Nancy Morse Samelson

SamelsonNancy Morse Samelson, 100, on August 15, 2020, peacefully, at a care home in Sunnyvale, Calif. Nancy was born on June 2, 1920, as Nancy Carter Morse in White Plains, N.Y. She grew up during the Great Depression in New York and western Massachusetts. She earned her bachelor’s from Syracuse University, master’s from Columbia University, and, in 1947, a doctorate in social psychology from Syracuse University, where she worked with Floyd Henry Allport, one of the founders of the field. Her thesis “The Causation of Anti-Semitism: An Investigation of Seven Hypotheseswas published in The Journal of Psychology in 1952. Her interest in social justice continued throughout her life.

After completion of her doctorate, Nancy took a position at the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan, where she conducted research and collaborated on several books about productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. Nancy and Hans Samelson, a mathematics professor, married in 1956. They had two children together, Amy in 1958 and Roger in 1959. When Hans accepted a professorship at Stanford University in 1960, the family moved to California. Nancy took the lead in child-rearing and was active in local cooperatives.

Nancy accepted a research associate position in the Civil Engineering Department at Stanford, focusing on human factors in construction management. She worked at Stanford from 1973 to 1985 and coauthored a pioneering text Construction Safety Management.

Nancy and Hans and their family spent the academic year of 1967–1968 in England and the Netherlands. While in the Netherlands, Nancy became fascinated with the work of Rembrandt van Rijn. This fascination would remain with her throughout her life. In 1995, Nancy began a course of study in art history at San José State University. She earned a master’s degree two years later. Her thesis was titled “Rembrandt’s pictures and his life: the Leiden years.”

While living at Stanford, Nancy and Hans became active in Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting. Their memberships as convinced Friends were recorded in 1984. Nancy served on many committees and was instrumental in reviving the Harvest Festival.

Nancy’s hobbies included writing haikus, which led to three small books given to family members, and practicing the Chinese art of qi gong, which she continued into her 90s. She enjoyed sailing on the Bay in her small sailboat, which she donated to the Stanford Sailing Club. The family enjoyed camping. She and Hans enjoyed opera and theater. Nancy’s favorite playwright was Shakespeare.

Nancy was well-known for her generosity. She provided hospitality for many months to a member of Palo Alto Meeting whose house was flooded in 1998. She often invited others to her home for meals and to swim in the pool at the retirement complex on the Stanford campus.

Always energetic, Nancy rode her bike to and from meeting for worship into her 70s. She participated in the early morning weekly meditation group held on Thursdays at the meetinghouse. A Friend remembers Nancy’s excitement when she received enlightenment regarding the impermanence principle while riding across the Oregon Expressway overpass. “Aging—no escape! Dying—no escape!” Nancy enthusiastically reported: “And I thought, Isn’t that wonderful?

Nancy was predeceased in 2005 by her husband of nearly 50 years, Hans Samelson. She is survived by two children, Amy Samelson and Roger Samelson; one stepchild, Peter Samelson; and two grandchildren.

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