Harry C. Triandis (1926-2019) was born in Greece and moved to Canada is his early twenties. He did his undergraduate work (engineering) at McGill University (1951) in Montreal and his master's (commerce) at the University of Toronto (1954). Harry earned his Ph.D. (1958) in social psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens in Greece (1987).
In 1958, Harry accepted a position with the University of Illinois and started what would be a long and distinguished career. Following his interests in how people of different cultures can live in a peaceful, sustainable way, Harry became a pioneer in the field of cross-cultural psychology. His book The Analysis of Subjective Culture is a classic in the field and is one of the first “texts” in cross-cultural psychology. After publishing the six-volume "Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology," some of his colleagues named him the "father" of this new branch of psychology. Because his research required collaboration with colleagues from different cultures, he circled the globe four times over the course of his life, spending many months in other cultures and lecturing in close to 40 countries on all inhabited continents.
During his career, Harry held various fellowships and teaching assignments. He was a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellow (1964-65), Fellow of the Center of International Studies at Cornell University (1968-69), a Guggenheim Fellow (1972-73), Honorary Fellow at International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology (1982), a Distinguished Fulbright Professor to India (1983) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1984), which administers the Harry and Pola Triandis Doctoral Thesis Award that is given every two years for the best dissertation in that field. He was named a University of Illinois Scholar in 1987 and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois in 1997. After his retirement from the University of Illinois, he taught for a semester at the University of California, Irvine; briefly at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (twice); and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.
A leader in his field, Harry served as president of six associations or societies of psychology: the Interamerican Society of Psychology, the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the Society for CrossCultural Research and the International Association of Applied Psychology.
Harry was a prolific author, publishing over 200 papers, book chapters and books. His most recent work includes: "Fooling Ourselves: Self Deception in Politics, Religion, and Terrorism" (Triandis, 2009), which received the William James Award from the General Psychology division of the American Psychological Association; "Managing Research, Development and Innovation: Managing the Unmanageable," third edition (Jain, Triandis, and Weick, 2010); "Managing Global Organizations" (Bhagat, Triandis, and McDevitt, 2013), “Individualism-Collectivism” (Triandis, 1995), “Culture and Social Behavior” (1994), “Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol 3” (Dunnette, Hough, & Triandis, 1994), “Interpersonal Behavior” (Triandis, 1977), “Variations in Black and White Perceptions of the Social Environment” (Triandis, 1976) and “Attitude and Attitude Change” (Triandis, 1971). His work has been translated into Chinese, Farsi, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and spans 60 years (1955-2015).
Harry and his work have been recognized by numerous national and international organizations. The American Psychological Association awarded Harry the Centennial Citation "for significant contribution to the establishment of cross-cultural psychology as a distinct discipline" (1992), the Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Psychology (1994), the Award for Distinguished Lecturer of the Year (1994) and the Award for Outstanding International Psychologist (2002). In 1994, he received the Otto Klineberg Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Two years later, the American Psychology Society gave him the James Cattell Fellow Award. He received the Eminent Scholar in International Management Award from the Academy of Management. The Federation of Associations in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences included Harry on its list of honored scientists, which lists less than one hundred psychologists. He was named Honorary International Fellow of the Center for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, in 2011. Recognizing his complete body of work, the International Academy for Intercultural Research gave Harry its Lifetime Contributions Award in Taiwan in 2004 and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology gave him its Career Contributions Award in 2012 in San Diego.
Harry lived a rich and full life. He and Pola were well known in the university community for their dinner parties and for welcoming orphaned graduate students to their home for holidays. He took great pride in mentoring his students and his two grandchildren, both of whom he cherished. He established the Pola and Harry Triandis Fellowship in Cross-Cultural Psychology at the University of Illinois. Harry loved classical music and was especially devoted to WILL (Illinois Public Media) and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Motivated by a desire to move toward a world where “people can be brothers in spite of their cultural differences.” Harry treated all people he met around the world with respect and dignity.
- Harry had a profound influence on me as a scientist and as a person. He had three pieces of advice that he always gave his students: 1) Be passionate about what you do; 2) Don’t be afraid of being controversial and 3) Above all, don’t take yourself too seriously!! I think of Harry’s advice all the time and pass it down to my own students and children. Harry taught me the complexities of cross-cultural theory and research and he was a devoted cheerleader and incredibly supportive mentor. When I didn’t find much empirical support for my master’s thesis ideas, Harry was the first to tell me that it didn’t matter, it was the idea that was interesting! Throughout my graduate school years, he always supported my ideas (most of which were kind of crazy!) and he encouraged me to become an academic when I thought I was destined to be a cross-cultural trainer. Harry’s generalist orientation had a huge impact on me—like his open personality, he was open to different disciplines and breaking down boundaries. He was supportive of qualitative work and quantitative work, of emics and etics, of indigenous and cultural and cross-cultural psychology, and the list goes on.
Harry and Pola opened their house to their students and I have so many fond memories of spending time swimming with him and having some great laughs while drinking beer. I remember one day during my first year, he served me a Schlitz beer and I politely said “this is delicious” (Truth be told, Schlitz beer doesn’t taste very good!). I drank that beer for 5 years at Harry’s house during my Ph.D. program, and it wasn’t until I left that Pola told me that every time I came over, “Harry ran out to get that beer you loved!!”.
After I left U of I in 1995, I stayed in very close touch with Harry and he was a part of our family. He and Pola had an engagement party for us at their house, they schlepped out to New York for our wedding, and Harry was even one of the first people to tell me that it’s time to have children : ). I’m so fortunate that my daughters Jeanette and Hannah got to see Harry in the Spring of 2018 and to delight in his company.
Harry is a legend and he’s one of a kind, as a scholar and as a person. He is in my heart 24/7.
- Michele Gelfand
- While navigating the treacherous shoals of my first forays into cross-cultural research, I met Harry Triandis. Our paths converged at a conference in Tokyo held by the International Council of Psychologists in 1972 and we were later to intersect at such international conferences throughout Harry’s long and prolific career. He was Greek by birth, multi-lingual, and an accomplished cross-cultural social psychologist, eagerly promoting the cross-cultural perspective. Always a reliable and responsive communicator, Harry kept in regular contact by mail or later email, and proved to be an ideal guide for me, as we traversed the “realms of gold”.
Among his many publications, Triandis’ landmark “Interpersonal behavior” (1977) became my inspirational lodestone because of its cross-cultural grounding in a, then and even now, niche literature. Its contents introduced me to the concept of the subjective culture adopted by individuals, its variation across different national-cultural traditions, and its implications for the social behavior of a culture’s members. Our culture of socialization shaped our personalities within the constraints and affordances provided in and by our cultural system. Our cultured personality revealed itself in our daily exchanges but was especially evident when we interacted with someone from a different cultural-linguistic heritage.
This social-psychological perspective of the individual “structured-by-culture” was elaborated in Harry’s continuing publications, as more and more cross-cultural data accumulated. But I was also impressed by his personal example as I observed him interacting graciously and generously with colleagues across the globe. This extensive interpersonal network inevitably brought Harry opportunities to serve international organizations in administrative and editorial capacities, roles he assumed with his extraordinary energy and focus. For me, he was the contemporary Ulysses who could best claim, “Much have I seen and known; cities of men (a)nd manners, climates, councils, (and) governments” (Tennyson). Harry Triandis became and remained throughout his life my academic hero.
- Michael Harris Bond