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Lee Sechrest

Quantitative psychologist Lee Sechrest has passed away at the age of 86.

Lee was a friend of the blog and we corresponded by email a bit during the past two years but I never had the privilege of meeting him.

A wonderful obituary is here. As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

Actually, I think I’ll cut and paste it here for those of you who are too lazy to click. Here it is:

Lee B. Sechrest

The Skeptical Optimist

b. January 1, 1929, Kansas City, Missouri

d. October 10, 2015, Tucson, Arizona

Nothing in statistics or research methodology requires you to do something stupid. (Sechrest’s Law # IV)

Describing his odyssey from a small Kansas town through the dominions of academia, Lee once wrote “this is my story, and I’m sticking to it, at least until I come up with a better one.”

His qualification applies as well to this and any accounting of this remarkable life. Writing a good account of Lee Sechrest is probably achievable, but given the journey he travelled from rural Kansas and all that he experienced and accomplished, a better one is always going to be possible.


Academic Journey

Lee’s life story did not begin with silver spoons of advantage. Born into the Great Depression, Lee and his family faced several years of financial struggle.

I was born at the very beginning of the depression, and my father’s employment situation was precarious and then disastrous, as he lost his job in the course of a strike at the battery manufacturing company where he worked.

My parents, to whom I owe much gratitude for what I believe to have been a good assortment of genes (although for a long time in my life I would have been even more grateful if I had received the genes required for great pitching or passing) . . . [They] were simple people of simple tastes, interests, and ambitions. My father, a farm boy, had not finished high school; my mother had finished and also had some secretarial training (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

Although he started school in Kansas City, by the time he started 3rd grade, the family was living in Augusta, Kansas, 30 miles outside Wichita. Half-way through his first year of high school, the family moved to Osawatomie, Kansas where he graduated in May, 1946. Describing Osawatomie’s very small high school as “not a very good”, Lee observed

I was not all that interested in being educated anyway. . . .. High school did not . .. prepare me for later on in life. . . .. I did not have a single teacher whom I would describe as having been inspiring and some were not, I now think, at all competent. I did not have to work very hard. . . .. I did, sort of, learn to type, which may have helped to preserve me from the infantry once I was in the Marines.

It was partly curiosity that led me to join the U.S. Marine Corps immediately upon graduation from high school. I was not yet 17.5 years, and I wanted to see what was out there, on the other side. At that time, I had, I think, never been more than 150 miles from Kansas City and had set foot in only four states (Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and the latter for only one afternoon). That curiosity did not kill me, but it could have as I landed later in 1950 in North Korea (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

Volunteering for the Marine Corps after a dubious high school education might not seem a likely beginning for someone who earned a Ph.D. and rose so high in the professoriate. But, it did.

After his discharge in December, 1947, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll in Pittsburg (KS) State Teachers College (KSTC).

When I began at Pittsburg, I was thinking about psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Not for any good reasons but out of some adolescent romantic notions that I had picked up from reading a little, but only a very little, of Freud. . . . Obviously, a career in psychiatry required completion of medical school, and I declared myself a pre-med student. I began almost immediately to become disillusioned with the pre-med curriculum — not because of grades but because of nearly interminable boredom (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

His search for an alternative major opened a career pathway he never knew existed. As he had hoped, joining the Marines had given him a chance “to see what was out there.”

I learned that the college had a “counseling center” for veterans to help them with vocational and career plans. I went to the center to see whether I could find something to do that would relieve me of the miseries of the comparative anatomy of vertebrates and the need to memorize all those bones. Based on a rather extensive battery of tests, including, I do remember, the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory and the Kuder Test of Vocational Interests, they concluded that I should consider becoming — a clinical psychologist! I did not know much about psychology or psychologists, although I had had one class in that subject, but I did find that psychologists did not have to take the pre-med curriculum. I immediately switched my allegiance.

Wray Strowig, whom I came to admire very much, and Bill Lyle, who became a sort of personal hero and mentor to me, were sufficiently impressed with me, with my intellectual ability I think, not with my wide-eyed but brash personality, to offer me a job in the counseling center administering and scoring the very tests that had already changed the course of my life. So, as a first-term sophomore in college, I was already employed as a psychologist—well, a psychologist of sorts, at least a “psychological technician.” I learned how to administer all score all sorts of tests, including tests of motor ability such as the Minnesota Rate of Manipulation Test and the Purdue Pegboard. I even administered the card form of the MMPI and scored it. I was fascinated, and I began then to acquire some rudimentary knowledge of such important terms as reliability, validity, norms, correlation, and so on. Both Strowig and Lyle were tolerant, encouraging, and helpful to me.

