Peale, Norman Vincent

Born: May 31, 1898
Died: December 24, 1993

Ohio connection: Birth


A staunch practitioner of positive thinking and prayer, Norman Vincent Peale utilized mass media to share with hundreds of people his message of faith and hope. A stirring, dynamic, and innovative speaker who increased church attendance at numerous congregations, Peale was born in Bowersville, Ohio, on May 31, 1898. While attending Bellefontaine High School, Peale emerged as a vibrant public speaker, surmounting his shy reserve to assume the prominent role of Bellefontaine’s star debater. After graduating from high school in 1916, Peale attended Ohio Wesleyan University, receiving his B.A. in 1920. Ordained into the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1922, Peale was assigned to his first congregation in Berkeley, Rhode Island. After furthering his theological studies at Boston University, he received a Bachelor’s in sacred theology (1924), and a Master of Arts degree in social ethics. Appointed to a Brooklyn, New York, congregation with only fifty parishioners, he spent the three years of his pastorate raising funds to construct a new church. After its completion in 1925, the Kings Highway Methodist Church boasted a membership of more than 900 parishioners. In 1932, Peale changed his religious denomination from Methodist to the Dutch Reformed Church in America, enabling him to accept a position offered by Manhattan’s Marble Collegiate Church. Believing in the benefits of psychology, Peale pioneered the inclusion of psychoanalytical techniques in the counseling of his parishioners. Collaborating with psychiatrist Dr. Smiley Blanton, Peale operated a religiously oriented psychiatric clinic, whose staff consisted of clergymen, psychiatrists, and social workers. Treating an average of six hundred patients per week, it received such an overwhelmingly positive response that branches were soon established in such cities as New York, Chicago, and Green Bay. Dedicated to personally reaching as many people as possible, Peale traveled extensively, averaging a yearly distance of 200,000 miles. Besides public oratory, personal counseling, radio and closed circuit television broadcasts (4,000 people routinely watched his televised Sunday services), Peale utilized magazine periodicals to reach out to others. In 1940, Peale founded the Federation for Christian Living, which continues its mission to guide readers along the path of personal and spiritual fulfillment. Guideposts, a publication he co-founded in 1945, grew from a four-page newsletter to a forty-eight page magazine with an estimated circulation of fourteen and a half million. In 1952, Prentice Hall released The Power of Positive Thinking, issuing an abridged edition, The Power of Positive Thinking for Young People, two years later. It remained on the New York Times best seller list for a record-breaking thirty-six months. The cornerstone of the self-help book industry, it expounded the belief that many personal problems often result from inner conflicts and negative perspectives, thus establishing a tie between the quality and enjoyment of life to and one’s mental outlook. Selling in excess of 3 million copies, The Power of Positive Thinking has become the third highest selling inspirational work of all time. In 1994, President Ronald Reagan awarded Peale the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His forty-six books have collectively sold more than twenty-one million copies, in forty-one different languages. Norman Vincent Peale died on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1993, survived by his wife, Loretta Ruth Stafford, their three children, and eight grandchildren.

Honorary degrees from many including Syracuse University, 1931, Ohio Wesleyan University, 1936, Duke University, 1938, Brigham Young University, 1967, University of Cincinnati, 1968; many awards including Freedoms Foundation award, 1952, 1955, 1959, 1973, 1974; Horatio Alger award, 1952; American Education award, 1955; Government Service Award for Ohio, 1956; National Salvation Army Award, 1956, 1957; Distinguished Salesman’s Award, New York Sales Executives, 1957; International Human Relations Award, Dale Carnegie Club International, 1958; Clergyman of the Year Award, Religious Foundation of America, 1964; Paul Harris Fellow Award, Rotary International, 1972; Distinguished Patriot Award, Sons of the American Revolution, 1973; Order of Aaron and Hur, Chaplains Corps, U.S. Army, 1975; All-Time Great Ohioan Award, 1976; Christopher Columbus Award, 1976; Family of Man award, 1981;Distinguished Achievement Award, Ohio Wesleyan University, 1983; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2nd Annual Family Weekly National Treasure Award, Religion in Media Gold Angel, Caleb B. Smith Medal of Honor of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, Bowery Savings Bank 150th Anniversary Distinguished New Yorker Award, and International Rotary Award, all 1984; Distinguished American Award, Sales and Marketing Executives International, 1985; Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Award, 1985; World Freedom Award, Shanghai Tiffin Club, 1985; Gold Medal for Literary Achievement, Napolean Hill Federation, 1985; Golden Rule Award, St. George Association, 1985; Adele Rogers St. John Round Table Award, 1987; Communicator of the Year Award, Sales and Marketing Executives International, 1987; Grand Cross Award, Supreme Council, Mother Council of World of 33rd and Last Degree Masons, 1987; Magellan Award, Circumnavigators Club, 1987; Silver Buffalo Award, Boy Scouts of America, 1988; Merit Award in Humanities, New York Academy of Dentistry, 1989; Pope John XIII Award, Viterbo College, 1989; George M. and Mary Jane Leader Healthcare Award, 1989; John Y. Brown Award, 1989; Humanitarian of the Year Award, Women’s National Republican Club, 1990; Hance Award, St. Barnabas Health System, 1990; The Samaritan Institution Award, 1990; Caring Institution Award, 1990; Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, 1991; Soaring Eagle Award, Brethren Home Federation, 1991; co-recipient, with wife, of special citation, Laymen’s National Committee; Van Rensselaer Gold Medal, Masonic Temple, Cincinnati, OH.