Frank G. Goble; Developer of Character Education


Frank Gordon Goble, an aerospace equipment engineer who launched a character education program throughout the nation’s schools and wrote several books about his theories, has died at the age of 83.

Goble died Feb. 18 in Hemet, Calif., of lymphoma, said his friend and associate, Russell T. Williams.

“People who think character education should be left solely to parents,” Goble told The Times in 1988, “forget that many parents today lack the positive attitudes and values that their children so desperately need to acquire to become productive workers, parents and citizens.


“Many single working parents simply lack the time,” he said. “Our schools can and must fill this gap.”

A UC Berkeley-educated engineer, Goble spent 22 years working for D.B. Milliken Co. in Altadena and later Arcadia. He began recycling rivets discarded by the nation’s aircraft manufacturing plants during World War II and helped develop high-speed motion picture cameras used in the nation’s missile and Mercury space programs.

Retiring as president of Milliken at age 46 in 1963, Goble founded the nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Research Center to concentrate on developing educational programs to build character. Renamed the Jefferson Center for Character Education, the organization was based in Pasadena until 1998 when it moved to Monrovia.

Under Goble’s direction, the center in 1970 created and began selling a character-development curriculum to schools from Glendale to Baltimore. Teachers were urged to use the materials involving stories and discussion 15 to 20 minutes a day, three to five times a week, to teach 15 basic values shared by major world religions and cultures--such as courage, conviction, kindness, honesty, honor, justice, responsibility and self-respect.

“It is our opinion, based upon hundreds of thousands of hours of research, that a basic cause of our society’s exploding problems is personal and organizational irresponsibility,” Goble said in a 1975 interview with U.S. News & World Report. “Irresponsibility is a social disease that, if left untreated, destroys individuals, families, communities and nations. What causes irresponsible human behavior? Moral ignorance!”

Center research showed that before 1775, Goble said, religion and morals accounted for more than 90% of the content of school readers. But by 1926, the figure had declined to 6% and soon after that to nil.


The Jefferson program, Goble said, prompted remarkable turnarounds at schools that used it--citing an Indianapolis school that had sustained $3,500 worth of broken glass in eight months and reduced intentional damage to zero, and a Chula Vista school that cut vandalism by more than 80%.

By 1984, the program was in use in more than 7,000 classrooms nationwide.

Goble wrote or was coauthor of six books about character development, including his two best-known: “The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow” in 1970 and “The Case for Character Education,” which he wrote with youth gang authority B. David Brooks in 1983.

Of the latter book, the Heritage Foundation stated in its review: “ ‘The Case for Character Education’ is must-reading for educators, especially school board members, superintendents and principals. But it also speaks to all who are concerned with the moral status of today’s youth and who are interested in concrete strategies to improve it.”

Goble, a former board member of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce and Institute for Contemporary Studies, once said he gave up his business career to found the ethics organization because of a deep conviction that people with managerial skills should help solve national problems.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Margaret; a brother, Julian, and three sisters, Clara Buck, Marian Tinling and May Keighley.

A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Evans Brown Mortuary in Sun City, Calif., with interment at 2 p.m. in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Jefferson Center for Character Education, P.O. Box 1283, Monrovia CA 91017.