Carolyn Ingrid Saarni

May 13, 1945 - June 8, 2015
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Remembering Carolyn Ingrid Saarni

Carolyn Ingrid Saarni, 70, passed away on June 8, 2015 surrounded by her children, extended family, and close friends. She was born in Berkeley, CA on May 13, 1945, attended Berkeley public schools and received her BA (1967), MA (1969) and PhD (1971) from the University of California, Berkeley in the field of developmental psychology. She lived for many decades in North Berkeley, just two blocks away from her parents and childhood home.

A professor for more than four decades, Carolyn taught in the Department of Educational Psychology at New York University (1971-1979) and in the Department of Counseling at Sonoma State University (1980-2013). Her work has been extremely influential. It stressed socialization rather than biology, long the dominant view in the field. Emphasizing the importance of studying real-life social interactions, she concluded that emotions can be manifested in many ways—gesture, posture, choice of words, and not just in the face, voice, or physiology. Other ideas central to her approach to emotion included the role of culture. Rather than seeking universal manifestations of emotion in different societies, Professor Saarni identified the many different ways that culture shapes emotion. These views were disseminated successfully to academics and the general public in her elegant, accessible writing.

She published numerous articles on emotional development and edited three books, Lying and Deception in Everyday Life (1993) and The Socialization of Emotions (1985), both with Michael Lewis, and Children’s Understanding of Emotion (1991), with Paul Harris. She was the senior author of the chapter on socioemotional development in the Handbook of Child Psychology (2006), with Joseph Campos and Linda Camras. Her book, The Development of Emotional Competence (1999), was heralded as a groundbreaking study of emotional competence and served as a guide for clinicians.

Carolyn traveled throughout the world for work and for pleasure; she shared through vivid letters and photography her discoveries in Finland, Germany, Turkey, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Brazil and Ecuador. She always preferred to travel independently, maps and travel guides in hand; she is particularly remembered for her daring drives around rural Turkey and along the steep cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. Keen to explore nature in all its variety, she camped and hiked in the more remote corners of California and Hawaii. She was renowned to her children and their cousins as the spinner of spooky tales around the campfire on family camping trips in the Trinity Alps.

An artful and knowledgeable gardener, Carolyn created a backyard oasis filled with roses, California native plants, fruit trees, blueberry bushes, hummingbirds, and her large collection of fossils and rocks. During her struggle with lymphoma, she found peace and solace sitting by the pond she had built in her garden, tending its fish and water lilies.

Carolyn is survived by her mother, Margaret W. Saarni; her children, Matthias Kusch and Heather Roller; her granddaughters, Ella and Malia Kusch and Clare Roller; her son-in-law, John Roller; her five siblings and their families; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews; and her extended family in California and Finland.

Friends are invited to attend a celebration of Carolyn’s life on July 19, 2015, 2 pm, at Northbrae Community Church’s Haver Hall, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley. Donations may be made in her memory to Sierra Club or a charity of the donor’s choice.

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Service Schedule

Service Information

Date: Sunday, July 19, 2015

Time: 2:00 pm

Northbrae Community Church


941 The Alameda, Berkeley , CA,

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Timeline for Carolyn Saarni

Born: May 13, 1945
Died: June 8, 2015

Condolences for Carolyn Saarni

Sunset View Mortuary

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Sunset View Mortuary.


Marie Pampanin posted on 8/28/15

I feel so blessed to have had Carolyn as one of my professors at SSU. She was an amazing individual as well as a wonderful professor. She pushed me to grow academically and as an individual, all the while letting me know she knew I could do it. It is hard to describe just how much she impacted me, simply because it wasn't in the main stream way one encourages another. It was in her smile, the way she looked at you, the tone of her voice, the pause with the slight nod as she walked by... Maybe it was just her heart speaking to mine. Whatever it was, she had a way of making you feel like you could do anything you set your mind to. I know her memory will live on in the hearts of many. Love to her family and friends. ?


Ray Lester posted on 10/23/15

Exceptional! A friend, Ray Lester