Homer Curtis, an outstanding teacher
(1917 – 2013)
Professor Homer Curtis, an outstanding psychoanalyst and a prominent leader of international psychoanalytic community, who provided invaluable support for Russian psychoanalysts, died on Tuesday June 4, 2013 at the age of 96 in the USA. Homer Curtis would often come to Russia to give workshops and supervisions at the East-European Psychoanalytic Institute. The list of his supervisees includes a number of leading specialists of our Institute such as Jury Baranov, Irina Lukina, Andrew Kulikov, Dmitry Rozhdestvensky and many others.
Two years ago, in 2012, Homer Curtis retired and moved to a village. Previously, he had been living and practicing in Haverford, giving analysis and supervisions for almost 60 years. As his family’s statement says, “His warmth, empathy and insightfulness made him a much sought-after analyst, supervisor and teacher”. With a warm memory of my personal encounters with Homer Curtis, I would add that he was a very intelligent man, charming and cordial.
He wrote many papers which became famous because of his clear thinking and deep understanding of psychoanalytic theory and practice. We translated a number of his papers into Russian and published them in The Psychoanalytic Bulletin; they facilitated our understanding of psychoanalysis and were useful for teaching at the East-European Psychoanalytic Institute.
Homer Curtis was born in Salt Lake City; he was middle of five children in Mormon family. His wife Enid Ashton also belonged to Mormon community; they raised seven children together.
As a young missioner in Mormon community, he spent two years in Germany before World War II, and during the war served in Army Medical Corps in the USA.
In 1944 he graduated from University of Utah Medical School and became a lieutenant of Army Reserve, and in 1950 he finished his psychiatric training at Pennsylvania Hospital where he worked as an attending psychiatrist later; then he held a position as professor of psychiatry at Hahnemann Medical College and University of Pennsylvania Medical School. At that time he received theoretical education and training in psychoanalysis, and soon he became a training analyst and supervisor at Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis and at Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia.
During that time Homer Curtis became an active member of professional psychoanalytic community; he participated in different committees and working groups, and his activity was appreciated by his colleagues. In 1970 he was elected as the the President of the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis, and in 1988-1990 he was the President of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He often played a key role in reconciling different professional groups and psychoanalytic institutes in the USA. He frequently participated in training committees dealing with problems of psychoanalytic training standards. In 1980-s he put effort to opening-up psychoanalytical education and training for non-medical professionals, such as psychologists and social workers.
He was a visionary in a sense and a proponent of ecumenism in psychoanalysis, and these qualities helped him to establish contact between the American Psychoanalytic Association (APA) and the European Federation for Psychoanalysis (EFP) in 1980-s. When Gorbachev came to power in the USSR, Homer Curtis as the President of the APA wrote him a letter - “driven by enthusiastic desire to re-establish relationship with the ex-enemy”, as he told me later - inviting Soviet leader to meet the APA executives; the letter stayed unanswered, to be sure. However, in 1990 doctor Curtis established Russian-American Exchange Program for psychoanalytic training directed at development of psychoanalysis in Russia.
At out Institute the program existed till the end of the XX century and included 6-8 annual workshops lasting a few days each, with dozens of outstanding Western specialists coming here to teach us, which led to a qualitative change in our theoretical understanding of contemporary psychoanalysis and training perspectives. Unfortunately, despite his openness to new approaches, Homer Curtis could not accept our position which implied more self-reliance and rejection of conservative training system. However, we retained our deepest respect to Homer Curtis, and at his 80-th anniversary we sent him out letter of gratitude and Honorary Prize, a statue Russian Freud created by an outstanding Russian sculptor Professor Pavel Shevchenko.
His official and unofficial positions and outstanding achievements notwithstanding, Homer Curtis was a modest man with earthly interests. He enjoyed sport, tourism and rafting. His active lifestyle was a good example to all of us, for Russian colleagues remember that his immensely important activity in our country started when he was in his seventies.
On behalf of Russian psychoanalytic community let me present our condolences to Homer Curtis’s family: his wife Enid, his sons Scott, John and Paul, his daughters Kathryn, Caroline and Debora and his 15 grandchildren and 15 grand-grandchildren. The family can be proud of such a man as Homer Curtis, who can serve as an example for younger generations.
Let me repeat the words from the family’s statement, which I strongly agree with: “His quiet strength, thoughtfulness, and nonjudgmental attitude touched all who came into contact with him. People unfailingly came away feeling encouraged or supported, and certain they mattered”.
Picture 1: Members of the first supervisory group conducted by Dr. Homer Curtis. Sitting in the center: Roy Aruffo MD and Homer Curtis MD. Standing (left to right): the first training analysts and supervisors of the EEPI Dmitry Rozhdestvenskij PhD, Andrew Kulikov MD, Vladimir Shamov MD, Tatiana Rudakova, Oksana Sakhnovskaya, Prof Mikhail Reshetnikov, Sergey Manevskij MD, Irina Lukina PhD, Jury Baranov PhD (1996).
Picture 2: Homer Curtis MD, Prof Mikhail Reshetnikov and Han Groen-Prakken (Barcelona, the 40-th IPA Congress, 1997)
Prof. Mikhail Reshetnikov, MD, PhD, Meritorious Scientist of Russia,
East European Psychoanalytical Institute, Rector (St. Petersburg, Russia),
All-Russian Council for Psychotherapy and Consalting (Moscow, Russia),
European Confederation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies, Past-President (Vienna, Austria),
Russian National Branch of the ECPP, President (St. Petersburg. Russia),
Philosophical Department of the St. Petersburg State University - Member of Scientific Board
E.E. Psychoanalytical Institute,
18-A, Bolshoy pr., P.S.,
St. Petersburg, 197198, Russia.
Tel./fax + 7 812 235 28 57;
My condolences on the death of this teacher and trainer who was such an important shaping force in the life of your Institute.