Morton Deutsch, 97

Feb. 4, 1920 - March 13, 2017

Morton Deutsch, who founded the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University (now renamed for him) died on March 13 in New York City. He was 97.

Mr. Deutsch was known worldwide as an expert on conflict resolution and his extensive research was known around the world,  providing a framework for several Cold War negotiations, assisting in the peaceful transfer of power in Poland in 1989, helping to overturn racial segregation in the United States, and training teachers on Long Island and in New Jersey to deal with inter-student and gang violence in low-income communities.

“The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice,” which he edited with Peter T. Coleman and Eric C. Marcus, became a standard manual for labor, commercial, international, and marital disputes.

Morton Deutsch was born on Feb. 4, 1920, in the Bronx, to Charles and Ida Deutsch, Jewish immigrants from Poland. By the age of 10, he was reading Karl Marx, and by 15, he was enrolled at City College of New York. After dissecting a guinea pig in a biology class, he switched his major from psychiatry to psychology and received a bachelor of science degree in 1939. Continuing his education, he received a master’s degree in 1940 from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in 1948 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was there that he studied under Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology.

It was also at M.I.T. that he met his wife, Lydia Shapiro, when he was assigned to supervise a paper she had written for Mr. Lewin. They married on June 1, 1947, and remained together for almost seven decades. Marriage also prompted a book titled “Preventing World War III,” which he co-wrote.

Growing up in New York City during the early part of the last century, Mr. Deutsch experienced blatant prejudice against Jews and observed “gross acts of injustice being suffered by blacks,” according to an essay in his book “Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology.”

Over the years, Mr. Deutsch contributed money to the Spanish Loyalists in the 1930s, protested against high school cafeteria food, and took part in a strike by fellow waiters at a summer resort. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and flew 30 missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.

Mr. Deutsch began teaching in the Research Center for Human Relations at New York University, and in 1951, together with a co-worker, Mary Evans Collins, produced a study comparing racially integrated housing in New York with racially segregated housing in Newark. Their research ultimately led to a reversal of policy in publicly funded developments.

In 1963, he made his final professorial move, joining the faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University, after being invited to found a social psychology doctoral program there. It became the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. Two major works during this period include what is considered his opus, “The Resolution of Conflict,” published in 1973.

Mr. Deutsch officially retired from teaching in 1990 and became professor emeritus of psychology and education at Columbia University. He also wrote more than 50 papers or book chapters between his retirement and recent years.

He and his wife had a house in Springs for 50 years, where they enjoyed spending weekends and extended periods until the house was sold two years ago. In addition to his wife, Mr. Deutsch is survived by two sons, Tony Deutsch, who lives in Florida, and Nick Deutsch, a cardiac anesthesiologist in Los Angeles, and by four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.