Remembering Marty Maehr

We are very saddened to announce the passing of Dr. Martin Maehr in Ann Arbor, Michigan on January 10th, 2017. Dr. Maehr, or Marty as most of us knew him, was a leading voice in the field of achievement motivation research for roughly five decades. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, Marty served on the faculties of Concordia Senior College in Indiana and the University of Illinois. Marty moved to the University of Michigan in 1989 and was a leader in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology for over 25 years until he retired in 2005.

Marty’s research interests were broad and varied, but he is perhaps best known for work in three areas, all related to achievement motivation. First, he challenged the prevailing view of achievement motivation work of McClelland, Atkinson and others as being a needs-based, personality variable by proposing a social-cognitive alternative perspective with a strong emphasis on culture. His emphasis on the sociocultural influences on motivation was ahead of its time and remains influential today. Second, he developed a theory of personal investment that emphasized the motivational effects of goals that were personally meaningful to individuals. Finally, he was one of the early proponents of achievement goal theory. His work had direct applications to business, schools, and public policy. During the latter part of his career, Marty became particularly engaged with applying his research and knowledge toward improving school reform efforts. He truly wanted his work to make a difference in students’ and teachers’ lives. Marty’s students will remember him as not only promoting but also protecting, their independence of thought and creativity in research. He will be greatly missed.

Marty’s intellectual legacy has been honored in the book Culture, Self, and Motivation: Essays in Honor of Martin L. Maehr, edited by Avi Kaplan, Stuart Karabenick, and Elizabeth de Groot, and through the work of all the scholars whose thinking he influenced.

Special thanks to Tim Urdan, one of Marty’s former students, for providing this remembrance.

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