In the first part of 1949, Bill Lyle was planning to go to graduate school and in some way had settled on Ohio State. I probably talked to him about his decision, but I do not remember what he said. At any rate, Bill had planned to travel by bus from Pittsburg, KS to Columbus, OH to visit, perhaps to be interviewed, and so on, and he invited me to ride along.

Ohio State University was just about the biggest, most impressive thing I had ever seen. I am sure I walked around with my mouth hanging open. At that time, Ohio State had an enrollment of about 19,000; KSTC had about 2000. I made up my mind on the spot that I wanted to attend Ohio State. That was a fateful decision. I do not remember anything about the application process, but I was accepted for enrollment in the fall of 1949, and I had the “GI bill” so I did not have to worry about tuition . . . (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

But before he could finish his undergraduate education at Ohio State, Lee’s Marine Corps reserve unit was called to active duty when the Korean War began in the summer of 1950. He landed in Korea six months later:

We were in our encampment at Hungnam only a fairly short time before the Chinese broke through American (USMC) lines at Hagaru-ri, up near the Yalu River. I missed by one day being sent up there with my security squad.

Because of the imminent danger of being overwhelmed by Chinese forces, we were evacuated by ship from Hungnam and taken to the port of Pusan in the south and from there to Masan where a base had been established. In the days just before our evacuation and while we were on the ship traveling south, rumors about what was going to happen to us were rife, but one that later proved interesting was that we were to be sent to Indochina to help the beleaguered French forces. Few of us had more than a rudimentary idea of even where Indochina was.

Masan was mostly boring, and I asked to be sent to Taegu a bit north, where front lines were at that time. I never made it, in very large part because, somewhat out of boredom, I asked to have an eye examination and was sent to Pusan, a brutal eight or ten hour truck ride each way, to be fitted for glasses. During the 48 hours I was away, a unit that I would likely have been part of was shipped north. In whatever odd way such things happen, an administration of the Army General Classification Test was scheduled to happen at Masan, and I was one of the Marines more or less ordered to take it. I was not much aware of what was going on, but some time later, I was asked to report to battalion headquarters, where I was informed that I could, if I chose, be returned to the United States for officers candidate training at Quantico Virginia.

It was an offer I could not refuse, and in short order, I was on a plane to Japan and very quickly thereafter on a plane to the United States. I had never been on a large aircraft before. . . .. By the time I arrived at Quantico in early summer of 1951, the Truman administration had been forced by economic circumstances to begin a reduction in force of the military. I, along with other newly arrived officer candidates, was given my choice of an immediate discharge or continuing in OCS. . . . But at about that time, we were moving into barracks, and we were given a mimeographed sheet of instructions about how to stow our gear. I remember, as a virtually eidetic image, seeing that my backpack was to be placed on top of my locker 3/8 inch from the left edge and 3/8 inch from the front edge of the locker. I just do not have the capacity to deal with that kind of detail, eighths of an inch! So, then and there, I decided to accept the discharge option (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

Released from active duty in summer 1951, he returned to Ohio State graduating cum laude in 1952 after being elected to Phi Beta Kappa and being awarded the William Jennings Bryan Prize for best history paper.

In September, 1952 he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology at Ohio State, finishing in 1956. During his graduate studies, he worked with two professors that had great influence on him.

George Kelly contributed in important ways to my intellectual development. First, he was a genuine cognitive psychologist before there were any, at least any of the kind who abound today. At the time, psychology was dominated by Hullian learning theory, and clinical psychology by social learning theory. (Skinnerian thinking was, at that time, largely a curiosity at Ohio State.) Kelly guided me toward the cognition that the ways in which people construe (cognize) events may be more important than the reality of those events. It was about that time, I think, that I encountered the famous statement by W.I. Thomas that “If things are believed to be real, then they are real in their consequences.” That statement antedated Kelly the 1950s by more than two decades, although it was surely not from Kelly that I heard of it.

