Ed Diener grew up on a California farm, the youngest of six children. His parents sent him to a college preparatory school in nearby Fresno, where he met his future wife, Carol. They married during their junior year at Fresno State College. Although Ed's father wanted him to become a farmer, Ed was more interested in psychology. After a brief period as an administrator for a mental hospital, Ed decided that clinical and administrative work were not for him, and he enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University of Washington. Although he had been interested in the topic of happiness since his time as an undergraduate, he was told that the scientific study of happiness was impossible. Therefore, he focused his initial research on conformity, where he made a number of important empirical and theoretical contributions.
After receiving his Ph.D., Ed took a job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he remained from Assistant through Emeritus Professor. He continued to study conformity until receiving tenure, at which point he returned to the topic of happiness. Many credit Ed with giving happiness research legitimacy, and he has made numerous contributions to the study of what is now known as "subjective well-being." Over the years, he has conducted important research on the measurement of subjective well-being, the correlates of subjective well-being, the processes linking personality traits to subjective well-being, variability in the conceptualization and predictors of well-being across cultures, the outcomes that result from differing levels of well-being, and the implications of subjective well-being for public policy. Through this work, Ed has collaborated with economists, sociologists, statisticians, philosophers, and researchers from many other fields, helping to make the study of subjective well-being a truly interdisciplinary endeavor.
During his career, Ed Diener published hundreds of articles, chapters, and books, and he received many prestigious scholarly awards. These include the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, the William James Fellow Award for outstanding contributions to scientific psychology from the Association of Psychological Science, and the Distinguished Quality-of-Life Researcher Award from the International Society of Quality of Life Studies. Ed served as editor for three journals: the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Personality Processes and Individual Differences, the Journal of Happiness Studies, and he was the founding editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science. He is also past president of three scientific societies: The International Society for Quality of Life Studies, the International Positive Psychology Association, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He is a fellow of a number of professional societies, including the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Quality of Life Studies, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
Throughout his career, Ed Diener also excelled as a teacher and mentor, winning a number of teaching awards and serving as mentor to many graduate students who went on to faculty positions.
- I cannot think of a better advisor than Ed. He gave me many great advices when I just got to Champaign in 1995 (e.g., take a lot of quant classes and learn advance stats). He gave me many great advices when I got the first rejection (e.g., who missed most shots in NBA? Michael Jordan! You gotta shoot!). He gave me immediate honest feedback about my performance (e.g., I said “I am sorry this is not a polished talk.” He said “Don’t start your talk with an apology!”). More than anything, Ed was such a fun person to be with. Ed is not just the leading scholar of happiness, but the practioner of happiness: He made everyone around happy. I had the happiest 5 years of my life in Champaign(!) largely thanks to Ed. Thanks!
- In 1996 I visited Ed’s lab as a German post-doc for half year. These six months really changed my scientific life. I learned the “American way” to write scientific publications and I got into touch with many interesting data sets and research questions. This established a long-lasting cooperation. I also was strongly impressed by the way Ed created an international network of highly motivated, closely connected, and emotionally attached researchers who have been given the feeling of belonging to a family - the scientific Diener family. I am very thankful for his warm-hearted and his generous support I received over the last 20 years. Ed became an important role model for me.
- Ed Diener has been, for me, one of our discipline’s heroes. His pioneering scientific pursuit of happiness—I call him the Jedi Master of happiness research—inspired by writing about happiness. So I was honored to be able to collaborate with him on several articles. But not only is he a prolific scholar who studies topics of great human significance, he also is an uncommonly kind, generous, even philanthropic individual. Like I say, one of my heroes.
- In the fall of 1989, I was a first-year graduate student contemplating doing some preliminary studies on happiness. The topic seemed fuzzy and unscientific and I was pretty insecure about pursuing it -- until I found a mountain of Ed Diener's papers! He single-handedly targeted a construct that no serious psychological scientist (or any scientist for that matter) would consider at the time and ran with it. Today, thanks to Ed, there are scores of serious researchers investigating happiness at every level, from the experimental social psychology laboratory to the neuroscience bench to the economist's spreadsheet to the “real world.”
