Leon Rappoport (1932-2009)

Ronald Downey, Kansas State University & Paul H. Elovitz, Ramapo College

Clio’s Psyche Editorial Board member and psychologist Leon Harold Rappoport (1932-2009) died of colon cancer at his home in Manhattan, Kansas on September 10, 2009 at the age of 77.  He was a professor of social psychology at Kansas State University (KSU) for 39 years prior to his 2003 retirement.

On March 11, 1932 Leon was born to Minnie (nee Himmel) and Jack Rappoport and educated in the public schools of Manhattan, New York prior to earning his bachelors degree in psychology in 1953 from New York University.  During his military service in the U.S. Army from 1954-1956 Leon served as a radio operator and married his wife Karen while stationed in Germany.  Following his discharge he worked in marketing for the Elmo Roper polling firm in New York City.  As an avid skier he applied only to universities in mountain states, earning his masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Colorado in 1962 and 1963.  He did research and learned cross-county skiing in 1963 in Norway while on a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowship at the Psychologisk Institutt of Oslo University.  In 1964 Leon and his family moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where he became an Assistant Professor at the KSU Department of Psychology.

Among the courses Dr. Rappoport taught to graduates and undergraduates were Psychohistory (with George Kren), Life Span-Personality Development, Social Psychology, Health Psychology, the History of Psychology, the Psychology of Ethnic Humor, and the Varieties of Consciousness.  As an active professional he made many presentations and wrote numerous articles, chapters of books, and reviews.  His books include Personality Development: The Chronology of Experience (1972), Human Judgment and Social Interaction (Co-edited, 1973), and Psychology and the Problems of Today (co-edited, 1978).   His interests and research projects over the years were eclectic and wide-ranging and eclectically, including: conflict resolution; combat veterans opinions regarding the Vietnam war; decision-making in ambiguous situations; the Holocaust; ethnic, gender, and racial humor; nutrition and food preference; post-modernism; preventing nuclear theft; and problems of theoretical psychology.  Leon also jogged, led Zen meditation sessions for two decades, played tennis, practiced yoga, read prodigiously, and with friends and family fished, hiked, ice-skated, skied, and swam.

Professor Rappoport was recruited for the Clio’s Psyche Editorial Board by his longtime KSU colleague and friend—the late George Kren (1926-2000).  Together they edited Varieties of Psychohistory (1976), wrote The Holocaust and The Crisis of Human Behavior (1980, 1994), talked extensive, rode motorcycles, and smoked endlessly.  Leon enjoyed retirement during which he published How We Eat: Appetite, Culture, and the Psychology of Food (2003) and Punchlines: The Case for Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Humor (2005).  For Clio’s Psyche he sometimes refereed articles and occasionally wrote, serving this publication through e-mail and occasional telephone conversations.  We mourn the passing of this genial colleague and regret that a memorial is so late in coming because of the delay in notification of his death.

Leon is survived by his wife Karen, one of his two sons, two grandchildren, and one sister.  At the All Faiths Chapel on the KSU campus a memorial service was held on October 11, 2009.