. . . there was another influence in the clinical psychology program at Ohio State that was greatly influential in the development of my thinking: social learning theory as expounded by Julian Rotter. Kelly and Rotter could scarcely have been more different as men. Kelly was Protestant, a churchman, definitely a Mid-westerner, staid, and rather remote. None of his students ever called him “George,” and he regularly addressed students by their surnames, with an appropriate titular prefix. Even when invited by him at the end of the final doctoral dissertation defense to “Call me George,” it was difficult to do so. Julian Rotter was New York Jewish, a graduate of Brooklyn college, outgoing, informal, and engaging. Most of his students called him “Jules.” I am not sure I ever did. I was too much a small town Midwestern boy, outwardly (and usually inwardly) deferent to authority (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

By graduation and after an internship, he knew the practice of clinical psychology was not for him, so he sought and gained appointment as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Penn State. Two years later in 1958, he assumed the same position at Northwestern University where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1963, and Professor in 1967.

During his years at Northwestern he began studies of culture, that included two stints in the Philippines and a year at the East-West Center in Honolulu. One source of interest in culture was his experiences as a Marine during the Korean War:

In the course of [security patrols in our sector] we learned a bit about Korean culture . . . [O]ne particular day we learned something about Korean funerary practices, including the fact that they liked to bury their dead on hillsides in a sitting position so the dead could “look out” over the villages below. Some of my comrades were filled with derision at such practices, but I could not help thinking that American funerary practices were no less weird. Another lesson in cross-cultural thinking. During that time, however, I began also to become aware of the extent to which the thinking of my comrades was conditioned by their own experiences and that they could no more change their views, their ways of thinking about the world, about the war, about the Korean people, and so forth than could Koreans simply decide to become American. That glimmer of insight not only stuck with me but has been elaborated over the years of my life . . . (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

While still at Northwestern, he began developing an enduring, and career-defining interest in evaluation research and methods began. The setting in stone of this occurred in 1970 when Northwestern was awarded a grant to train psychologists in health services research, and in 1971 when Lee successfully applied for a summer training program in evaluation research

In 1973, Lee assumed a professorship in psychology at Florida State University, moving in 1980 to the University of Michigan where he was appointed Director of the Center for Research on the Utilization of Scientific Knowledge in the Institute of Social Research.

During the 1980s, his involvement in improving health services through research and evaluation were signaled by appointments to critical roles, including the appointment to the National Advisory Panel for Health Services Research and Development Program of the Veterans Administration, and the Chair of the Scientific and Evaluation Review Board of the HSR&D Program of the Veterans Administration.

In 1984, he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona, where he “officially” retired in 2002 to a still busy life of teaching, research, and work-related travels.


The Man and His Contributions

The Introduction to a volume of papers published in Lee’s honor attempted to list the content areas in which he worked over his 50+ year career in psychology. The authors stopped counting at 75 (McKnight & Bootzin, 2006, p. 5). By themselves alone, his design, measurement, and statistical contributions to multiple areas of psychology are impressive: social and personality, school, cross-cultural, clinical, health care, criminality, and “even astrologers as marriage counselors .. (op. cit., p. 252).” But it would be a mistake to think that is all he worked on. In addition to his research and scholarship, he worked with multiple national foundations and institutions to inform and shape policy in many areas: program evaluation, health care, graduate education, professional certification, and peer review.

It was his natural curiosity that led to pursuing so many areas and work in so many arenas. The same curiosity that prompted his enlistment in the Marine Corps.

Lee could be harshly self-critical about consequences of this unbridled curiosity. In his closing remarks at the 2003 festschrift held in his honor, he confided some regrets and a hint of envy for what more focused research programs had yielded others.

A year after the doubts expressed in his remarks at the 2003 festschrift, he added this positive perspective on his diverse interests:

. . . as soon as my own curiosity was sated, I tended to lose interest in the question and would move to some new question. Regrettably (maybe), I did not always want to stop and do the follow up work to arouse and then satisfy the curiosity of others . . . Unbridled curiosity can dither out into dilettantism, of which I have long and egregiously been guilty. . . . That curiosity did not kill me, but it could have as I landed later in 1950 in North Korea (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

In a 2015 email he offered an even harsher self-assessment, tempered by a familiar flash of self-deprecating humor:

I have, in fact, been a dilettante, often of the worst sort. I have worked on and written on an extraordinarily wide range of topics, many more than are obvious from my CV. I have many aborted projects and papers in my files. I suffer both from a short attention span but also a tendency to be interested in some question or problem only until I think I know the answer and then moving to something else that happened to catch my eye. Consequently, my influence on the field has been limited. I am under no illusions about my “place” in psychology. But I have had a glorious good time in getting where I am, which is pretty much nowhere in particular. I never took myself very seriously and frequently had the experience of being like an onlooker, watching bemusedly as the video of my life rolls by (Personal Communication, 2015).

