A History of CEF

Founded in 1954, the Creative Education Foundation is the recognized world leader in Applied Imagination. Alex Osborn, an adman and educator, not only founded CEF, but also invented brainstorming and co-founded the ad firm, BBDO. His classic book, Applied Imagination, continues to inspire the work of CEF.

Along with Sidney Parnes, Osborn developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving process. For more than 50 years, CEF has been teaching adults and children in organizations, schools and communities how to use this proven process to develop new ideas, solve problems and implement solutions.

CEF Milestones

1954 – Alex Osborn, legendary advertising executive and coiner of the term “brainstorming,” establishes the Creative Education Foundation (CEF).

1955 – CEF holds the first annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) at the University of Buffalo, attracting 200 participants. Professor Sid Parnes joins Osborn to develop a comprehensive educational program for the Institute.

1960 – CEF sponsors a Leadership Convocation, bringing together the pioneers of the creative thinking movement, including Calvin Taylor, J.P. Guilford, E. Paul Torrance, and Donald MacKinnon.

1961 – CPSI inaugurates Leadership Training Program. CEF offers the first of a series of programs to U.S. Army Generals and the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Council.

1962 – Parnes and Harold Harding edit the first definitive edition of Creative Thinking.

1963 – CEF commences a three-year project, under a major grant from the U.S. Office of Education, to study the deliberate development of CPS at Buffalo State College.

1966 – Osborn dies, leaving Parnes at the helm of the Foundation. CEF sponsored the nation’s first graduate course in Creative Studies at Buffalo State University College.

1967 – CEF launches the Journal of Creative Behavior, the first research publication devoted entirely to the science of creativity. Parnes publishes the work of the Institute’s creative training programs in the Creative Behavior Guidebook and Creative Behavior Workbook.

1969 – CEF begins a three-year sponsorship of the most comprehensive longitudinal research ever conducted on the development of deliberate creativity at Buffalo State College.

1972 – Sidney Shore launches Creativity in Action, CEF’s monthly newsletter. A series of regional problem solving institutes is launched in California, Washington, Minnesota, Connecticut, Florida, and Arizona.

1975 – CEF sponsors the Master of Science degree in Creative Studies at Buffalo State University.

1978 – CEF publishes The Magic of Your Mind (Parnes), The Search for Satori and Creativity (Torrance), Way Beyond the IQ (Guilford), In Search of Human Effectiveness (MacKinnon), and Creativity and Psychological Health (Barron).

1979 – CEF celebrates its 25th anniversary. More than 700 participants attend CPSI’s Summerfest in Buffalo, and 200 more attend its Winterfest in San Diego. CPSI now offers four major program streams: Springboard for Novices, Leadership Development Program, CPSI YouthWise™, and Extending Sessions for Exploratory Studies.

1980 – CEF inaugurates Visioning Workshops at Disney World’s Epcot Center in Florida.

1981 – CEF and Buffalo State College sponsor Creative Studies as a Certificate Program to the University of California at San Diego.

1985 – CEF partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to sponsor the National Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference. CEF launches its Speakers’ Bureau.

1987 – Incoming CEO John Meyerhoff expands CEF’s educational perspective to include business training. In Perspective, a quarterly publication for Institute alumni, is launched by Tom Kuby.

1989 – CPSI goes global with its first Australian Creative Problem Solving Institute and promotion in South America and Europe. Doris Shallcross initiates two major programs: the President’s Convocation to exchange leading-edge thinking in the field of creativity, and Global Odyssey to bring young people from around the globe to CPSI.

1990 – CEF launches CEF Press to enable the Foundation to become an international clearinghouse for publications in the field of creativity.

1992 – CEF publishes Parnes’ Sourcebook for Creative Problem Solving, a mini-encyclopedia of deliberate creativity techniques.

1994 – CEF celebrates its 40th Anniversary with the publication of a commemorative history of the organization.

1998 – CEF offers VIP Days at CPSI Summerfest to introduce local and national government leaders to CPS.

1999 – First Encyclopedia of Creativity includes section on “Programs and Courses in Creativity”, featuring CPSI, CPS, and CEF.

2003 – Partnering with the Paul Roos Akademie in Stellenbosch, CEF Launches CEF YouthWise™ in South Africa. CEF will conduct the program in South Africa each year through 2008.

2004 – CEF celebrates its 50th annual Creative Problem Solving Institute in Grand Island, Buffalo, New York.

2007 – CEF reestablishes CEF Consulting and Training. The Journal of Creative Behavior becomes available online. The first group of youth, 21 boys, graduates from the Paul Roos Akademie.

2008 – CEF moves to Amherst, MA. The second group of youth (25 boys and girls) graduates from the Paul Roos Akademie. Creativity Pioneer Ruth Noller dies.

2011 – CEF launches the Creativity in the 21st Century classroom course at CPSI.

2012 – The Journal of Creative Behavior is no longer self-published. World-renowned publisher Wiley-Blackwell takes over the JCB. Every JCB article ever published now becomes available online. CEF adapts a new mission of service to engage and develop the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators.

2013 – CEF moves to Scituate, MA on the campus of the Inly School. CEF in partnership with Dartmouth University is engaged in brain science research to determine the impact of teaching creative thinking to middle school students. Alex Osborn papers moved to Buffalo State on loan for archiving and original research. The first Innovators to Educators event is held in Boston, MA. Co-founder Dr. Sidney Parnes dies at age 91.

2014 – CEF celebrates its 60th anniversary and hosts the 60th CPSI Conference in Buffalo, NY, June 18-22. CEF and the Parnes family launch the Sidney J. Parnes International Fellowship of Creative Problem Solving. CEF releases updated CPS training materials and launches a new brand identity. The CEF Board hires Beth Miller as new Executive Director.

The People of CEF

Meet the people behind CEF, including the staff, the current board of trustees, lifetime trustees, past presidents, and trustees emeriti. Learn More »

A History of CEF

Founded in 1954, CEF is the recognized world leader in Applied Imagination. Learn more about the history of our organization. Learn More »

CEF Awards

Take a look at the amazing people recognized by CEF for their innovative contributions to creativity, their communities, and the world around them. Learn More »