History of UNCG Psychology Department
By Robert G. Eason
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
November 26, 2007
This document was prepared for presentation in a colloquium titled “The History of Psychology Departments in the Southeast” at the 1997 meetings of the Southeastern Psychological Association. It consists of three sections. The first section gives a brief history of the early development of the University of North Carolina System. The second concerns the creation and early development of an institution of higher learning for women in Greensboro that ultimately emerged as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. These two sections provide the contextual framework for the development of the Psychology Department at UNCG that is presented in the third section.
The paper deals primarily with the early history of the Department, ranging from its inception until 1967 at which time I joined the faculty as Professor and Head. It concludes with a brief account of the Department’s development during the 13-years I served as Head, but without any detailed information pertaining to the faculty, curricula, physical facilities, teaching and research, etc.
One of the resources drawn upon in the preparation of this paper was a book by Elizabeth Bowles, Professor of Education at UNCG, titled “A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of the University of North Carolina,” published by the University of North Carolina Press at Chapel Hill in 1967.
If someone should later decide to add another chapter to the Department’s history, beginning with the 1967 academic year, an excellent source for obtaining contextual information relevant to the task is a book titled Making North Carolina Literate by Allen W. Trelease, UNCG Professor Emeritus, published by the Carolina Academic Press in Durham, North Carolina in 2004. This book was a work in progress at the time this paper was written.
History of UNC System
When I came to the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1967, the first official event that I recall attending was the installation of a new Chancellor. His name was James L. Ferguson. I do not remember the exact words, but during the ceremony the President of the consolidated UNC system, William C. Friday, said to the new Chancellor words to this effect: “The State of North Carolina is placing in your hands one of its most precious jewels. I know that you will keep it shining with the same luster that it has had in the past.” Those words sounded politically appropriate for the occasion, but I did not appreciate their real significance until I began to study the history of the University in preparation for this talk.
The Greensboro institution is now 105 years old. For the first 72 years of its existence it provided higher educational opportunities to women in the liberal arts and in such professions as teaching, secretarial administration, industrial arts, and domestic science. When the institution’s name was changed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963, and became co-educational a year later, it had long since established a reputation as being among the finest liberal arts colleges for women in the country. That, I think, is one of the institution’s legacies President Friday mayhave been thinking of at the installation ceremony when he referred to UNCG as one of the state’s most precious jewels.
The idea of providing state-supported higher education to North Carolina’s women apparently was not taken seriously by anyone until after the Civil War. When the idea was first proposed to the state’s legislators, all of whom were men, it was strongly resisted. Enormous pressures had to be applied before the General Assembly finally authorized the establishment of such an institution in 1891. However, the conceptual groundwork actually had been established over a hundred years earlier when in 1776 the North Carolina Constitution was drafted shortly after the 13 colonies had declared their independence from Great Brittain. Written into the Constitution was the assertion that the instruction of youth will be provided at low prices, and will be encouraged at one or more universities (Bowles, 1967; 1892-93 UNCG Catalog). In making a case for the establishment of an institution for women before the members of the General Assembly in 1891, this constitutional statement was pointed out to them by a man named Charles Duncan McIver, who was to become the institution’s first President, reminding them that North Carolina’s young women were part of its youth.
A university for men had been established over 100 years previously when, in 1789, the North Carolina State Assembly chartered the University of North Carolina to be located in Chapel Hill. Six years later the University opened its doors to the first class. Though UNC claims to have been the first public university to be established in the United States, there seems to be some dispute with The University of Georgia as to which institution is the oldest. I believe the dispute centers about the issue as to whether the charter date established by the state legislature should be used as the reference for determining the age of the university or whether the opening date for classes should be used. I think the record shows that the University of Georgia was the first to open its doors to students even though UNC was chartered first. The University of North Carolina also is said to be the only public university to have graduated students in the 18th century. As far as I know, this claim has not been disputed.
A century passed before another public institution of higher education was established in North Carolina. In 1889, exactly 100 years after the chartering of the UNC, The College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts for men was opened in Raleigh.
