Ernest M. Ligon, Founder of the Character Research Project
Ligon, top row, second from right, while a student at TCU, circa 1920.
A native of Iowa Park, Texas, Ernest Ligon and his family travelled between the Texas-Oklahoma border to construct towns. He lived in Byers, Texas when he enrolled at Texas Christian University. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1921. Ligon earned extra credits for serving in the Air Corps during World War I. He participated in school clubs, functions, and sporting events while attending TCU. Professor Errett Weir McDiarmid and Dr. Edward McShane Waits, president of TCU in 1916-1941, influenced Ligon as a young man. He developed a paper in Prof. McDiarmid’s class that would be the foundation of his first book. TCU conferred him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1948. Even after not visiting the campus for years, Ligon supported TCU monetarily and contributed to the Meyer Fund Donation in 1961.
After earning a Bachelor of Divinity degree and a doctorate in psychology from Yale University, Ligon taught at different universities before settling at Union College in Schenectady, New York. For 33 years, he taught psychology courses and conducted peer-reviewed studies. Psychologists recognized Ligon for his 42 years as co-director and volunteer consultant for the CRP. The project explored the philosophy of Jesus as outlined in the bible to evaluate character development. Ligon’s The Psychology of Christian Personality set the guidelines and principles for the CRP. According to the monograph, Jesus Christ’s teachings, as stated in the Beatitudes, provide a guide to develop a healthy lifestyle.
The works of Ernest M. Ligon.
The CRP conducted decades of workshops for families and churches to help Christian parents rear their children into wholesome and morally sound individuals. The CRP designed pamphlets like Let me Introduce Myself to instill a Christian character in infants and young adults. With the support of the Eli Lilly Company, Ligon published his findings not only through his six books but also in esteemed journals of psychology and religion. The papers in Special Collections contain Ligon’s personal correspondence with Eli Lilly. The Mary Couts Burnett Library houses all of Ligon’s works.
In 1962, Ligon retired from Union College. He continued to volunteer his time to the CRP and the Sigma XI American Psychological Association. He and his wife, Lois Wood, supported the Rotary Club and YMCA. Ligon passed away at the age of 87 in 1984. He bequeathed his papers to TCU’s Special Collections and a significant monetary donation to the Mary Couts Burnett Library upon his death.
Entry by Miriam E. Villanueva