Jane Goodall.

LB: Yeah right. I remember that.

AES: And in recent years our department has become increasingly biological in it's orientation, and then most recently increasingly clinical. Which pleases the rest of the medical school, that we've finally started doing some clinical, some serious clinical work in our department.

LB: Sure, sure. OK, well you've been here most of 30 years, haven't you [joined this faculty in 1963.

AES: That's 29 years.

LB: Who's counting!

AES: I had a nice sabbatical down in Chapel Hill once. You remember, you and I and Harriet used to have lunch together.

LB: Oh, yes, Yes indeed. OK let's take a look a little bit, at your time, your years here What have been the important things to you in your time here? What has mattered to you. an what's been your contribution to the enterprise?

AES: Oh boy, that's a good question. You know, when you have been an undergraduate at an institution, you have a much more sentimental attitude towards the institution, than other people do. So I have probably done a lot more, oh let's call it university service, than I ever would have done at Penn State probably. Or if I had gone to yet another institution. After Sid died, I started getting offers to go to other institutions. And probably if I had gone to any of those I never would have done all the university service that I've done for Stanford. We had a commission on education at Stanford, what was it called, "The Study of Education at Stanford". It was headed by a lawyer, named Herb Packer. And I was asked to chair the subcommittee on the education of women at Stanford. And there were 10 subcommittees, and mine was the only one that actually did any research as far as I know. The others, well they collected university statistics, and in a way that's what I did to, but they tended to be kind of philosophical. But I had a group of students -- I gave a class called "Sex Differences in Education" or something like that. A bunch of students showed up, most of them thought it was going to be a class on sex. That was before the word gender, you know. Gender came later. But the ones that remained and worked with me, each of them did a term paper on some topic about sex differences in education at Stanford. And on the basis of that I wrote a report for the Packer Commission, on the education of women. And on the basis of that I was offered all kinds of jobs, to be president of this or that women's college. And I would get these telephone calls asking me if I wanted to be a candidate to be a president of this or that women's college. And I would say. "Well where did you get my name?" And these colleges had written to Stanford for our study of education, because we were ahead of the other schools by a few years. So anyway I was offered jobs as head of women's college. And discovered that, that wasn't what I wanted to do. I remember that I went to Wellesley, they were looking for a president. The president of Wellesley gives a sermon once a year. She stands up in the chapel and gives a sermon, and the title of the sermon, if I'm remembering correctly, is "God is Love". And it's been the same title every year. Now I may be misremembering. But anyway when I went to visit Wellesley, a woman student had the assignment of taking me around and she wanted me to see the chapel, which was one of these, oh, I remember it as Victorian, Edwardian monstrosity, whatever it was, I mean, we have one of these at Stanford too. Just you know, horrible period in American architecture. And I actually went up and stood in that pulpit and I thought to myself, you know I'm not going to do this, I don't think this is going to work. And I was very flattered that anybody would want me. But I thought I'm not, this isn't what I wanted to do. I heard later that the faculty had thought I was one of the more suitable candidates that they had met, because I was an academic. And the faculty is always worried that the administration is going to appoint a business. So they thought that, that would be good. And of course the women colleges do want women as their presidents. But you see, they don't want spinster's because spinsters aren't a role model, for their women students. Students don't look forward to being a spinster in their lives. And they don't really want married women, because a married woman has a husband, and what do you do with them. And they don't really want divorced women, because that isn't quite in the good old Christian tradition at these colleges. So you're left with widows.

LB: You were very suitable.

AES: And the woman who was eventually appointed the president of Wellesley. at that time, she's no longer president, she had very fine qualifications. But she was written up in the New York Times and she had been widowed twice. And one of my friends clipped it and mailed it to me, and wrote on it, she out widowed you. Once I had an interview with one of the president of one of the other women's colleges, who wanted me to be his Provost. And he came out to meet me and invited me to have lunch at one of those fancy hotels in San Francisco up on the roof, of some fancy restaurant. And told me that his faculty wanted me to be their Provost. I don't think they called it Provost. I think they called it Dean of the Faculty. So I said, "Well I know that widows are very attractive to women's colleges." And he said. "What do you mean?" So I went through this thing that I just said to you, now this is all changed now, of course. But in those days that was the thinking and each college had to go through it on it's own. They didn't know it hadn't been written down or anything else. So I got all through with that speech and he said. "Well Dr. Siegel, I didn't even know you were a widow. He said, "What were those four categories again?" And I thought, oh my gosh, this man is the president of a women's college and he doesn't even know what these categories are.