The time was right for the establishment of an institution of higher education for women in the state. First there was a pressing need for qualified public school teachers. There was overwhelming evidence that the public school system in North Carolina was in deplorable condition. It often was judged as being the worst in the nation, with the possible exception of South Carolina, which seemed to compete with its sister state for that position. In 1891, the average nation-wide expenditure per student enrolled in the public schools was $17.62. North Carolina spent less than 1/5 this amount per student, $3.36, barely topping South Carolina which spent $3.03. The average length of the nation-wide school year was 135.7 days, but in North Carolina it was 60.3 days, less than half the national average and the lowest in the country (Bowles, p. 4). Whereas the average salary for teachers nation-wide was $44.89 per month, for North Carolina it was $24 per month, slightly more than half the national average and the lowest amount reported by any state to the US Commissioner of Education for the 1890-91 school year (Bowles, p.5).
As might be expected from these statistics, there were very few qualified teachers in the classrooms. In 1877, the University of North Carolina established a normal school for men, but it was not graduating nearly enough teachers each year to meet the need. Consequently, substantial numbers of individuals holding non-teaching degrees, along with individuals without college degrees and with little training beyond high school, were employed as public school teachers. The North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction lamented in his annual report for 1890-91, from which l am partially quoting and partially paraphrasing: “The larger number of teachers of the public schools who did not attend normal schools are incompetent, knowing nothing of the knowledge and procedures needed for effective teaching except those which they imperfectly learned in the pursuit of their degrees. They are simply school keepers, nothing more” (Bowles, page 4).
Another factor which may have contributed to the pressures being applied to the General Assembly by various citizens’ groups for the establishment of an institution of higher education for women was the increasing numbers of colleges for women which began springing up in the 1870s, and reached a peak in the 1880s just before the Greensboro campus was established. Based on a listing of colleges and universities in the 1958 edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, I was able to find only one college for women, which was established prior to1800 in the United States. That was Salem College of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, founded by the Moravians in 1772.
Between 1800 and 1860, a total of 27 women’s colleges, 15 of which were Protestant or private and 12 of which were Catholic, were established. Included among this group were Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, and Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, both established in 1842; and Queens College of Charlotte, North Carolina, established in 1857. No new women’s colleges emerged during the Civil War era. After the war, within the 13-year period from 1867 to 1880, 16 new colleges were established. Ten of them were Protestant or private, 6 were Catholic. Included among them were Wellesley College of Wellesley, Massachusetts (1870); Smith College of Northhampton, Massachusetts (1871); Bennett College of Greensboro, North Carolina, a Methodist college for black women (1873); and Brenau College of Gainesville, Georgia (1878).
During the 1880s and 1890s, 26 women’s colleges were established. Four of these were stated-supported institutions, all located in the South; 13 were Protestant or private and 9 were Catholic. In addition to the Greensboro campus, established in 1891, the state institutions were Longwood College of Farmville, Virginia, established in 1884; the Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, also established in 1884; and Winthrop College of Rock Hill, South Carolina, established in 1886. An awareness of the establishment of these three state colleges for women in the mid-1880s may have contributed to the zeal with which various civic groups pressed the General Assembly to establish such a school in North Carolina.
It is not surprising then, that beginning in 1886, a number of powerful citizen groups began pressing the General Assembly to establish a state-supported institution of higher education for the primary purpose of training teachers and educating white women. Even though they left much to be desired, several normal schools for training black men and women to teach in the segregated black schools had been established by the mid-1880s. Thus, a strong case could be made that only white women of North Carolina were being denied educational opportunities needed for employment as teachers and in other professions. The leader of one of these citizen groups, known as the Teachers’ Assembly, was one of the state’s leading educators, Charles Duncan Mclver, who more than any other individual is credited with convincing the Legislature to establish a Normal and Industrial School for women. A second group, called the King’s Daughters, petitioned the Legislature to establish an Industrial School for women. A third group, the North Carolina Farmers’ Alliance, in 1890, passed a resolution mandating that a state-supported institution for educating women be established.
History of UNCG
The collective pressure from the three groups mentioned above, in combination with strong backing from the governor and persuasive comments from other political leaders, as well as from Mclver, resulted in the chartering of the State Normal and Industrial School by the State Legislature on February 14,1891. It was this institution from which the University of North Carolina at Greensboro would emerge nearly three-quarters of a century later.
On October 5, 1892 the new institution, located about a mile west of downtown Greensboro, opened its doors to its first students. It was comprised of two large buildings, one for teaching and administration and the other for housing students. As its name implies, its primary purpose was to train teachers for the state’s public schools.
Baccalaureate degrees were awarded for the first time in 1896, with 19 graduates receiving their diplomas.
