SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Ed Diener passed away Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Ed was born in Glendale, Calif., and raised in California’s Central Valley. He attended California State University-Fresno and, in his junior year, married his high school sweetheart, Carol.
After completing his doctorate in psychology at the University of Washington, Ed joined the psychology department at the University of Illinois in 1974. He was a Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology at his retirement in 2009. He continued to conduct research and teach at the University of Utah and University of Virginia.
Known as “Dr. Happiness,” Ed is credited with being a pioneer of research into well-being. For 40 years, Ed investigated the psychological concept of happiness. His measure of life satisfaction is the most widely used measure of happiness in the world and has been cited 30,000 times. He also published hundreds of academic articles on many aspects of happiness: the relation of money to happiness, cultural influences on happiness, and the health outcomes of happiness.
Diener’s publications have been cited more than 257,000 times, making him the 172nd most highly cited scientist in the world across all fields of study. Later in his career, he was a champion of well-being policy and consulted with the United Nations and other governmental bodies.
Diener was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. He won the highest awards in psychology, including the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution from the American Psychological Association and the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science. He served as president of the International Positive Psychology Association, the International Society for Quality of Life Studies and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
In the early 1990s, Diener was the editor of the top journal in his field, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He was also the founding editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies and Perspectives on Psychological Science. He was appreciative of his many wonderful colleagues across the country and the world.
Ed was devoted to education. He was an award-winning teacher and mentor. He founded Noba, an open education publisher that provides free, expert-written materials for teachers and students of psychology. Noba’s free materials have been used as a primary textbook by more than a quarter-million students around the world, representing cost savings in the tens of millions of dollars.
Ed was widely known for his playful nature and sense of humor. He enjoyed hosting parties with unusual activities such as Spam carving, walking on glass and impromptu speeches. His grandchildren, especially, knew him as someone who frequently created scavenger hunts and friendly athletic contests in the family pool and hid money in the pages of books around his home. Ed was also driven by widespread curiosity and a desire to create: He fabricated fireworks, made a chess set, painted and was interested in genealogy.
Ed also had a passion for travel, instilled by his own parents on trips to Uganda, Hawaii and Alaska in the 1950s and '60s. Ed believed that interacting with other cultures was a great education. Ultimately, he traveled to 70 nations and all 50 U.S. states.
In his last week of life, he said, “I have no bucket list. I have done everything I wanted to do and am proud of my family. My only regret is that I will leave Carol by herself.” He was the epitome of a life well lived.
In addition to his passion for psychological science, Ed found meaning in his relationships with his family. He was preceded in death by his parents, Mary Alice and Frank Diener; and siblings, Marie, Mary Lou and Paul.
Ed is survived by his wife, Carol; five children, Marissa Diener and husband Chris Yannelli, Mary Beth Diener McGavran, Robert Biswas-Diener and wife Keya, Kia Solorzano and husband Valentin and Susan Watson and husband Jade; 12 grandchildren, Caroline and Alex Yannelli, Walter and Alice McGavran, Lakshmi Vanderwerf and Jedi Biswas-Diener, Demetrio and Analia Antunez, Chad Shepherd and Haylee, Hannah and Jade Watson Jr.; and a large extended family he loved dearly.
For friends and family who are vaccinated, there will be a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. May 10 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 670 South 1100 East, Salt Lake City. The service will be followed by a committal at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. A larger celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Ed’s funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Starks Funeral Parlor.
Those wishing to memorialize Ed can contribute to his legacy project, Noba. Please send checks to the 501(c)3 charity the Diener Education Fund, c/o Karen Cameron, Busey Bank, 5246 Red Cedar Drive, Suite 101, Fort Myers, FL 33907.