Rollo May


Biography of Rollo May

Rollo May (April 21, 1909 – October 22, 1994) was an American existential psychologist. He was the author of the influential book Love and Will, which was published in 1969. He is often associated with both humanistic psychology and existentialist philosophy. He along with Viktor Frankl was a major proponent of "existential psychotherapy" which seeks to analyze the structure of human existence with the aim of understanding the reality underlying all situations of humans in crises. May was a close friend of the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, who also had a significant influence on his work. His works include "The Meaning of Anxiety", Love and Will, and The Courage to Create, the latter title honoring Tillich's The Courage to Be.

May was born in Ada, Ohio, in 1909. He experienced a difficult childhood when his parents divorced and his sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was the first son of a family with six children. His mother often left the children to care for themselves, and with his sister being schizophrenic, he bore a great deal of responsibility. His educational career took him to Michigan State University majoring in English but was expelled due to his involvement in a radical student magazine. After he was asked to leave, he attended Oberlin College and received a bachelor's degree in English. He later spent 3 years teaching in Greece at Anatolia College. During this time he studied with doctor and psychotherapist, Alfred Adler, with whom Rollo May also shares some theoretical similarities. Rollo May became ordained as a minister shortly after coming back to the United States, but left the ministry several years later to pursue a degree in psychology. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1942 and committed into a sanatorium for eighteen months. He later attended Union Theological Seminary for a BD during 1938, and finally to Teachers College, Columbia University for a PhD in clinical psychology in 1949. May was a founder and faculty member of Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco.

He spent the final years of his life in Tiburon on San Francisco Bay, where he died in October 1994.

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