Charles Duncan Mclver was named the institution’s first President and held that position until 1906, at which time he died suddenly at the age of 46. He was a portly man who loved to eat. Considering what we know today about cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, it seems likely that he died from a massive heart attack or a stroke. It is said that he found dessert dishes irresistible, particular pies and cakes, and being North Carolina born and reared, he probably enjoyed eating ham and sausage biscuits, fried eggs, grits, pork-fat gravy, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, and other delicacies made with hog lard. A statue of Mclver, which stands in front of the UNCG Library, provides some anthropomorphic evidence for his liking to eat. Perhaps because of the high esteem held for him as a public educator, and the founding father of the institution, an identical statue stands on the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh.
Upon Mclver’s death a man named Julius Isaac Foust replaced him as President of the institution. Like Mclver, Foust was a native North Carolinian reared and educated in the state. Foust received a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Chapel Hill in 1890, and was awarded an LLD by that institution in 1910. He was a public school teacher and administrator, having held superintendent positions in the North Carolina public school system for several years prior to coming to the Normal and Industrial College as Professor and Head of the Department of Pedagogy in 1902. Although the training of teachers remained the major focus, under Foust’s leadership a strong liberal arts curriculum gradually emerged which became the foundation of all of the institution’s degree programs, including degrees in pedagogy.
The General Assembly in 1919 renamed the institution The North Carolina College for Women. This name change brought increased student enrollments and a restructuring of administrative and programmatic activities to meet the increased demands placed upon the institution. By 1921 it had eight divisions, consisting of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; three professional schools, Education, Music, and Home Economics; a Department of Health, a Commercial Department, a Graduate Division, an Extension Division, a Summer Session, and a Library. Programs had been established leading to Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, and Bachelor of Home Economics degrees.
The Greensboro campus was administered by the state as a single entity with its own governing board for the first 40 years of its existence. Then in 1931, 136 years after the University of North Carolina had been established, by action of the General Assembly the University was expanded to include the North Carolina College for Women and the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering at Raleigh. Once again, the name of the Greensboro campus was changed, and on July 1, 1932 it became The Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina. By that time its faculty had grown from 15 when it first opened in 1892 to 170, and its student body had increased from 223 to over 1500 (1,556). The institution carried this name for the next 31 years during which time it established a reputation as being among the best liberal arts colleges for women in the nation.
In 1963, the institution assumed its present name, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with authorization by the General Assembly to develop programs at all levels in areas of need, including programs at the doctoral level. It also became co-educational. Hereafter, I will refer to the institution as UNCG regardless of the name it carried at a particular stage of development, except when the earlier name is directly relevant to the point being made
History of the Psychology Department
Although a formal course in psychology was not offered until the institution’s second year of operation in 1893, it is clear from the 1892 catalog that the subject matter of psychology has been taught from the day the doors were first opened. This should not be surprising, since the institution’s primary mission at that time was to train teachers, and psychology was considered an important component of pedagogy.
During the first year of operation, the school’s catalog listed Charles Duncan Mclver’s name under the Department of Pedagogy, along with a woman named Viola Boddie. Since Boddie’s name was dropped from the Pedagogy Department after the first year, and thereafter listed as an instructor of Latin, it is probably the case that Mclver was primarily responsible for teaching the three Pedagogy courses listed in the catalog. These courses dealt with the history, science, and art of education, and focused respectively on Educational Reformers, Educational Principles, and Methods of Teaching. Contained in the descriptive statement for these courses was the statement: “Besides study in psychology, the text-book work in the history and philosophy of education and methods of teaching…. is given on these subjects by those in charge of the Department.” As head of the Pedagogy Department, it appears likely that the subject matter of psychology was first taught by none other than the institution’s founder and President.
In addition to the three courses previously mentioned, a new course titled “Elementary Psychology’ is listed in the second year’s catalog. This course heads the list in the Pedagogy Curriculum. Thus, psychology as a formal discipline has been taught by the University for 104 years of its 105-year history. Again, Mclver’s name headed the Pedagogy instructor list, implying that he not only taught the first formal psychology course at the Greensboro institution, but was instrumental in adding the course to the curriculum.
During the school’s second year of operation, a man named Philander Priestly Claxton, who held a Masters degree from the University of Tennessee, was listed with Mclver as comprising the Pedagogy Department. During the third year, Mclver’s name was dropped from the Pedagogy Department, and Claxton was listed as the Department’s only member. He became Head of the Department in 1895 (Bowles, p. 32), being listed in subsequent catalogs up through the 1901-02 edition as the Department’s only instructor. Shortly after his arrival Claxton established a Practice School for Teachers which served as a laboratory for applying psychological principles garnered from the classroom to the art of teaching. Claxton analogized that, “A normal school without a practice school is like a swimming school without water.” The Practice School flourished under his supervision, and served as a training ground for elementary teachers for the next 70 years.
