Bernhard (Berni) Leidner passed away on November 19th 2022. He was one of us: A social psychologist who spent half of his 39 years of life conducting research on intergroup relations. Berni graduated from the Free University of Berlin in 2006 and in the same year he joined Emanuele Castano’s lab at the New School for Social Research, where in 2010 received his Ph.D. He spent his entire academic career at UMass Amherst where, earlier this year, he was promoted to Full Professor. Among his various awards and recognitions, in 2013 he was named a rising star by the Association for Psychological Science, and in the following years he did indeed rise, carrying out important research on social identification processes, morality, and the role of collective trauma and narratives in the perpetuation of violent intergroup conflict.
Berni was also a devoted mentor who cared deeply about his students. Aside from his scientific contributions, which remain with us, Berni leaves us a legacy of inspiration. Confined to a wheelchair for all his truly too-short life, and being able to move only his head and forearms, Berni had no patience for pity or pretense. He preferred for the rest of us to acknowledge that he had been bloody unlucky; he continuously joked about his situation; and appreciated when you did, too. He overcame obstacles that we can hardly imagine and, most importantly, he did so with wit and humor. He was a true friend with a big heart, his laugh was contagious, and this is how we want to remember him.
A celebration of Berni's amazing life will be held on UMass Amherst campus in the near future. Stay tuned for details as soon as they are available.