McReynolds, esteemed psychology professor, passes away

12/10/2010 - By: Staff Report

Paul McReynolds, professor of psychology emeritus, passed away on Dec. 4. He left a significant legacy of achievements as a teacher and a scholar in his 91 years of living.

Paul was born on June 18, 1919 in rural Adrian, Mo. He received a B.S. degree from Central Missouri State University in biology in 1940. He taught high school in Missouri for two years before pursuing a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Missouri in Columbia. However, World War II interrupted his academic efforts. Instead, he volunteered in the Army Air Force, working as a psychologist’s assistant, helping with the selection of pilots and later working to help soldiers return to employment in civilian life. Upon discharge from the Army, he worked briefly as a school psychologist in San Jose, Calif., before returning to Missouri to complete his master’s degree in 1946.

After receiving his master’s degree, McReynolds was employed at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and began his doctoral studies at Stanford University. He received his Ph. D. in Clinical and Personality Psychology at Stanford in 1949. At the Palo Alto VA Medical Center, McReynolds founded and for many years headed the facility’s Behavior Research Laboratory. During this time he also taught at Stanford and U. C. Berkeley Universities.

In 1969 Paul moved to the University of Nevada, Reno, where he helped establish an excellent doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. He was the director of the program through its initiation and the critical developmental stages required for accreditation by the American Psychological Association. That clinical psychology training program evolved and remains as one of the most highly regarded programs in the country.

McReynolds was also a dedicated teacher and a prolific scholar. He did advanced study in the Departments of Psychology, History and Philosophy and Science at Cambridge University in 1976. At Nevada, he enjoyed teaching classes on personality theory and assessment, motivation, history and systems of psychology, behavior disorders and psychotherapy. His students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels had extensive reading lists and completed his courses with a broad and deep knowledge of the course subjects.

McReynolds had a scholar’s commitment to research and writing. By the time he retired, he had published over 100 papers. In 1968 he inaugurated a series of edited books, “The Advances in Psychological Assessment.” This series went through 10 bicentennial editions with McReynolds as the editor. He also continued to write and publish after his retirement from the university. He authored the book “Lightner Witmer: His Life and Times,” which was published in 1997. Witmer is generally credited with being the first Clinical Psychologist and with opening the first Psychology Clinic. This book represented McReynolds’ longstanding interest in history, especially the history of psychology. He called the book “my last contribution to my profession.”

Those who knew and worked with McReynolds experienced his gentle personality as well as his energy, curiosity and intellect. He was a gentleman and scholar in the “old school” tradition. He was a humanitarian. He had broad interests in the arts, especially music. Other pastimes were oil painting and writing poetry.

He had friends and colleagues from Stanford, UC Berkeley and many departments and programs at Nevada. When he was in charge of a meeting or committee he preferred to use the consensus model of decision-making. This sometimes led to long meetings but everyone there felt that their ideas and opinions had been heard and considered. He was also known to be somewhat of a perfectionist. Those graduate students who chose to have him chair their theses and dissertations knew that many rewrites would be required but they could be confident that the final product would be one that they would be proud of having completed.

McReynolds received many professional awards and honors during his career. The two that he regarded as most meaningful were when he was named a UNR Outstanding Researcher in 1987 and when he was the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award for his contributions to the university in 1994. A special tribute occurred when the Paul McReynolds Endowment Fund in Clinical Psychology was established in 1988 to honor Paul and to promote further study in the profession of psychology. This recognition of Paul’s impact on the Clinical Psychology Training Program was established under the leadership of Dr. Jim Mikawa and several of McReynolds’ former graduate students. While he was at Stanford University, McReynolds met and married Billie Huffsmith in 1955. She preceded him in death in October 2009. They had one son, David, a daughter-in-law, Candi, and two grandsons, Jason and Kevin, who live in Berthoud, Colo.

Condolences can be sent to: Mr. and Mrs. David McReynolds

6009 Snowy Ridge Lane

Berthoud, CO 80513

Instead of flowers the family requests that any donations go to the McReynolds Endowment Fund at the University of Nevada, Reno to support the research of graduate students in the Clinical Psychology Program.

Checks should be made out to the UNR Foundation and include McReynolds on the note line then sent to:

Victoria Follette, Ph. D

Chair, Department of Psychology

Mail Stop 296

University of Nevada, Reno

Reno, NV 89557

(Editor’s note: This obituary was composed by Duane L. Varble, Ph. D. a longtime friend and colleague of Dr Paul McReynolds.)


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