No significant changes were made in the four-course Pedagogy Curriculum during Claxton’s 10-year tenure with the institution. The I894-95 Catalog identified two textbooks for the Elementary Psychology course: Kirkpatrick’s Inductive Psychology and Lindner’s Empirical Psychology. After 1894, the Kirkpatrick text was dropped, with only the Lindner book being listed as the text for the remainder of Claxton’s tenure. To date, I have been unable to locate copies of either of these books, so do not know whether Lindner’s Empirical Psychology was based on the new scientific psychology that had emerged from Germany and was being taught in the most recently established psychology departments at that time, or whether it was based on a more traditional armchair philosophical approach (Baldwin, In Murchison’s History of Psychology in Autobiography). Based on the course descriptions appearing in the college catalogs during Claxton’s tenure, it was most likely the latter. In 1902 Claxton returned to the University of Tennessee to establish a Department of Education. In 1911 President Taft appointed him United States Commissioner of Education,
When Claxton left in 1902 he was replaced by Julius Isaac Foust as Head of the Pedagogy Department and Principal of the Practice School. He held these positions until being named President upon Mclver’s death in 1906. In addition, he served as Dean of the College for two years preceding Mclver’s death. Prior to his coming to the Normal College, Foust had spent his career as a school teacher, and later as an administrator, first as Principal and then as Superintendent, in public schools located in the eastern part of the state. During his four-year stint as a Pedagogy instructor, the curriculum remained the same as Claxton had left it, and Lindner’s Empirical Psychology continued to be listed as the text for the Elementary Psychology course. By 1907 the College had established programs leading to BA, BS, Bachelor of Pedagogy, and Bachelor of Music degrees. Elementary Psychology, which was to be taken in the junior year, was listed as a required course for each of them.
From 1906 until 1913 the Pedagogy Department was headed by a man named Julius Matheson, who held an AB degree in the field. In 1911 Matheson was named Dean of the College, but continued to be listed as Head of the Pedagogy Department until 1914 when he resigned from the college. He had contracted tuberculosis and was no longer able to work. A man named Robert A. Merritt also was listed as a pedagogy instructor until 1914, at which time he went on leave and never returned. He also was struck by tuberculosis.
In 1912 the Pedagogy Department was renamed the Department of Education. The pedagogy courses appearing in the curriculum up to that time were given new titles with new course descriptions, and in 1914 the junior-semester psychology course was expanded to a full year and renamed Educational Psychology. The narrative accompanying this name change stated: “These courses are designed to cover in classroom and laboratory the field of general psychology, and its application to education. In addition, such special topics as the psychology of interest, of fatigue, practice, individual differences, and sex differences receive consideration.”
In 1915 a man named John A. Lesch with a PhDin Education was named Head of the Department of Education, and in 1916, he was joined by James A. Highsmith who
had earned a BA degree from The University of North Carolina in 1910, and had just been awarded a Master of Arts degree, also from Chapel Hill. Highsmith was the first person holding an advanced degree to join the Greensboro campus with special training in psychology. His tenure with UNCG spanned 37 years, from 1916 to 1954 when he retired. He more than any other single person was responsible for the development of the Psychology Department and for the advancement of psychology as a scientific discipline at the institution.
Under President Foust’s leadership, the change in name of the institution in 1919 from the Normal and Industrial College to the North Carolina College for Women marked the beginning of an era of increased enrollments, expansion of programs, physical plant expansion, faculty growth, increased emphasis on liberal arts education, and extensive administrative reorganization. In 1921, Schools of Education, Music, and Home Economics were established, and a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was added the following year.
The establishment of a School of Education was followed immediately by significant expansion of the psychology curriculum, and in 1922, a man named W.W. Martin, who held Bachelor of Philosophy and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Chicago, joined the faculty to help teach the increased number of course offerings. Also, in order to deal with administrative matters related to the expansion, a Department of Psychology was established within the School of Education in 1923, with Highsmith being designated Head. That same year, Highsmith received a PhD degree from Peabody College. Thus, he became the first person holding a PhD degree to teach psychology at the Greensboro institution. Martin was the department’s only other faculty member.
