Deceased December 27, 2017

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In Memory

Brooklyn-born and barely 16, Don was the youngest member of the class entering Amherst in September 1952. In his own words, “To this newcomer the world of Amherst was the epitome of smooth. I had no precedent for the style of my new peers. A few friends and roommates gave me pointers on smooth, and I watched, listened and learned for a time when I might be smooth. To my surprise a degree of smoothness crept into my ways. Amherst did its job to take me from where I started, that I might become myself.” Q.E.D. the following.

Peter Levison ’56


Don, a world-renowned psychiatrist, theorist, author, husband, father and grandfather, died Dec. 27, 2017. He was a vibrant presence, passionate about human psychology, wine making, classical music, photography, antiques, writing, family and most of all, his soulmate, Roz.

A lifetime interest in the nature of emotion led him away from a promising academic and clinical career in endocrinology and toward psychiatry, his true calling. His Philadelphia-based private practice was a sanctuary and place of healing for the countless patients with whom he worked. He considered himself fortunate to know each one.

Among his more than 100 publications in the realm of emotion, he was most proud of his books, The Many Faces of Shame and Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex and the Birth of the Self. He gave several hundred public presentations of this material all over the world, teaching a new way of understanding the biology and psychology of emotion.

Don is survived by his wife, Roz; a daughter, Julie Nathanson Holcomb; a grandson, Henry Holcomb; and a sister, Nina Birnbaum. He leaves behind a legacy of kindness, intellect, compassion, humor and connection—all of which he shared with every person he encountered.

The Nathanson family