A few months later, in another personal email to the same long-time friend and former student, he noted without a hint of self-deprecation or envy, the advantages of focusing on a single topic or question:

It always seemed to me that psychologists who carved out a topic for themselves that they could worry over for years had an easier time of it in certain ways than those, like me, who skipped around (and around) in content. They can pretty much master the literature in a while and then just need to keep up. They do not need to develop new methods for every study. Writing up any new study should come easily by applying well-tested templates. And their papers are pretty much reviewed end edited by people who are thoroughly familiar with their work. And to top it off, for almost any content area one can think of, especially in recent years. There are two or three national conferences and international conferences to get invited to, and a dozen other labs around the country are pining for colloquium speakers and consultants to come show them how it is done. Sometimes seems pretty cushy to me (Personal Communication, 2015).

It bothered Lee that some knew of or credited him only with his work on unobtrusive (multiple) measures. To some extent, he was victimized by the attention given to the 1966 book he coauthored that continues to be referenced nearly 50 years after publication: Unobtrusive measures: A survey of nonreactive research in social science. In his view that work, while important, reflected very little of what he worked on in his career.

In 2015 email, he offered another perspective on his wide ranging interests and pursuits, concluding he was happy to live with the consequences:

I have scarcely ever stuck to one thing long enough to have deep knowledge of it. On the contrary, I have dabbled in more areas, more fields, more content than almost anyone I could imagine. Just consider the following, among the things I’ve worked on: concept formation, operant conditioning of retarded children, prevention of heart attacks, blood donors, sex and gender differences, culture and mental disorder, altruism, response to disasters, rehabilitation of criminal offenders, methadone maintenance programs, residential treatment of drug offenders, automobile exhaust emissions, sudden cardiac death, weight loss, NIH consensus panels . . .. I do not claim to have made substantial contributions in all those and other areas. Mostly my role was from the measurement and method side, but I learned a hell of a lot, including how psychology may and may not be helpful.

This more positive view of his contributions was certainly more accurate considering the assessment of his contributions by his peers. “The Method Man” was the appellation used by Etienne Benson of the APA Monitor in his story about Sechrest’s 2003 festschrift.

More than 100 people gathered at the University of Arizona in April to honor Lee Sechrest, PhD, a distinguished psychologist who has made important contributions in the areas of measurement, evaluation and assessment. [This included the book Unobtrusive Measures which] invoked the notion that we do not have the correct, right, accurate, valid measure of anything,” says Sechrest. “We have measures that are more or less useful under different circumstances. And the best response that we can make to our measurement problem is to use measures that get at the construct of interest in very different way.”

The papers given at the festschrift reflected Sechrest’s contributions to research design, clinical assessment and program evaluation, among other areas. APA’s Science Directorate awarded a grant for the festschrift and will publish its proceedings next year.

[Sechrest] has for many years devised novel methods and has called for a greater openness in considering how to do rigorous evaluations,” says Yale University psychologist Alan Kazdin, PhD, who presented at the conference. “He has really advanced the field in creative ways.”

“Lee Sechrest is an uncompromising methodologist who applies that methodology to all of psychology with just enough common sense to make it all unassailable,” says Kurt Salzinger, PhD, APA’s executive director for science (Benson, 2003, p. 4).

Dilettante? Hardly!

Lee was surely more of a peripatetic than he ever was a dilettante — despite his own claims at times. According to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, peripatetic refers to “Aristotle’s practice of walking to and fro while teaching.” A peripatetic travels from place to place, especially working on for relatively short periods. His tendency to peripatize he recognized in graduate school at Ohio State:

I was good at seeing connections–everywhere. I was not good at systematic theoretical thinking. In graduate school, I was often embarrassed to be in classes or research groups with Rotter and Kelly and their students because they were always talking about some recent research result and its implications for the next study. I wasn’t sure I could see what should be next when the results of the study were in, what those results called for in the next step. But I was good at the kind of “Hey, that reminds me of..” kind of extension into a different way of thinking about what was going on or how one my bend the idea to another use (Personal Communication, 2015).

