Liese Bronfenbrenner, the wife of renowned developmental psychologist and BCTR namesake Urie Bronfenbrenner, celebrates her 100th birthday today.
Liese was an essential part of Urie’s work, planning global travel and editing his many books and publications. The couple raised six children together in a historic home in the Forest Home neighborhood of Ithaca.
“Liese was Urie’s inspiration, critic, editor and partner in all things,” said her son, Steven Bronfenbrenner. “She made sure that dad was prepared, on time and in the right place. Home and family were the most important – and mom made sure that we had time together be that dinner on the front porch in Forest Home, hiking around Beebe Lake or in our hotel room in Moscow. And she was dad’s spirit.
“She was the quintessential hostess in our home as we welcomed dad’s colleagues, foreign visitors and everyone from Peter, Paul and Mary, to Captain Kangaroo and so many more,” he said. When Urie’s work led to the formation of the Head Start program, Liese accompanied him to visit President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House.
“Liese has been a steadfast supporter of Cornell, the College of Human Ecology, and the Bronfenbrenner Center in particular,” said Anthony Burrow, director of the BCTR. “As a center, a collective that often feels like a family, it is exciting to be able to recognize this amazing milestone together.”
Her support and encouragement have helped to keep the Bronfenbrenner name and legacy alive, said John Eckenrode, the founding director of the BCTR. “Urie’s insights into child development and his major contributions to social policy are more important now than ever,” he said. “So, it is with great honor and respect that we celebrate Liese’s 100th birthday. We will always regard her as a valued partner in the work of the BCTR.”
The Bronfenbrenners traveled across the world as a family for Urie’s work, living in the former Soviet Union, Switzerland and Israel at various times. “She dove into those cultures – sharing the experiences with us children and supporting my dad in his diverse work,” Steven said.
Liese was also an accomplished artist. She enjoyed pottery while raising her children and later pursued fiber arts, exhibiting quilts across the country and receiving numerous awards.
Liese met Urie Bronfenbrenner at the University of Michigan in the early 1940s while he was a doctoral candidate and she was an undergraduate. They married in 1942 and moved to Ithaca in 1948 when Urie joined the Cornell faculty. They had six children and Liese now has 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Today, Liese is active the Ithaca Democratic Party and women’s group. In recent years she has coordinated elections and voting activity at Kendal at Ithaca, the senior living community where she resides.
“Mom made sure of everything for us from the packed school lunches to being our home-school teacher in the years we were away,” Steven said. “Family gatherings were very special, particularly around the holidays. Her love of art was something she shared every day – inspiring us to explore everything from pottery to painting. And as the next generations have come along, she has fulfilled her role as grandmother and great-grandmother with the same aplomb and love that she brought to all of us. We celebrate her 100th, most of us from away, with joy and celebration.”