LB: He hasn't got a clue.

AES: And of course what these colleges found out is, as incentive is that you’re the queen bee in a relatively small enterprise. And you live in a beautiful house, which is staffed by, loyal folks who are going to do your bidding. So they're holding out a life style. And I remember this one man that I was just speaking about. That was the way he talked to me, had I ever seen the house that the Dean of the Faculty lived in. Well I must come to visit because it's such a charming house. And of course I've lived in an apartment all my life, since Sid died. I've never had a house and don't really expect to. But it was, Ruth Benedict taught me this expression. She said it's a Russian expression. "You're scratching me where I don't itch." So they're holding out this, you see, this sort of thing. I would live in this beautiful house, and I was thinking, well keep trying but you haven't hit it vet. You haven't pushed my buttons. That's what we would say now. you haven't pushed my buttons. I worked for a while as an Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. And that was another one of these sentimental things where I always felt that Stanford neglected undergraduate studies. And finally we had a president who took undergraduate studies seriously. And created a Dean of Undergraduate Studies, who was a very tine man named Jim Gibbs, also an anthropologist. And Jim asked me to be his Associate Dean, so I took that job. And after ten months, it was either a question of getting myself institutionalized, or getting out of that job. I disliked it so thoroughly. I really have never disliked a job so much, as I dislike that job.

LB: Because''

AES: And I've thought about it a lot. Because by then I had been the editor of Child Development, I had finished my term as editor of Child Development, and everybody would say to me, "Oh, you're such a marvelous administrator." And I did a very good job of editing Child Development, if I may say so. And everybody would say, "Oh, you're such a good administrator, you'd be so good at administration." Well editing a journal is a form of administration, where you sit with a lot of papers and you put them into a pile, and you mail them around the country, and you get recommendations. But administration with undergraduate students is a totally different thing than administration with your professional colleagues. And I couldn't stand it. And I think part of the problem is that I don't delegate well. Which administrators have to do. And when I was editing Child Development, we were getting about 300 papers a year, and I put a lot of time in on that. And I read all those 300 papers.

LB: That's almost one a day.

AES: Yeah! And if I didn't agree with the referees, I would get another opinion. But I didn't publish anything that I didn't personally feel confidant should be in the journal. Now you couldn't possibly edit the journal that way now.

LB: How did you get into doing that?

AES: By a telephone call from Al Baldwin. Al Baldwin was the president of the SRCD and how did he know me? How did I know Al? I knew him. Well, one thing was I had been asked if I wanted to be the Chairman of the Department of Child Development at Cornell, when he was leaving that chairmanship. But I think the reason we got to know each other, may have been through Division Seven of the APA, Division on Developmental. I edited the newsletter for that division. That was my first little editorial thing. Now you want to go back to childhood. When I was ten years old I edited a newspaper.

LB: Well we really didn't need to go back that far.

AES: Which was called the messenger and which I printed on my own printing press. I had one of those little child printing presses. And I sold it all over our neighborhood. So I've always been a frustrated journalist. So I did, when I was at Penn State. I did the newsletter for Division Seven for several years. And like every newsletter editor, I improved it and enlarged it and you know.

LB: And all that stuff.

AES: All that stuff and so then that's why Al called me.

LB: Well you've been very active with university affairs, as you've indicated and so there were other important kinds of rolls that you took on, as well as this Dean job, which you opted out of then.

AES: Liked the people -- hated the work.

LB: But there were others here that you must have enjoyed doing or gave you some gratifications.

AES: We had this program in human biology, which was not a graduate major, and I taught in that program. I liked that very much, I thought it was a very exciting program to teach in.

What else did I do at Stanford. I chaired a lot of search committees. I put together the idea that we should have an Ombudsman at Stanford, at the time of the troubles. And I have a little, sort of Quaker, in my background. So I'm always looking for ways to reconcile differences, and help people get along and mediate and stuff like that. And so I came across this idea of an Ombudsman. I was on a committee that was supposedly, I don't know, bringing together the student and the faculty and the administration. And I recommended an Ombudsman and I put that together and chaired search committees for that.

I chaired a lot of search committees for Stanford. And after I was made professor. Stanford gave me courtesy appointments in other departments. They don't do that until you are a professor. Once I was a professor I had courtesy appointment in psychology and a courtesy appointment in education. Both of which have degree programs in child development, which of course we don't have in the med school. So I was working with the graduate students in those programs.