In contrast to the two-semester educational psychology course listed in the catalog two years previously, eight courses were listed in the 1923-24 catalog. The first, called Introductory Educational Psychology, was in actuality a general psychology course covering basic principles of behavior. The second, called Psychology of Learning, dealt with basic learning principles. The third, titled Educational Psychology, was concerned with the application of the laws and principles of psychology to the educational process. The remaining courses were titled: Psychology of Skill, especially designed for Physical Education majors; Tests and Measurements; Psychology of Elementary School Subjects; Social Psychology; and Advanced General Psychology, the latter being especially designed for students not intending to teach. Except for the last course, the entire curriculum was oriented toward the application of psychological knowledge to the teaching process.
Highsmith’s interest in presenting psychology as a scientific discipline is depicted in a report he presented to President Foust in May, 1924. He stated that psychology was gaining ground as an experimental science, and theorizing was gradually giving way to careful experimentation. He wrote further that, in accordance with the general practice of many of the better colleges and universities, he had incorporated experimental work into a number of courses currently being offered by the Department, and would be extending such work to other courses. In making a plea that administrative support for teaching research skills be made available to the Department, he stressed the importance of faculty participation in research for effective teaching. He argued persuasively, “Psychology like other sciences cannot maintain itself, to say nothing of progressing, unless original productive work is done. A teacher of psychology can scarcely hold his own, to say nothing of developing, without frequent contact with and participation in original productive work. The value to society of research looking to the solution of problems about us is obviously of no less value than the art of applying solutions that have already been discovered.”
Apparently, Highsmith’s remarks to President Foust were very convincing, because in November of that same year Foust decided that psychology really belonged with the “group of the pure sciences” housed in the College of Liberal Arts. Thus the Department of Psychology was moved from the School of Education to the College of Liberal Arts one year after it had been established.
As an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences the Psychology Department continued to meet the needs of the School of Education while gradually expanding the curriculum with the goal of offering a major in psychology. Such a major, leading to a BA degree, was offered for the first time in 1927 (Bowles, p. 110). In keeping with Highsmith’s treatment of psychology as an experimental natural science, a methodology course titled “Problems in Elementary Statistical Methods” was added to the curriculum in 1928. Then in 1929 a two-semester general psychology course with a laboratory was added to the curriculum as a requirement of all psychology majors. The course was designed specifically for teaching the basic principles and methods of psychology as an experimental natural science, and was required of psychology majors. Along with certain science courses in physics, chemistry, and biology, this course satisfied the natural science requirement of the College of Liberal Arts for the BA degree in any area of study.
In addition to faculty positions held by Highsmith and Martin, two additional positions were added to the Department in the late 1920s to help meet the increased teaching demands. None of the faculty filling these two positions remained for more than a year or two, until the arrival of Key Barkley in 1931, who taught in the Department for the next 17 years. Barkley was still alive as of this writing, and at the age of 97, continued to lead an active life. He is a native North Carolinian who received an AB degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1926. Soon after graduating he entered graduate school in the Department of Psychology at Chapel Hill where he earned an MA degree in 1927 and a PhD in 1930. In an oral history recording made by a UNCG professor of history in 1991 of Barkley’s life and career, Barkley states that Highsmith hired him especially to teach the one-year experimental psychology course, and to develop laboratory facilities, equipment, and experiments needed to make it a viable natural science course. By all accounts, he developed a first-rate science course which became very popular with the students. He stated there were seven students in the course when he first taught it in 1931, but when he last taught it in 1948, 180 students were enrolled. He stated further that he was responsible for the course having been approved as meeting the College of Liberal Arts natural science requirement for the BA degree. Barkley left the Department in 1948 to join the psychology faculty at North Carolina State University where he spent the remainder of his academic career. Even though Barkley appears to have served the Psychology Department and the College exceptionally well, he never rose above the rank of Associate Professor. The College’s unwillingness to promote him to Professor contributed to his decision to go to North Carolina State, where he remained until his retirement.
Highsmith, Martin, and Barkley made up the Department’s regular teaching faculty until they were joined by Elizabeth Duffy in 1937. Three years prior to her arrival, the institution’s name had been changed from the North Carolina College for Women to The Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina. Like Highsmith and Barkley, Duffy was a native of North Carolina. She was born and raised in the historic, old coastal town of New Bern where the Governor for the British Crown resided when North Carolina was a colony. She obtained a BA degree from the Greensboro campus in 1925, three years before a major was offered in psychology. Immediately after receiving her BA degree, she entered Columbia University where she was awarded an MA degree in 1926. While there she established a lasting friendship with the renowned psychologist, Robert S. Woodworth, author of the classic text, Experimental Psychology, published in 1938. Duffy corresponded with him until his death in 1962.
