Young Jon Carlson would never have anticipated the wonderful 71 years of life that he lived. As a person that rarely slept, Jon fully squeezed the most out of his time on Earth, and those who he came into contact with benefited. A proud and active father of five children married to the love of his life for 50 years, Jon excelled as a prolific scholar, educator, college professor, psychologist, competitive athlete and advocate for helping others in the community. Whereas Jon always dreamed of fishing and catching the big one, all along he was the big fish for the many people around him. The theme of Jon’s life was to never stop learning and to always grow beyond one’s perceived boundaries.
Jon Douglas Carlson was born in Elgin, Illinois, on Nov. 2, 1945. He attended Elgin High School, and despite not having very good grades he went on to college at the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale. It was there that he met the love of his life, Laura Kathryn Twitchell, and they were married on Dec. 16, 1967. Jon found his vocational passion in college and completed his undergraduate and masters training at SIU at Carbondale. His first doctorate (Ed.D.) was in counseling and guidance from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1971 and his second doctoral degree (Psy.D.) was in clinical psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago in 1990.
Jon had a long teaching career that includes positions at Wayne State University (1969-1971); Governors State University (1971-1973); Nova Southeastern University (1973-1975); University of Hawaii (1976-1977); University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (1978-1982); Adler School of Professional Psychology (1985-1989); and Governors State University (1989 – 2014). At the time of his passing, Jon was the Distinguished Professor of Adlerian Psychology at Adler University, Chicago, and psychologist with the Wellness Clinic in Lake Geneva. Dr. Carlson was also professor emeritus at Governors State University. He was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the Wisconsin Psychology Association. He held diplomates in both family psychology and Adlerian psychology; received a Certificate of Psychotherapy from the Alfred Adler Institute (now Adler University); and received the Lifetime Contribution Award from NASAP (North American Society of Adlerian Psychology). He received the Distinguished Psychologist Award (Lifetime contribution to psychotherapy – APA Division 29), the APA 2011 Distinguished Career Contributions to Education and Training Award, and in 2004 was designated by ACA as one of the five “Living Legends in Counseling.” He has received many other awards as well as served in both state and national leadership positions in both counseling and psychology.
Jon was a prolific scholar as the author of 64 books, over 185 professional articles and book chapters, and the creator of over 300 professional training videos that are being used in universities and training centers around the world. He also served as the editor of several periodicals including the Journal of Individual Psychology and The Family Journal. Jon was one of the most preeminent Adlerian thinkers, writers and practitioners in the world. Jon’s spirituality and his Adlerian values were very much intertwined, and he spoke with great fondness about his visits with the Dalai Lama. Several of his books are among the main texts in Adlerian psychology and his videos demonstrating Adlerian psychotherapy with individuals, couples, parents and teachers are iconic. Jon also paired with nationally syndicated cartoonist Joe Martin and created the syndicated advice cartoon ON THE EDGE. He often appeared on television, radio and in national periodicals offering advice on parenting and healthy relationships.
Jon always wanted to travel the Earth and in his life he visited six continents, often teaching, researching or engaging in social justice service projects. From teaching Adlerian psychology in Lithuania, walking the Great Wall of China, exploring jungles of Borneo, hiking in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and India to travelling with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, Jon had an adventurous spirit. Over the past 17 years he had a particular connection to Thailand where he worked with allied health professionals on parenting education and fostering family relationships.
Jon was a licensed psychologist and was in private practice in Hawaii and at the Lake Geneva Wellness Clinic for over 40 years. He had over 60,000 direct contact hours with individuals, couples and families. During this time he was also a school counselor and school psychologist for close to 40 years, 34 of those years at Woods School in Lake Geneva.
A lifelong competitive athlete, Jon became obsessed with running in the mid-1970s. He became an avid marathoner and nationally ranked runner. From 1978-82 he was the men’s cross country coach at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was well known in the area for being a runner, and for many years he would offer a free summer running clinic for Badger High School students — you just had to be ready to run by 8 a.m.
Jon considered Lake Geneva his home. He used to spend summers in Lake Geneva when his father built a home on Cedar Point, and he moved permanently to the area in 1977. All of his children attended Woods School and Badger High School. His sister, Mary Paterson, operated and owned Annie’s Ice Parlor for many years. Jon had deep roots in Lake Geneva and will be missed by many.
Jon passed away on Feb. 1, 2017 in Madison, due to complications from a bone marrow transplant. Jon was preceded in death by his brother, A. Gerald Carlson; his sister, Mary C. Paterson; and his parents, Arthur and Helen Carlson.
He leaves behind Laura, his wife of 50 years; and five children, Kirstin Carlson, Matt (Alison) Englar-Carlson, Karin (Joseph) Carlson-Snider, Ben Carlson, and Kali (David Glisczinski) Carlson; as well as five grandchildren, Alexandra, Kassandra, and Maxwell Carlson-Dakes and Jackson and Beatrix Englar-Carlson; a sister, Cynthia (Donald) Damisch; as well as several nieces and nephews. He will also be missed by his many friends, colleagues and his beloved dog, Huxley. Jon never sweated the small stuff, didn’t believe the heavy stuff would come down for awhile, and his family hopes that on his deathbed he received total consciousness.
A celebration of Jon’s life is planned for Feb. 19, at the Horticultural Hall, 330 Broad St, in Lake Geneva. Visitation with family is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a memorial celebration at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the University of Wisconsin Center for Healthy Minds, https://centerhealthyminds.org/support or the Center for Adlerian Practice and Scholarship, https://www.adler.edu/page/institutes/center-for-adlerian-practice-and-scholarship/about
The family would like to thank all the physicians and staff at the UW Carbone Center, the B6/6 unit of University Hospital and Agrace Hospice.