Carl Rogers and Edward Wagenknecht were Oak Parkers who gained prominence in psychology and literature, respectively, during the 20th century.
He was born on Jan. 8, 1902, in the family home on Clinton Avenue in Oak Park. One of six children, he was a sickly child, shy, and the butt of teasing by his older brothers. Carl was close to his mother because his father, a civil engineer, was away from home on frequent business trips. His mother gave him a great deal of attention, and in fact taught him how to read at age four. The family was very religious, so Carl started by reading Bible stories.
When he was 5, the family moved to 547 N. Euclid Ave. where the lot was large enough to accommodate a barn that housed two buggies and two horses. Later a tennis court was added to the property.
When Carl was three months short of 7, he started school at Holmes. It wasn’t long before his first grade teacher realized he was too advanced a reader to remain in the first grade primer, so he was quickly promoted to the second grade. His primary reading choices were adventure stories about pirates, Native Americans and frontiersmen. He also enjoyed reading the dictionary and various encyclopedias.
In 1914 the family left Oak Park and moved to Glen Ellyn.
Rogers was one of the founders of Humanistic Psychology, which is a person-centered approach to therapy. He believed that if a patient established a relationship with an accepting therapist, the patient could resolve his/her difficulties. The comedian Bob Newhart, an Austin neighborhood native, portrayed a Rogerian psychologist on The Bob Newhart Show.
Rogers was married in 1924 to Helen Elliott, a former neighbor and Holmes School classmate. He received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. He taught at Ohio State, the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Rogers was ranked in the top 10 of psychologists of the 20th century and second only to Freud as a clinical psychologist. He died in 1987 at the age of 85.
Edward Wagenknecht was a literary critic who specialized in 19th-century literature. He wrote many critical literary biographies and two outstanding works — The Cavalcade of the American Novel and The Cavalcade of the English Novel — both of which I used extensively as an undergraduate.
Among the 70 books he wrote were studies of Twain, Dickens and Henry James, as well as Christmas stories and tales of the supernatural.
Although born in Chicago, Wagenknecht grew up in Oak Park and lived at 934 Wenonah Ave. He graduated valedictorian from OPRF High School in 1917, the same year Ernest Hemingway graduated. In the class prophecy, Hemingway wrote that the scholarly Edward would be a famous major league ballplayer.
This was satirical, of course, because Edward had no interest in sports. He was interested only in academics and public speaking.
Edward graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922 and received an M.A. from the same institution in 1924.Both degrees were in English as was the Ph.D. he received from the University of Washington in 1932. A very demanding teacher, he taught at IIT, the U. of Chicago, the U. of Washington, Boston U., and the extension division of Harvard from which he retired in 1972. He was married and the father of three sons.
Dr.Wagenknecht died in 2004 at the age of 104.
I wish to thank the reference librarians at the Oak Park Public Library for assisting me with finding information relevant to the lives of both Carl Rogers and Edward Wagenknecht.