In 1928 she received a PhD degree from Johns Hopkins University where she studied with Knight Dunlap, among others. Given the historic role that both of these universities had played in the development of psychology as a science, both from the perspective of functionalism and behaviorism, Dufty’s arrival at the Woman’s College in 1937 further enhanced the stature of psychology as an experimental science on the campus. Prior to coming to the Woman’s College Duffy taught psychology for nine years at Sarah Lawrence College. Her major areas of study were personality theory; the measurement of personality traits; the conceptual and physiological basis of emotion; and the study of values. She was best known for her theoretical and review articles that appeared in such APA journals as Psychological Monographs, Psychological Review, and Psychological Bulletin. Her most important single work was a book titled “Activation and Behavior,” published in 1962 by John Wiley and Sons, in which she spelled out her Activation Theory of Emotion. She loved to teach, loved students, and was adored by them. In addition to having served as President of the Division of General Psychology of the American Psychological Association, she was a past president of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and of the Psychology Section of the North Carolina Academy of Sciences.
Like the title of one of country singer Barbara Mandrell’s hits, “I was country when country wasn’t cool,” Duffy was liberated when women’s liberation wasn’t “cool.” She was a strong, courageous woman who fought for what she believed in, sometimes to the discomfort of some of her academic and professional colleagues who stood in opposition to her point of view. I think few would question, however, that she played a critical role in the development of psychology as an experimental science during her 33 year tenure at the institution she loved. She retired in 1969 at the age of 63 due to cancer, and succumbed to the disease in 1970. Ironically, she did not get to participate in the new PhD program in which she played a key role in planning.
After 37 years of service to the University, 30 of them as Head of the Psychology Department, James Highsmith retired in 1953. During his tenure, the psychology curriculum was expanded from a single course especially designed to meet the needs of student teachers into an array of course offerings designed for psychology majors. It placed emphasis on psychology as an experimental science comparable to that offered by most liberal arts colleges and universities, while also providing courses designed to meet the specialized needs of the School of Education and the other professional schools.
The department’s second Head, Kendon B. Smith, assumed the headship in 1954. A Princeton PhD, Smith received his degree in 1941 with E.G. Wever, one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists of that era who perhaps is best known for having formulated the volley theory of pitch perception. Well before he arrived at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina, Smith had established a reputation as a scholarly teacher and as a rigorous, productive experimental psychologist. Immediately after receiving his PhD, he went to work as an experimental psychologist for the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development, a position he held until the end of WW II in 1945. He then returned to Princeton where he taught and conducted research in audition and other areas for the next three years. Thereafter, he joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State University where he continued his teaching and research pursuits. He remained there until coming to Greensboro.
Upon his arrival, without neglecting the needs of the professional schools, Smith immediately began to strengthen the course offerings in experimental psychology, while seeking new faculty members comprised of PhDs rigorously trained during the early post-WWII era when psychology was engaged in a critical self-analysis of its scientific concepts and methodology. Although he was successful in attracting well qualified people to the department during the 1950s and 60s, as they gained national recognition for their work they tended to be lured away after a few years by universities offering higher salaries and research opportunities in doctoral programs. This was a period of high mobility for young, productive PhDs due to the rapid expansion of programs and course offerings by universities across the nation, including the development of new
doctoral programs. Most of those who left have made significant scientific and scholarly contributions in their areas of expertise at other institutions.
By l963 when the institution’s name was changed from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the curriculum had been expanded to encompass all traditional areas of study in experimental psychology, including experimental design and statistical methods, tests and measurements, comparative and physiological psychology, sensation and perception, motivation, learning, intelligence theory and measurement, developmental processes, personality theory and assessment, and social psychology. Other courses available to both majors and non-majors included human relations, abnormal psychology, behavior disorders in children, educational psychology, mental deficiency, psychology of the exceptional child, industrial and business psychology, and personnel psychology. Thus, the curriculum developed by Smith had a two-fold purpose. First and foremost, in keeping with the type of curriculum commonly employed by leading colleges and universities throughout the country, it was designed to provide a strong, comprehensive major in the discipline of psychology firmly anchored in the experimental approach; a second purpose was to make courses available to the professional schools needed by their students in the application of psychological principles to specialized problems.
