Reece May was born April 21st, 1909 as the second child of six to Earl Tittle May and Matie Boughton. His father was a field secretary for the Young Men’s Christian Association. He moved the family to Michigan when May was still a young child.
Reece had a rather unfortunate childhood, with parents who argued often. There was much contention in the home One of his sisters was in an asylum diagnosed with schizophrenia. As a result of the family situation he changed his name and his behavior became a little extreme and very political.
He began his higher education at Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, located in East Lansing. While he was there he co-founded a magazine that took on the state legislature and was causing negative press for the organization. He was asked to leave the college.
Rollo was accepted in Oberlin College, it was a small and liberal arts school. He graduated with his English major and a minor in Greek literature and history. After graduation in 1930, May moved to Salonika, Greece to teach.
It was during this time period that Rollo May began to attend lectures given by psychoanalyst Alfred Adler. The has a great influence on his thoughts and theories.
In 1933 May returned to the states and went to the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The family situation changed as his parents divorced and he went home to help care for the younger children. Oddly he picked up a job as a student adviser at Michigan State.
1938 was a year of big changes. He earned his divinity degree from Union, under the direction of Paul Tilich. He married Florence De Frees in that same year and became a minister of a Congregational Church in New Jersey.
Rollo and Florence had three children a son and twin girls. Rollo eventually decided that his truly calling and interest in life lay in the field of psychology. He continued his education in that field.
In 1942, May was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He spent eighteen months getting care in a sanitaruim and finally left with the theory that his own attitude and personal will would help his recovery more than anything the sanitarium could offer.
May authored many books on dealing with psychology and the interest of psychology to the common man. He is often given credit for ringing in what some people refer to and the “age of anxiety”.
May divorced his first wife in 1969 and married Ingrid Scholl in 1971. That marriage was disoved in 1978. He married again in 1989 to Georgia Lee Mill Johnson.
He is one of the most quoted psycoanlyst in our time. He died of congestive heart failure in 1994. It seems fitting that we end with one of his quotes.
“Depression is the inability to construct a future.”