Ed is not only a giant in intellect and knowledge, he is a giant of wisdom and kindness. I'm sure I won't be the only one to say that he has been a tremendous role model, mentor, collaborator, and friend. Ed is one of the most interesting, warm, and intellectually stimulating people I have ever known and I can't wait to learn of his next idea or project.
- One of the things about Ed that has stayed with me forever is the way he treated me with respect. Even as a young grad student--he had a way of asking me questions like I was an expert (!) Here was this guy--a pioneer and giant in the field--asking me questions about measurement, statistics, or some research finding that caught his eye. And he would actually listen to my response and see some value in it! As brilliant as he was, he never acted like he knew everything or like he could do it all on his own. And because of that, he made his grad students feel valued--like we all had something to contribute to psychology. He built the science of well-being and he let us all be a part of it. For that I will always be grateful.
- When people introduce Ed or write tributes to Ed, they often like to point out that this pioneer in happiness research is also very happy himself. But in my experience, Ed was not "happy" in the stereotypical way. Instead, he had two characteristics of the happy person that really made working with him such a pleasure. First, no matter how busy he was (and he was extremely busy when I was a student at Illinois), he always seemed so calm and so willing and able to focus on and help with my own projects. And second, Ed also has an incredibly high level of energy, interest, and engagement with ideas. He seems to have endless energy to talk about research or even to just sit and analyze data. This obviously contributes to the success he has had in his career, but it also makes him and incredibly fun and productive mentor and colleague. Being able to learn from and work with Ed has been the highlight of my career.
- Ed defies every stereotype about the tortured genius or cold, uncaring but brilliant scientist. Ed is the most creative, engaged, intelligent, and exciting thinker I have ever worked with. He is also the most kind, compassionate, and good humored. He is supportive, fair, and caring. He can be unexpectedly heroic and a voice for social justice. He is an amazing force for good in the psychological universe. And the actual universe.
- Ed, well-being research wouldn't be what it is without you. Although we rarely agreed, our many discussions since I met you at Illinois in the fall of 1980 have always been enjoyable and illuminating. May there be many more to come.
- I am grateful and proud to call myself one of Ed Diener’s former students. Ed has opened so many doors for me that I really feel I owe my entire career to him. Of course he taught me important lessons about research, teaching, and publishing. And he set an example of impressive (almost manic) productivity. Yet the things I cherish most about Ed are that he cares about his students and aims to help them achieve their goals, not his. I also appreciate his candid, straight-talking style, and sense of humor. It is impossible not to have fun around Ed.
-Christie Napa Scollon
- Ed was a complete mentor to me. He taught me what devotion means in research, how to publish and deliver ideas to others, and after my first brownbag presentation, how to correctly pronounce the word “subtle.” But there was much more. Few social psychologists would say that human worthiness correlates with the number of JPSP publications on their vita, but many act as if it does. If true, Ed should be a saint. But he never seemed to take himself too seriously. I think this is remarkable, given how much he has achieved. He has been the same generous, weird-funny, and inspiring Ed for decades to his fortunate students, friends, and colleagues. Ed, you are a huge inspiration, as a mentor and as a person. Thank you so much.
-Eunkook M. Suh
- I could not imagine a better mentor, colleague, and friend than I have experienced in Ed Diener. From those first very anxious and tentative days as a graduate student, Ed has offered support and challenge in an optimal blend that has helped me to succeed and contribute far more than anything I could have imagined for myself. He truly seemed to have a very unique gift in the role of mentor. His enthusiasm for research and work ethic are truly remarkable, and have been inspirational to a long line of students. In our nearly 30 years of association, I have never ceased to be in awe of Ed's extraordinary abilities and boundless energy. He has made a very significant contribution to our field, and his influence on and inspiration to his students will magnify his impact far into the future.