During Smith’s tenure as Head, the department produced dozens of psychology majors who were accepted into PhD programs, and graduate departments having had prior experience with the quality of the Woman’s College graduates, actively sought them out. I personally had the pleasure of working with one such Greensboro graduate, a woman named Ann Beardshall, who did her Master’s thesis under my supervision in 1964 while I was a faculty member at San Diego State. To this day I consider the initial draft of her thesis to be better written than that of any other Master’s thesis I have read during my academic career.
During the 1950s, student enrollment at the Woman’s College was quite stable, registering in the 2,000s with a faculty in the 200 range. Then, at the beginning of the 1960s enrollment began to increase, the number of faculty increasing accordingly. In
1961 the number of students exceeded 3,000. By 1964, after having become co-educational and authorized to develop doctoral degree programs, student enrollment for the campus exceeded 4,000 while the number of faculty approached 300. This same type of growth pattern was reflected in the Psychology Department.
With its new name and mission, the University began immediately to develop master’s level programs in the liberal arts and professional schools, along with doctoral programs in selected areas. Under Smith’s headship, the Psychology Department was among the first in the College to develop an MA program. The program was developed with three objectives in mind: (1) To initiate the student into advanced scholarship and to give him an opportunity to test and develop his own capacity for research; (2) to serve as a strong introduction to additional graduate work in the various fields of psychology; and (3) to serve as preparation for positions requiring the master’s degree.
Students were required to take three seminars covering systematic issues in psychology, current issues in general psychology, and issues in individual and group behavior. The remaining course work could be selected from an array of advanced psychology courses open only to seniors and graduate students encompassing all areas previously mentioned. A total of 30 semester hours of work, including 3-6 hours of thesis credit, was required for the degree. While it could be theoretically completed in one year, few students did so, most of them taking two or more years. The program provided an excellent foundation for students wishing to earn a doctoral degree in psychology, and many went on to earn such degrees at other institutions. In addition to Smith and Duffy, faculty members participating in this program in its initial stages included a group of young, dynamic psychologists known to many of you in the audience. Included among them were Frances Dunham, Eugene McDowell, Charles Noblin, William Ray, and Jean Spruill.
After serving as Head of the Psychology Department for 13 years, Smith decided to resign from that position at the end of the 1966-67 academic year. I was his successor. I joined the Department in the fall of 1967 with an understanding from the administration that top priority was to be given to the development of a PhD program in psychology. In preparing to offer doctoral training in psychology, the immediate task at hand was to write a proposal building a case for the development of such a program, recruit additional faculty, expand the graduate curriculum, increase library holdings, and acquire additional research space and facilities. At that time the student enrollment had grown to 5,400 and the faculty had increased to 350. The Psychology Department had nine full-time and two part-time faculty members.
A PhD program proposal was submitted to the University administration in May of 1969, and final approval for offering the doctoral degree was given by the Board of Governors in 1970. In the meantime, the Department acquired two additional faculty positions in 1968; three more were added in 1969; another in 1970; and two more in 1971. Thus, in preparation for offering doctoral level work, the size of the faculty grew from 9 to 17 full-time tenure track positions within a four-year period. At that time five held the rank of Professor, five were Associate Professors, and seven were Assistant Professors. As the doctoral program developed, additional faculty positions were added at a rate of approximately one per year so that by 1976 the Department had 21 full-time members. Program expansion and faculty growth reached an asymptote by 1978, and for the past 20 years the department has operated with 20-23 tenure-track positions, with temporary faculty filling in as needed.
Although a long-range goal was to offer training in clinical and/or school psychology, the PhD program initially was limited to basic experimental psychology with the goal of training psychologists as teachers, scholars, and researchers. After obtaining a Master’s degree, a total of 72 semester hours chosen from three categories were required for the PhD degree. Twenty-four units were comprised of graduate level courses encompassing all of the major areas of experimental psychology; 24 units
consisted of seminars and courses in the student’s area of concentration; and 24 units of research work were required, including the doctoral dissertation.
The program was implemented in a manner designed to protect the academic integrity of the undergraduate program which had emerged over the preceding four decades. Thus, in establishing graduate level courses in the various content areas of experimental psychology, the undergraduate curriculum was modified to offer parallel courses covering the same content at the junior and senior levels. Faculty members taught courses at each of these levels in their areas of expertise. They also took turns teaching the introductory course. The maintenance of a strong undergraduate program in psychology remains a high departmental priority today.
