Dick Gonzalez, Class of 1897 Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Passes Away on March 6

Posted March 13th, 2014 at 9:26 am.

The following email was sent to faculty, students, and staff by President Kim Cassidy on Friday, March 7.

Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

I write with the sad news that Dick Gonzalez, Class of 1897 Professor Emeritus of Psychology, passed away on Thursday, March 6.   I hope you will join me in extending condolences to the members of the Psychology Department and all members of the community who had the pleasure to know Dick.

Professor Gonzalez received his BA and MA from the University of Texas and his PhD from the University of Maryland.  He came to Bryn Mawr in 1959 as a Lecturer and was successively named Assistant Professor in 1961, Associate Professor in 1963, and Full Professor in 1968.  That same year he became chair of the department and served in that role for nearly 20 years, until 1986.  In 1979 he was appointed the Class of 1897 Professor of Science, a position he held until his retirement in 1998.  Dick returned to the College, following his retirement, teaching in the Psychology Department from 1998-2001 as a Katharine E. McBride Professor.

Throughout his career, Dick’s research focused on the comparative psychology of learning and motivation.  An expert in the field of Pavlovian conditioning, his research used pigeons, rats and goldfish to study the evolution of intelligence.  A special focus of this research was how the evolution of the brain, as seen in different species, relates to the evolution of cognitive processes.  His research was supported by significant grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and recognized by Cambridge University, at which he spent a year in the Department of Experimental Psychology in the 1980s.

Dick was a frequent reviewer for a number of professional journals in his field, including The American Journal of PsychologyScienceLearning and Motivation,Psychological Bulletin and Psychological Review and served on the Board of Editors of the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology from 1975-1980.  He was also active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Psychonomic Society and was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

President Emeritus Pat McPherson calls Dick “a rigorous and highly respected teacher” and notes that his students appreciated his full grasp of the field of psychology and found his teaching inspiring.  She also remembers him as an “excellent citizen of the College” and “articulate spokesperson for the advantages of the Graduate School at Bryn Mawr.”  During his tenure, Dick directed 24 MA and PhD theses and served on nearly every standing committee of the faculty.

Ann Ogle, who served as Dick’s administrative assistant in the 1990s, recollects, “Like many of his Intro Psych students, I was a little afraid of him – he had high standards and expectations, but like his students, I soon came to respect him and to enjoy his wonderful sense of humor.  I was especially struck by the care he took in revising his course materials every year.”

Personally, I remember the first time I met Dick – during my interview at Bryn Mawr in 1993.  His passion for the psychology department and the quality of its curriculum was very evident, as well as his deep commitment to student engagement in laboratory work.  Underneath a sometimes gruff exterior, Dick was a kind and gentle man.  He always had a bit of a twinkle in his eye and his sharp sense of humor and love of fun made working with him a pleasure.

On Sunday, March 9, Dick’s family, including his wife Lupe and their five daughters, Anita, Consuela, Debbie, Margo (BMC ’74) and Teresa, will gather for a private service in Lancaster, PA.  You may send condolences to Lupe at 300 Willow Valley Lakes Drive, Apt. F309 Willow Street, PA, 17584.

I will share any plans for a memorial service at the College at a later date.


With warm wishes,

Kim Cassidy

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