The attraction to so many different questions instead of a single, enduring one was surely also a product of Lee’s skeptical bent:

I am a skeptic, maybe naturally so, having been born in Missouri, “the show me” state. It is proper, maybe inevitable, that a methodologist should be a skeptic. Or maybe it is inevitable that a skeptic should be something of a methodologist. Certainly I was a skeptic long before I came to think of myself as a methodologist (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

But this curious skeptic was motivated by an enduring optimism that rigorous investigation would lead to something better.

All my life I have been afflicted with an unremitting optimism that carried me through all sorts of adversities. Whatever happened, it always seemed evident to me that better things and better times were in the offing. I never really gave up on anything because I never regarded anything as hopeless. (Although I abandoned many things simply because I tired of them.) . . . . My optimism kept me from ever simply giving up, unlike some less fortunate colleagues and friends over the years who succumbed to despair and went off to do something else that seemed less demanding (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

Combined, his curiosity, skepticism, and optimism fueled a life-long interest in learning:

I have, as much as anything, devoted my life to learning. I have never given up, and I would regard a day in which I learned nothing new as being a considerable, if not total waste. I have, admittedly, been not greatly discriminating in my learning, and I am often as satisfied to learn one thing as another. Just recently, during a trip to Alaska, I was pleased to learn something about permafrost, to learn that Alaskan “Eskimos” never built igloos, and to learn that the word moose is an eastern Indian word meaning “xxxx.” I should, perhaps, have been learning something about the functions of the cingulate gyrus or the derivation of an error term for the Normed Fit Index. Still, what I did learn was satisfying to me. I intend to continue to learn, and learn, and learn. I am endlessly curious (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).

He ironically added he had no chance to lead a complete life because it was impossible to learn all there was:

An idea I rather like comes from a Canadian TV show about an Ojibwa shaman who said, “Death is not the end of anything. It merely means we are complete.” A fine sentiment that I now am convinced means I will never make it (Lee Sechrest’s Odyssey, 2004).


Teaching Legacy

Lee believed his main contribution to psychology was his students. Over the course of his career, he advised more than 100 graduate students and served as a mentor and role model to many more.

For those fortunate enough to have been taught and mentored by Lee, relentless support, loyalty, and availability might be the first descriptors offered up. But soon enough, most recall it was the floodtide of “yeasty” ideas that came in nearly every encounter with Lee. He was the “the method and the idea man”.

At Arizona, Lee was a founding member of EGAD, which is short for a definition most of its fans might not know: Evaluation Group for the Analysis of Data. EGAD’s history is described this way:

The Evaluation Group for the Analysis of Data (EGAD) was formed in 1987 for the purpose of furthering research, education, and training in the general areas of program evaluation, research methodology and data analysis.

EGAD members function as scientists, consultants, advisors and mentors both within and outside the University of Arizona Community. Our mission is to assist researchers, providers of social services, policy makers and others involved in endeavors related to social programs to plan and develop programs, monitor these programs, and assess their outcomes, cost and impact in rigorous, innovative and methodologically sound ways. To this end, we have worked with students, faculty, businesses, local and federal agencies, local, state and federal organizations, tribes, and nations.

EGAD was started by three faculty members and four graduate students from the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona. Current membership includes faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines including but not limited to Public Administration, Management and Policy, Political Science, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Education, Communications, Nursing, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Alternative Medicine. Most members are oriented toward careers in the social and behavioral sciences, program evaluation and/or public policy. The majority of EGAD members regularly attend and present at national and international scientific conferences, and author articles for scientific journals, invited papers, textbooks and textbook chapters.

. . . EGAD is equipped to manage all of the phases of social science research and program evaluation, including the design, implementation, data collection and analysis, report writing and presentation of results. Due to our location within the Psychology Department at the University of Arizona, EGAD employs undergraduate and graduate students to assist with projects in a wide range of activities including data collection, data entry, data analysis, program coordination, report writing, presentation of results, etc. University faculty serve as principal investigators, mentors, consultants and advisors in EGAD.

