Graduate Program

"Psychiatry and

Psychology of Aging"

Memories of our Mentor Margret M. Baltes*

In October 1998 Margret Baltes invited us to the first meeting of the graduate program. With great enthusiasm she initiated this program with colleagues from other disciplines to give junior scientists in medicine and psychology the opportunity to train and work in an interdisciplinary context. At this first meeting we had only a glimpse of the possibilities which would be offered to us thanks to Margret Baltes’ dedication: excellent working conditions, stimulating courses, and above all, an ongoing exchange with leading experts in the field of aging research.

She was not only concerned with successfully launching our careers, but was also sensitive to the challenges of moving to a new city. She told us of the similar adjustments she faced when moving to Berlin from the United States with her husband and children. Even though the transition was not easy she assured us that her opinion of Berlin soon improved.

At the opening event in November 1998 we got our first impression of the large network of which we were to be a part. Margret Baltes succeeded in inviting very distinguished speakers. In her own talk she emphasized her curiosity about the ideas that we would bring to joint discussions, suggesting that the graduate program was like a fountain of youth from which she herself hoped to profit.

In our regular meetings she convinced us that she was serious about that attitude. Very quickly she created a pleasant and concentrated working atmosphere. We remember the enthusiasm with which she brought us closer to her research field, and the quiet authority with which she always directed discussions productively. With her famous memos, which soon filled the inboxes of our e-mail accounts, she kept in constant contact with us. Every piece of news from her office made us more aware of what a privilege it was to belong to her graduate program.

In addition, there are so many anecdotes to remember: Margret Baltes supporting one of her students who was in trouble; sprinting together with us to the nearest taxi stand when a student had accidentally taken her car keys and we were late for a seminar. Margret Baltes was always elegantly dressed, sometimes even with a tiger print scarf. She offered Prosecco, pretzels, and Badischen wine at every party; distributed flowers on desks, and could laugh so youthfully and heartily.

We are very sad that she is no longer with us to see how our dissertation projects are slowly taking form. It would have been so important for us to discuss our ideas with her. We sometimes ask ourselves what she would think of our developing projects. In such moments we recall her pragmatic way of thinking and her motto: "Don’t ruminate!"

With Margret Baltes we have lost an extraordinary mentor. We are very grateful for her commitment and for the time we had with her. Although it was a very short time for some of us, we all have a lasting impression of Margret Baltes’ strong, independent, and very disciplined personality. She will be our model in countless ways.

The Members of the Graduate Program "Psychiatry and Psychology of Aging" Eva Bemmerer, Daniela Jopp, Martina Junker,
Nina Knoll, Guido Kurtz, Ilka Li▀mann, Nina Rieckmann,
Michaela Riediger, Ute Schulz, Tania Singer, & Florian Wertenauer

* In 1998, Margret M. Baltes was the primary initiator (and then speaker) of a newly established Program of Excellence in Doctoral Training "Psychiatry and Psychology of Aging" (Graduiertenkolleg "Psychische Potentiale und ihre Grenzen im Alter"). This program is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and includes the following members: Hanfried Helmchen (Speaker; Psychiatry, Free University of Berlin), Paul B. Baltes (Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin), Siegfried Kanowski (Psychiatry, Free University of Berlin), Michael Linden (Psychiatry, Free University of Berlin), Hans Scherer (Otorhinolaryngology, Free University of Berlin), Ralf Schwarzer (Psychology, Free University of Berlin). The graduate students who prepared this memorial statement represent the first cohort of doctoral students in this program.

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