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'Soaring' Lecture Series Honors Matilda White Riley

By Anne Decker

The NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, in collaboration with four institutes, is presenting five lectures that honor the contributions of prolific NIH social scientist Dr. Matilda White Riley. She is considered by many colleagues to be a prime force in creating NIH social research studies of aging.

The title of the series, "Soaring: An Exploration of Science and the Life Course," reflects both Riley's early interest in the sport of soaring and gliding and, metaphorically, the direction of her professional and private life. The series will begin with Dr. Paul B. Baltes, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. His lecture, "Biocultural Dynamics of the Life Course: Difficult Journey from the Third to Fourth Age?" will be given on Friday, Sept. 14 at 3 p.m. in the Natcher Bldg., Rm. F1-F2.

Baltes received his doctorate in 1967 from the University of Saabrucken in Saarland, Germany. His research interests include lifespan human development: evolution and ontogenesis; aging of the mind (intelligence, memory, personality and wisdom); and theory of successful development.

The National Institute on Aging will host a reception immediately following the lecture.

Dr. Matilda White Riley

During her NIA career, Riley developed the blueprint for and implemented a visionary extramural program in the behavioral and social sciences. Under her direction, this multidisciplinary program grew to fund one of the largest behavioral and social science research programs at NIH, emphasizing interplay among social, behavioral and biological factors in the aging of individuals and societies. Her positive vision of aging inspired many innovative research projects.

"Dr. Riley brought to NIH a broad theoretical perspective linking social structures to people's life styles and people's life styles to their health. She recognized the potential in both societies and people for improving health and functioning over the entire life course, even in the oldest old, through social change and through their own actions," said Dr. Ronald P. Abeles, chair, NIH behavioral and social sciences research coordinating committee.

Last summer, Riley and her husband returned to live in Brunswick, Maine, where they had met as high school students. Riley has been appointed research professor in sociology (honorary) at Bowdoin College where she taught prior to joining NIA.

Other cosponsoring institutes of the series are: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Cancer Institute, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The schedule for the other four lectures in the series is:

  • Dr. Frank F. Furstenburg, Jr., University of Pennsylvania, "Teenage Childbearing across the Generations: Reality or Myth," Friday, Oct. 26, 9 a.m., Wilson Hall, Bldg. 1.

  • Dr. John R. Finnegan, University of Minnesota, "Health Campaigns in the Age of Ubiquitous Media: Promise and Peril," Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 9 a.m., Natcher Bldg., Balcony B.

  • Dr. Karen A. Matthews, University of Pittsburgh, "Gender Differences in Health Disease: 'Let Me Count the Ways,'" Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 3 p.m., Natcher Bldg., Balcony A.

  • Dr. Robert L. Kahn, University of Michigan, "Successful Aging: Prescriptions and Persisting Problems," Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 9 a.m., Natcher Bldg., Balcony A.
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