For years, Lee facilitated a weekly EGAD discussion, usually around articles he and others had circulated. The topics ranged widely, but mainly they focused on tough design problems, “chewy” method questions, statistics, and just about any topic an evaluator or evaluation researcher might find interesting — which for those who are familiar with the field and Lee Sechrest know ranged far and wide.

EGAD met weekly for decades. Through it, Lee organized many presentations at national and international conferences. During the weekly meetings and at impromptu discussions and dinners at conferences, Lee encouraged EGADers to take a “playful and experimental attitude toward research methodology and methods of measurement in particular (McKnight, McKnight, & Figueredo, 2006, p. 255).”

EGAD’s slogan “If it’s important to you, it’s significant to us” surely reflects Lee’s ironical sense of humor that often showed itself in his titling of papers.

Many of us, or at least one of us, relish his talent for creating titles or subtitles that could drive an entire research agenda. Among these are “Dogma of Data: Bragging Rights (American Psychologist), “The Past Future of Clinical Psychology” (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology), and “Shall We Then, All Hang Separately” (The Clinical Psychologist). (Boruch, 2006, p. 262).

To this list of non-conventional titles could be added one shocking at first glance, but not so much when the subtitle is read:

I Do Not Like Sex — as a variable

. . . as a research psychologist, [I] do not like sex as a variable in our studies. In fact, that’s why I do not like education, race, ethnicity, income, marital status, and all other variables of that ilk. The problem is that sex (and the other variables) is not a psychological construct. When sex is used as a variable in psychological studies, we are never (well, next to never) interested in what sex really is, a biological variable. We are not interested in the nature of the genitalia, in the gonads, and so on. Not even in the distribution of body hair or the nature of the upper body profile. We use sex as a proxy or surrogate for a latent, but unspecified variable. We use sex because it is easily observed or measured and, for all practical purposes, really can be assumed to be measured without error.

His appeal and impact as teacher and mentor was far more than his sense of humor. Ask any of the 150 he worked with and published in his career — most of them his students (McKnight, et al., 2006, p. 252).

[He was] generous with his time and energy and often includes people in a collaborative effort . . . Generosity is reflected in his willingness to work with anyone who requests his input, in his tradition of giving his student the opportunity to write with him, and publish as first author, and in his willingness to share career-shaping opportunities. [He involved] students and colleagues in large-scale program development and evaluation [that] led to . . . rewarding contributions and career trajectories . . [He offered] international travel to his students to present papers at scientific conferences [in Europe and Asia]. . . . [His] generosity extends to freely sharing his ideas. A colleague once apologize for “taking” an idea and not sufficiently acknowledging his contributions, to which Sechrest replied that it was no great offense and that he would be in [more] trouble if all he had was that one idea (op. cit., p. 254).

Tom Cook wrote that to understand Lee’s contributions it was important to emphasize his leadership in creating and maintaining EGAD, and his abilities as a teacher and mentor:

He particularly understands the needs of younger scholars and can creatively balance support and tough feedback to them. He also goes out of his way to generate research opportunities for them and to get them to present their results to important audiences. To the extent that his phenomenal success in this effort rests on replicable skills, efforts aimed at stimulating collaborative and multidisciplinary research badly need to identify and disseminate the Lee Sechrest recipe for creating and maintaining EGAD! (Cook, 2006, p. xvi).

Although Lee seldom wanted to discuss or reflect on personal emotions and motivations, that did not mean his generosity toward students and colleagues was only pragmatic. His feelings and affection for his students and colleagues were revealed in an email sent to the EGAD listserv, dated July 8th, 2015 a few months before his death:

I have liked (Facebook sense) most of my students over the years. Loved them, really, in a human sense. I have gathered that it is a bit difficult for many professors to quite reach that sort of relationship with their students.

My explanation begins with the fact, sometimes regarded as reprehensible, a defect, that down deep (or even not so deep) I have always wanted people to like (love) me. So I start from beyond zero with the hope that the people I meet, especially new students will like me. Why on earth not? And that hope results in attempts on my part to ingratiate myself with my students.

Surely that cannot be such a bad thing. Just try thinking about this: would anyone, anyone, take on the responsibility for a new puppy without the intent to ingratiate him/herself with the puppy, make the puppy like him or her? Why would one behave otherwise with students?

