Obituary: Roger Weissberg

Roger Weissberg
Roger Weissberg

Roger Weissberg, UIC distinguished professor emeritus of psychology, died Sept. 5 following an extended battle with cancer. He was 69.

Weissberg, who came to UIC in 1992 from Yale University, was a pioneering researcher whose work showed the effectiveness of social and emotional learning, or SEL, in helping students from preschool through high school succeed in the classroom and manage problem behaviors.

As one of the nation’s foremost SEL experts, he trained scholars and practitioners in innovative family, school and community interventions. His 1997 book, “Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators,” is widely recognized for formally defining SEL as an educational approach. His work included over 260 publications focusing on preventive interventions with children and adolescents.

He formerly led UIC’s SEL Research Group, which directs projects in assessment, practice, educator preparation and policy development.

In recognition of his significant and sustained intellectual scholarship, he was named a liberal arts and sciences distinguished professor in 2008 and a UIC distinguished professor in 2014.

A $2 million donation to the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from the NoVo Foundation in 2011 was made to support ongoing SEL research at the university, establish the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning at UIC, and make Weissberg the inaugural scholar to hold the post.

“UIC’s reputation as a world leader in SEL research originates with Roger’s arrival and his nearly four decades of groundbreaking work,” said Astrida Orle Tantillo, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “He had an enduring and immeasurable impact on the academic and social development of all children, the creation of professional development for teachers and administrators to implement evidence-based programs with quality, and shaping legislation in support of SEL programs.”

“His life’s passion was on healthy child development in the context of social and emotional learning, and he also practiced that as an educator, mentor, colleague and friend. So many of us had the great fortune of his friendship, mentorship and wisdom. He will be dearly missed, but never forgotten,” said Mike Ragozzino, UIC professor and head of psychology.

Weissberg also directed the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, from 1996 until 2014, when he became board vice chair and chief knowledge officer for the nonprofit organization, which leads multiple initiatives and produces high-quality resources to advance and implement SEL practices and policies.

“Roger made incalculable contributions to the science, practice, and policy of education in the United States and around the world,” said Timothy Shriver, CASEL co-founder and board chair. “SEL has brought empathy, compassion, and strength to the lives of millions of children and adults, and no one did more to open their hearts and ours too than Roger. Future generations will long be indebted to him and those of us lucky enough to know and work with him will cherish his memory, his kindness, his endless commitment, and his life changing friendship.”

In 2018, the National AfterSchool Association named Weissberg among the most influential individuals and organizations involved with after-school research and evaluation. One year earlier, he was named to Getting Smart’s “60 people shaping the future of K-12 education.” His contributions to educational research and policy development earned him election to the National Academy of Education in 2013. The George Lucas Educational Foundation selected him in 2008 for its “Daring Dozen,” which honors those who are reshaping the future of education.

He received the Society for Community Research and Action 2004 Distinguished Contribution to Theory and Research Award and the 2000 American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Contribution Award for Applications of Psychology to Education and Training.

He earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Rochester and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandeis University.

To honor Weissberg’s legacy, the CASEL Weissberg Scholars Program for Innovators of Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning has been established to continue his visionary approach to research and collaboration.

The Weissberg family will be planning a celebration of life at a later date. More details will be available at

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