William Damon

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Awards and Honors:
National Academy of Education
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

William Damon is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and a professor of education at Stanford University.

Damon's research explores how people develop integrity and purpose in their work, family, and civic life. Damon's current work focuses on vocational, civic and entrepreneurial purpose among the young and on purpose in families and schools. He examines how young Americans can be educated to become devoted citizens and successful entrepreneurs. Damon's work has been used in professional training programs in fields such as journalism, law, and business and in character and civic education programs in grades K–12.

One of Damon’s recent books is Failing Liberty 101 (Hoover Press, 2011). Other recent books include The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life (2008) and Taking Philanthropy Seriously (2006); Damon’s earlier books include Bringing in a New Era in Character Education (Hoover Press, 2002); Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools (1995); and The Moral Child (1992).

Damon is editor in chief of The Handbook of Child Psychology, fifth and sixth editions (1998 and 2006). He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association.

Damon has received awards and grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Thrive Foundation for Youth, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Before coming to Stanford in 1997, Damon was University Professor and director of the Center on the Study of Human Development at Brown University. From 1973 to 1989, Damon served in several academic and administrative positions at Clark University. In 1988, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Puerto Rico, and in 1994–95 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Damon received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College and his PhD in developmental psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is married and has three children.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

How Exploring My Father’s Life Helped Me Understand My Own

by William Damonvia Greater Good Magazine
Monday, January 31, 2022

William Damon was a purpose researcher focused on the future. But doing a life review helped him heal from a difficult past.

Looking Back without Anger

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Monday, January 31, 2022

Everyone can benefit from a “life review”—not a doleful look at the past but a quest for closure and acceptance.


Ill Literacy: A Round Of Golf With My Father With William Damon

interview with William Damonvia The Heartland Institute
Monday, November 29, 2021

Hoover Institution fellow William Damon discusses his new book, A Round of Golf with My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace with Your Present, and how Damon discovered the father he never met, and was told all his life had died in the Second World War had, in fact, abandoned his mother and started a new life and a new family overseas. Damon also talks about the process of the “life review,” his journey to piece together knowledge of his father’s life, his struggle to make sense of his father’s contradictions, and how the game of golf helped him connect with a man he never knew.


William Damon On Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

interview with William Damonvia Phyllis Schlafly Eagles
Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hoover Institution fellow William Damon shares his new book A Round of Golf with My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace with Your Present. He explains how It’s helpful to think about the past in the right kind of way in order to prepare yourself for the future. William explains his journey to forgiving his father.


Looking Back To Find Meaning, With Guest William Damon

interview with William Damonvia Stanford Graduate School of Education
Monday, September 27, 2021

Hoover Institution fellow William Damon says that no matter where you are in your life’s journey, reflection can help you grow. The way you think about your history of successes and failures in life makes a big difference to how you think about your future.


William Damon - The Importance Of A “Life Review”

interview with William Damonvia Zestful Aging
Saturday, September 25, 2021

Hoover Institution fellow William Damon talks about the value of reviewing your past in order to move forward with purpose.

Analysis and Commentary

From The Personal To The Political, For The Love Of Freedom

by William Damonvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, September 9, 2021

For the most part, American schoolchildren are exceptionally astute when it comes to matters of personal relations. They know a lot about themselves, their families, and their friends.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Everyone Could Benefit From A ‘Life Review’

by William Damonvia The American Spectator
Friday, September 3, 2021

A “don’t look back!” approach to life has lots of appeal. We aim for bright futures. Why not focus all our mental energies on plowing ahead with vigor? Preoccupations with the past can slow us down. Future-mindedness, for good reason, is deemed a character strength for people of all ages.


Author Encourages Readers To Look Back On Their Pasts To Form Purposeful Futures

interview with William Damonvia King 5
Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Hoover Institution fellow William Damon introduces readers to the concept of a "life review," a process that involves looking back on our lives with clarity and curiosity and interpreting what we've experienced in a redemptive manner, and using what we've learned to lead the rest of our lives with purpose.