But, a more fundamental proposition that has pervaded my academic career is that my students have been wonderful people in their own right. You, there, my students and other mentees made me love you by your own qualities: intelligence, integrity, decency. It was never difficult (well, almost never). The ease with which I came to like most students was a direct reflection of their own basic likability. The validity of that notion is attested to by what seems to me to be the fact that over the years, my students have liked each other.

It takes two to tango. And it takes two to form a good relationship. I have tried to do my part. You have done yours. We were fated for each other.


A great teacher has left us, but maybe not:

Some years ago two of Roland Tharp’s fine students asked the Dalai Lama:

Students: I wonder if you have in your past any people who were important teachers. . . or a kind of master that you think about now?

The Dalai Lama: Those Indian pundits! Many centuries back . . .

Students: No, I mean someone who influenced you when you were a child or a younger man, who was a master to you, and you his disciple.

The Dalai Lama: Yes, the great Indian pundits of the past many centuries.

Students: But no one living? I mean, not an actual person?

The Dalai Lama: No. You see, those living persons, they are just carrying the messages of the great Indian pundits . . .

(Tharp & Gallimore, 1988, p. 160)

Through the lessons he taught and the examples he set, Lee is still teaching.

Ronald Gallimore

University of California, Los Angeles

(Ph.D., 1964, Psychology, Northwestern University)

October 14, 2015


Lee’s Farewell

From an email, June 7, 2015 with a subject line reading The party’s over!:

Yes, the party’s over. But wasn’t it a great run!

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago. It has not bothered me too much until about a year ago. At that time, we discovered that it has metastasized pretty much throughout my skeletal bones and can be regarded as essentially untreatable. There might be some last ditch chemo treatments, but none of them offers much benefit, and they all promise side effects that I would not want to endure. So, we are engaging in palliative care, primarily pain killers. That term, “killers” is a misnomer as far as I am concerned Pain is abated, perhaps, but it is not shot down right there in the middle of gunslinger medicine. And they are difficult to manage, i.e., so as to have maximum effect on pain and minimal other effects, like being zapped. I am also subject to fatigue, sometimes profound fatigue so that I can scarcely get out of bed. My appetite is not good, and I have trouble getting enough nourishment to meet even my low-level needs.

I am not going to get any better and will certainly get a good bit worse. So, I have decided that it is time, not to give in, not to admit defeat, but to call it a tie and walk away from the game. An interesting view by a writer named Noll is that the cancer will not outlive me, so in some sense we will be even.

I will remain as active as possible—I have lots I would like to do—but I can’t be counted on for anything (not that I was ever that dependable). I hope to have some EGAD meetings on an irregular basis, and I will be at the department from time to time. This is not, however, a long-term process.

So now is the time to sort of get things in order. Or would be if I were capable of getting anything in order. I will try to clean up some obligations with respect to papers, clear out my files, and so on. I hope not to leave large messes for anyone else to deal with. Fortunately, I have Kuang to push me along, and she can be pretty orderly. If you want or need anything from me, if I owe you anything, get your ticket dog in soon, and I will try to fit it in. Frankly, however, I am appalled at the mess I face. Those of you who have been in my office will understand why.

Not everything is so bad about cleaning up at the end. One gets a chance to take stock, put together, as they say, one’s “body of work”. In looking things over, I have concluded that some explanation is required to avoid possible mystification of those still hanging around and, perhaps those coming along later.

I have tried all my career to do decent work that others would find informative and occasionally amusing. I have discovered, however, and I had hoped never to have this noticed, that scattered throughout my papers and all, there are some products of lower, maybe even distinctly low, quality. Some dumb ideas, poor writing, errors of all sorts. Obviously, I need to explain such lapses lest the work I have done that might be of consequence should be ignored.

It is shameful in a good family like mine that I have to confess that I have had an evil twin (Leo) who always hated me (I was born first) and wanted to ruin my life and career. That scoundrel has hung around on the periphery of my life doing various mischiefs, but one of his persistent strategies has been to get inserted in the corpus of my work a fairly small, but steady stream of inferior writings. Leo was smart enough to realize that he had to produce works that were good enough to be published but otherwise lacking in quality. Without that evil twin’s intervention, I think I would have had a smaller, but better quality, residual set of works on which to rest my reputation. I apologize for the confusion and imagine that in your perusal of my work you will recognize the low quality material and disregard it. I would be satisfied, although admittedly not glorified if you should not pay any attention to the depredations on my career committed by my evil twin.

