Yale '62 - Obituaries - Stephen M. Sales

Stephen M. Sales

Born: February 25, 1940
Died: October 8, 1972

Steve was born in Louisville, Kentucky and prepared for Yale at Eastern High School, Middletown, Kentucky. At Yale he was member of Jonathan Edwards College and president of the Outing Club. He graduated magna cum laude.

Classmate Lee Bolman graciously consulted with Steve=s widow Esther and his brother Michael and assisted with this obituary. Lee writes that "Steve was increasingly influenced at Yale by Professor Chris Argyris [Industrial Administration], who was his advisor. ... Under Chris tutelage, Steve became involved in T-Group work and became increasingly insightful in his perceptions of human motivation and group behavior."

After Yale, Steve studied at Cornell, obtaining a Masters Degree in Organizational Behavior in 1965. He then moved to Ann Arbor where he enrolled in the Doctoral Program at the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Michigan in 1969. His work there, "examined the impact of personality factors on health and coronary disease. This groundbreaking early research on mind-body interaction focused on measuring Type A and Type B personality characteristics and their effects on stress reactions among NASA scientists ... as they dealt with the challenges in space launches," Lee observed.

He then joined the faculty of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh in Psychology and Industrial Administration. He published numerous important professional articles in the areas of organization, work stress and illness, authoritarian periods in history and the need for stimulation. He consistently staked out new and challenging areas and approached them with conceptual and methodological incisiveness. At the time of his death, Steve was recognized as one of the nation=s most gifted young social psychologists. His landmark research in authoritarianism and how to study it was published within a month of his death in Psychology Today.

Steve married the former Esther Goodman in 1967. They had one child, a son Brian Mark, born in June 1969. Esther Sales wrote in 1987 that Steve spoke often and enthusiastically about his Yale experiences. His life, though all too brief, was filled with a remarkable richness. He was well liked and well respected by faculty and associates alike and he conveyed his ideas with an enthusiasm that energized others and involved them in his discoveries. However, his enthusiasms were not limited to academia but extended across many aspects of life and experience. His love of nature, already in place from his days at Yale, expanded in Michigan, and continued in Pittsburgh, as he discovered and mastered sailing, mushroom stalking and white water canoeing in quick succession. He also became an excellent cook and oenophile. "Never content to have just a glancing knowledge of a topic, he quickly gained expertise in each new area that captured his excitement and shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with everyone he touched," Esther recently recalled.

Steve died in a sailing accident at the age of 32. Esther wrote that he left for her, a double legacy, the first being their son and the second the model for living that she has continued to emulate: "The grace with which he lived his life may have been his finest accomplishment."

In addition to his widow and his son Brian, Steve was survived by his brother Michael and his mother. Brian now works in the Pittsburgh area in advanced computer generated video graphics. Esther, who remarried in 1981, is now a professor and director of the doctoral program in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.

Lee Bolman, himself a leader in the field of social psychology, contributed this postscript: "Like Esther and so many others who knew Steve, thirty years after his death, I still miss him personally and miss the many important contributions I know he would have made to the field he and I shared."