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You Mattered, Chris

By on October 10, 2012 – 2:07 pm  53 Comments

Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Their co-authored articles are here.

Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.

Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06 also co-authored Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits. Blog. Full bio. Her solo articles are here.

Christopher Peterson died yesterday.

We don’t know the details. We’ve just been touched by the shock wave going through a world-wide community that formed around his generous and productive life.

Just five days ago, Chris wrote an article in his Positive Psychology Today blog, The Good Life, about the ways he might use the word “awesome.” Along with the 1000 statues of the Buddha at the Sanjūsangen-dō temple in Japan, all looking alike from a distance but different up close, his examples included the Vietnam Memorial and the Virginia Tech Hokie Stones memorial for the people who died in the 2007 shooting. He concludes the article this way:

“The sort of awe I am describing is a bit different but incredibly important. It is awe about people collectively, including us. We are all the same, and each of us is unique, certainly in death but also in life. May we all stop and notice.” Awesome: E Pluribus Unum by Dr. Christopher Peterson

Chris was our teacher during the first MAPP program, teaching us how to read and write about research in the first semester and exploring character strengths and virtues in the second semester. Every slide deck had at least one joke and at least one picture of a baby in it.

We explored questions such as “What you can and cannot measure” and “What would we add as the 25th character strength?” He certainly didn’t believe that the existing 24 had been handed down carved in stone. For his top 5 character strength, people who knew Chris might pick Love, Curiosity, Humor, Humility, and … but it may be difficult to narrow in on the fifth since so many applied.

Chris reminded us that asking interesting questions is what matters in good research and that writing is a series of choices about how to tell a story and the writer should have a goal and an audience in mind. He also told us, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” At the same time, he had the ability to distill complex research findings into usable advice. He asked his students to think of the so-what factor: “So what? Why does it matter that this research exists? How does it make a difference?” Many students were keen to speak and work with Chris and benefited from his personal attention.

In the comments, please add any Chris stories that you are moved to tell. We’ll start with our two stories.
Also, we will keep adding photos of Chris here, so please email us with the image attached:

Chris, we are thinking about you …


Here are just some articles on PPND that reference Chris directly (BTW, there are over 100 references for each of the below two):

Books by Christopher Peterson. The new book, Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology, is scheduled to be published in December 2012.

Baby feet courtesy of Pawel Loj
The feature image and the first three pictures of Dr. Christopher Peterson courtesy of Sulynn Choong

Chris with Gloria Park, Sulynn Choong. Nansook Park, and David Pollay

Chris wearing Buckeyes brought by Amanda Hoffman — a good sport after Ohio State won


  • Kelly Champion says:

    Hearing these stories brings Chris into my heart. I am so grateful to all who miss Chris and have shared their stories. It is a good hurt.

    Chris, in many ways, showed me how to live a life that matters. I knew Chris when I was his student in the mid 1980s. We first connected beyond the classroom because we are both twins. Chris helped me to imagine a career in psychology for the first time. He educated, supported, and mentored my passion for all the things that I still do today as a clinical psychologist in research, teaching, and practice. He fostered my courage in so many situations. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and Chris named me as optimistic (learned as it may have been), he gave me the ability to flourish for the rest of my life. My gratitude and grief are in equal measure. He clearly lived a life that mattered. Thank you for all who keep his legacy alive.

  • Thanks, Kelly, for bringing Chris top of mind for us.

    It is very fitting, with IPPA’s 2013 World Congress about to happen in Los Angeles. Thinking about the time Chris was in charge of the IPPA World Congress, I particularly remember him trying to shepherd people into some of the least attended presentations, convinced that all who were there deserved a good hearing. I remember his frustration, too, that big names were drawing people away from sessions where very interesting things were being said. It’s a good thing for us to keep in mind as we plan what we’re going to do next week.


  • Debbie Yip says:

    Hello! I’d like to request permission to use one of the images of Dr. Peterson on this page in an upcoming publication in Singapore. Who can I contact with the details please?

    Thank you!

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