Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1934 and emigrated to the United States in 1950. He studied Philosophy at Siena College in Memphis, Tennessee, received a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology at St. Louis University and a PhD in Psychology from Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) where he specialized in mental retardation and special education.
He was a mental retardation research scientist at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute of the University of Nebraska Medical School in Omaha from 1964 to 1971. Between 1971 and 1973, he was a visiting scholar at the National Institute on Mental Retardation in Toronto, Canada, then moved to Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York as a professor and Director of the Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry.
Much of Dr. Wolfensberger’s work has been concerned with ideologies, structures and planning patterns of human service systems, especially concerning mentally retarded people and their families. He has authored and co-authored more than 40 books and monographs, and has written more than 250 chapters and articles. His books Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded, The Principle of Normalization, PASS and PASSING are probably best known. His writing has been translated into 11 languages.
Dr. Wolfensberger is the originator of Citizen Advocacy and Social Role Valorization, and he was the foremost propagator in normalization in North America.
In 1999, Wolfensberger was selected by representatives of seven major mental retardation organizations a one of the 35 parties that had been the most impactful on mental retardation worldwide in the 20th century.
He has a reputation for being a stirring and controversial speaker.