In its initial stage of development, the doctoral program was based on a traditional experimental approach. Its major areas of strength, based on the number of faculty members having expertise in particular areas, were in physiological psychology; sensation and perception; human learning; animal learning, with emphasis on the experimental analysis of operant behavior; behavior theory and conceptual analysis; motivation and emotion.
The areas of developmental, personality, and social psychology also were covered with well-qualified faculty, but in fewer numbers than in the preceding areas. The intent was to increase the strength of each of these areas over time, while adding an experimentally-oriented clinical component to the program. Although it has taken longer than was anticipated, all three of these areas have been strengthened in recent years, and now rank among the department’s major strengths. Given the department’s strong behavioral bent, a faculty member trained in the new cognitive psychology was not added until 1975. Since then, in addition to those trained incognitive psychology per se, a substantial number of faculty with a cognitive orientation specializing in developmental, personality, social, and clinical have been added, making cognitive psychology one of the department’s strongest areas of study today.
[Note: The reader is reminded that reference to the present in the remaining paragraphs refers to 1997 when the paper was presented at SEPA]
Due to faculty deaths and retirements, the areas of physiological and operant behavior have waned in strength, although a faculty member remains in each area who
has received national recognition for his contributions to his respective field. Both remain major assets to the department.
In keeping with the department’s experimental approach, and its strength in the experimental analysis of operant behavior, courses in behavior modification were added to the curriculum in the early 1970s as an initial step in adding a clinical track to the program. By the mid-1970s the department had established a viable clinical program track with an experimentally-oriented behavioral orientation, and which included advanced practicum training for gaining proficiency in the assessment of behavior disorders, applying behavior modification techniques, and assessing treatment effectiveness.
While a behavioral approach is still an important feature of the current APA-approved clinical program, the training orientation now encompasses all major approaches used in the assessment and treatment of clinical problems. The program gained APA accreditation in 1980. As far as I am aware, most if not all of the students graduating prior to that date who specialized in the applied experimental/clinical track with aspirations of being a clinical psychologist, have met the criteria for licensure in the state in which they work. Some have met all of the requirements for APA certification.
As of this date, the Psychology Department has graduated approximately 190 PhDs, with approximately 50% of them employed as clinical psychologists. Another 30% hold teaching and/or research positions in colleges and universities. Most of the remainder hold administrative or research positions in governmental agencies or in industry, or operate a business. As of this time, I have been unable to make contact with a few of them. Three are known to be deceased.
If one includes all of the temporary instructors, lecturers, and part-time people who have taught in the Psychology Department since it was established in 1923, the number employed lies somewhere between 100 and 200 people. If the list is limited to those employed in tenure-track positions at the rank of Assistant Professor or higher, the number is reduced to approximately 70. Of this latter group, 28 have served the Department for at least 10 years and13 are still active members. Also, this group of 28 includes six past Department Heads: James A. Highsmith, 1923-1953; Kendon Smith, 1953-1967; Robert Eason, 1967-1980; Ernest Lumsden, Acting Head, 1980-1982; Gilbert Gottlieb, 1982-1986; Walter Salinger, 1986-1993; Anthony DeCasper, 1993-1997. Timothy Johnston assumes the Headship this summer.
November 26, 2007
A woman named Linda Dudley was the first recipient of the PhD degree in psychology at UNCG. She had earned an MA in psychology at the institution in1968, and since a doctoral program did not yet exist, she enrolled in the PhD program offered by the School of Home Economics in the area of Child Development and Family Relations. While pursuing that degree on a part- time basis, she took courses in psychology designed to meet the requirements for the proposed PhD program, some of which were accepted by the School of Home Economics as meeting the requirements for the Child Development and Family Relations program.
By the time the psychology program was officially approved, she had completed all of the requirements for the degree except the dissertation, including special seminars, special studies, and independent research. Immediately following the Board’s approval, she applied for and was admitted into the PhD program in psychology, whereupon she discontinued the pursuit of a doctoral degree in the School of Home Economics.
Prior to the Board’s approval, but after the proposed PhD program had been approved by the UNCG Board of Trustees and the Graduate Board of the UNC system, a Psychology Department PhD committee was formed on her behalf for administering her comprehensive exam and consideration of her proposed dissertation project. Upon the final approval of the Program by the Board of Governors the committee accepted her proposed dissertation project. She completed all remaining requirements, including the dissertation, by the deadline for graduation in the spring of 1971.
Immediately after graduating she accepted a position at Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC where she presently holds the position of Professor and Acting Head of the Psychology Department.