A Personal Obituary of Calvin Settlage, MD, by Robert S. Wallerstein, MD

Narratives – Part 1

Cal Settlage and I were professional colleagues and became close personal friends. We first met somewhere in the mid-1960s when we were both members of the Coordinating Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association, then the chief policy arm of the American. It was a group of about a dozen members who met for four weekends each year at the American’s New York central office. The members were the officers of the American, the officers of its Board on Professional Standards, and the Chairs of the six major Board Committees. Cal was then Chair of the Child analysis Committee. He was from Philadelphia where his central mentor was Margaret Mahler who taught at his Institute on frequent regular visits from New York. He was by then a prominent child analyst who strongly embraced Mahler’s developmental perspective, following the separation-individuation phases of infant and child development; and he actively espoused and taught this perspective over his lifetime professional career. I was very taken by Cal’s publications as I read them, and by his participation in the myriad policy discussions during the intense weekend discussions of the Coordinating Committee. I was as the time from the Topeka Institute, and was of the Committee on Training for Research.

A few years later–the latter 1960s–I had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as Chief of Psychiatry at Mount Zion Hospital. The Director of Child Psychiatry was Emmy Sylvester, a renowned child analyst who had been originally recruited from Chicago where she had worked with Bruno Bettelheim. When Emmy retired from her position shortly after I arrived, I thought immediately of trying to replace her by Cal Settlage. Those negotiations succeeded with Cal accepting a full-time position as the successor Director, with additional private practice rights. I was also able to work out an arrangement with the hospital and with the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley, whereby Cal would have no clinical responsibilities to the Mount Zion child training program during his first year but could enroll as a full-time special student in the Berkeley psychology department to study the concepts and the methods of child developmental research, skills that he then brought back to the Mt. Zion department, as he started long-term developmental studies with groups of his child analyst colleagues and with students in the child programs in the department. These studies continued over Cal’s entire period in the department, and after he resigned that post, all the years he continued to practice in San Francisco. Over that whole time span Cal was always a much beloved teacher and mentor as he expounded Mahler’s developmental perspective within the child analytic world. Parallel to Mount Zion, Cal also played a signal role in the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society where he was a Training Analyst on the Education Committee of its Psychoanalytic Institute and where he served, I think, two consecutive three-year terms as Chair of the committee.

Cal also had powerful family, (non-psychoanalytic) work, and recreational interests. I knew that he had helped support himself through college and through medical school at the University of Wisconsin by playing a woodwind instrument (sax or clarinet?) in the gigs of a small combo group. I also saw his house renovation skills as he, together with his contractor son Murray, did all the labor of somewhat enlarging and renovating the home that they had bought not far from where I lived. And I also saw his share of the quirks that bedevil all of us. My wife Judy and I could never quite understand Cal’s and his wife Gladys’ aversion to the kinds of travel adventures that most of us plan so intensely and look forward to so eagerly each annual vacation period. Cal seemed content with just attending the American Association’s twice yearly psychoanalytic meetings around the country. He was essentially a home body. When Judy and I talked him and Gladys into a summer European vacation at one point, we were chagrined to note how many complaints they returned with, like having to strain their necks to look up at the vaulted ceilings in the European Gothic cathedrals!

And Cal’s time in San Francisco was not at all conflict-free. He was passionately committed to Margaret Mahler’s developmental perspective within psychoanalytic theorizing, and he expected equal positive commitments from colleagues and friends. I was one of the organizers of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s NIMH funded COPER conference (Conference on Psychoanalytic Education and Research) held at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, from September 30 to October 4, 1974. The Conference had nine commissions dealing with the different areas under study, and each commission had two years prior to the conference to exchange ideas by mail, by phone and by personal meetings, to prepare their thoughts and their recommendations for presentation at the Conference itself. About 170 leading psychoanalytic contributors from around the country were invited as Conference participants. Cal was asked to chair the Child Analysis Commission and was responsible for presenting its report to the Conference. The designated discussant (from another of the Conference commissions) was Ed Weinshel, Cal’s good friend and working colleague at Mount Zion Hospital. Ed had a more traditional perspective on psychological development, and in a friendly way, presented some alternative vistas on developmental conceptions. Cal took this very personally; it was very hard for him to absorb differing views when presented by close friends and colleagues–and a major friendship suffered badly and enduringly over all their future contacts at Mount Zion and at the Psychoanalytic Institute.

With all that, I was always very happy that I had been able to bring Cal Settlage to San Francisco, and was sad indeed with his surprise announcement, when he terminated his professional career, that he and Gladys, and their two children, Murray and Sally, were moving to a massive chicken farm in Arkansas, a cog in the vast Tyson chicken empire, to work the farm and to retire there. Cal did keep up with some ex-patients in San Francisco, by regular phone sessions, and periodically returned for a weekend to see them over the next several years, but we had no contact on these visits.

A final note. I was not able to obtain a copy of Cal’s lifetime CV which would have provided me a much more comprehensive overview of Cal’s entire life career, with his major educational markers and lifetime professional achievements, as well as a much fuller account of his many important contributions to our professional literature. I’ve constructed this overview out of my personal contacts through the American Psychoanalytic Association and here at the Mount Zion Hospital and the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society–and in the close and happy friendship that Judy and I forged socially with Cal and Gladys. I hope that it gives some picture of a very significant figure in the American Psychoanalytic world over the second half of the last century. Cal’s daughter Sally called me from Arkansas to notify me when Cal died. It closed an important chapter of my life for me but reminded me of very important and enduring memories.


Robert S. Wallerstein, MD, Emeritus Professor and former Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and Emeritus Training and Supervising Analyst, at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, is also a former President of the American Psychoanalytic Association (1971-72) and former President of the International Psychoanalytic Association (1985-89).

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