At the behest of a patient, the founder of the Ernest Becker Foundation (EBF), Dr. Neil Elgee, M.D., read Becker’s The Denial of Death in the mid-1970s. The book stunned him and as a result he made quantum leaps in his organizing principles, ways of thinking, belief systems, understanding of the human condition, practice of medicine, and in all of his deep meaning “realities.”
Becker’s insights struck him as profoundly important and, best of all, written with brilliant clarity in the accessible prose of a true public intellectual. Dr. Elgee began discussing it with anyone he could buttonhole – especially patients, medical residents, and colleagues – and writing about it in the medical literature. The response was disappointingly lukewarm in those early years, with a few exceptions.
By the time he retired from medicine in 1993, Dr. Elgee found more widespread openness to Becker’s thought. On Halloween of 1993, nine people came together to put the EBF into operation. Since that time, EBF has become a meeting place and a resource for scholars across disciplines and all people interested in Becker’s work and life. It has sponsored countless salons, conferences, and events featuring Becker-related speakers and topics and supported various research and projects to demonstrate Becker’s theories.
Some highlights of EBF’s history include:
- Social science substantiation of Becker’s ideas with mortality salience experiments and the development of Terror Management Theory.
- Supporting publication of The Ernest Becker Reader, edited by Dan Liechty.
- The creation of Flight From Death, an award-winning documentary based on Becker’s theories.
- Conferences on such topics as end of life caregiving, climate change, love of violence, spirituality and religion, and humor have showcased work linking Becker’s theories to present-day challenges.