Incidentally if you have at some point been offended by me, been treated ungraciously, had your emails go unanswered, noted that I failed to remember your birthday, and so on—same explanation. I always tried to be nice to people, to be generous of spirit, and so on. But there is my evil twin lurking, ready to stick a pin in my persona on every possible occasion. I hope you will forgive me, including for offenses that may only come to light after I am gone. Leo would go to almost any lengths to spoil my image, and was clever in avoiding detection.

I know that story seems fanciful and will be hard to believe, but it might be corroborated. Many years ago, I told my good friend Jim Bryan about it, and he may actually have seen Leo. Umm. But now that I think of it, Jim died a couple of years ago. Dick Bootzin, my friend and colleague for nearly 50 years knew about Leo, but he died this past year. He may have told his wife, Mitzi, as husbands are wont to do. She is still alive, although under treatment in Texas for cancer. Russell Clark, my dear friend from Florida State not only knew about Leo but I think once talked to him. Russ died a while back but there might be some corroboration in his papers if one can lay one’s hands on them. Aha! Ron Gallimore, my dear friend for years knows the truth and may be willing to reveal. Otherwise, the story of Lee and Leo may sink into academic mythology.

Anyway, as I sort through the detritus of an academic life, I may forward things that I think may be useful or amusing to various ones of you, or maybe to the EGAD listserv. Our interests may not match, however, so keep your finger conveniently close to the “delete” button. You do not want to add unhelpfully to your own mess. This process rather reminds me of cleaning up after some calamity like a flood or a storm and requires a firmly judgmental mind. Those odd pages of a manuscript are like a shard of a once valued dish, painful to throw away but risking more pain by continuing reminders of what it once was, or what it might have been.

So, let’s get on with this business. I have had a great life, no little part of which was owing to you, my friends, colleagues, students. If I have had any enemies, I am grateful to them, too, for their forbearance in not making things too difficult for me.

Until next time,

Lee Leo Lee OK, I give up. You know who!

Lee Sechrest

Lee Sechrest: Life Chronology

Jan. 1, 1929

Born, Kansas City, MO

Jan. 1934

Started kindergarten

Jan. 1937

Family moved to Augusta, KS, placed in third grade mid-year

Jan. 1943

Family moved to Osawatomie, KS, second semester HS freshman

May 14, 1946

Graduated from HS

May 28, 1946

Joined United States Marine Corp, departed for boot camp, San Diego

Nov. 1946

Sent to Headquarters U.S.M.C. Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, Norfolk, VA as communications specialist

Dec. 1947

Discharged from USMC in reduction of force action. Remained in USMC Reserves

Jan. 1948

Started college at Pittsburg (KS) State Teachers College

Sept. 1949

Transferred to Ohio State University

Aug. 1950

Called to active duty in USMC

Oct. 1950

Sent to Korea by way of Japan

Nov. 1950

Landed in Wonson, North Korea

Jan. 1951

Evacuated to Masan, South Korea

Apr. 1951

Returned to United States for USMC officer training

Aug. 1951

Released from active duty in reduction in force action.

Sept. 1951

Resumed education at Ohio State University. Obtained employment at Personnel Research Board

June 1952

Received BA degree (cum laude) with major in Psychology. Awarded William Jennings Bryan Prize for best history paper. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Sept. 1952

Began graduate work in Clinical Psychology at Ohio State University

Sept. 1955

Began internship in Clinical Psychology at Ohio State Receiving Hospital in Columbus, OH

June 1956

Completed internship

Aug. 1956

Received Ph.D. in Psychology from Ohio State University

Sept. 1956

Assumed Assistant Professor position in Department of Psychology at Pennsylvania State University

Sept. 1958

Assumed Assistant Professor position in Department of Psychology at Northwestern University

June 1962

Began a 14 month trip around the world, with a 9-month stay in the Philippines with support from a grant to Northwestern University from the Carnegie Foundation

Sept. 1963

Promoted to Associate Professor at Northwestern University

Sept. 1965

Began a 9-month appointment as Senior Scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu

Sept. 1967

Elected to Board of Convention Affairs of the American Psychological Association

Sept. 1967

Promoted to Professor at Northwestern University. Assumed responsibilities of Director of Training in Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University

June 1968

Began a 15 month trip around the world, with one-year spent in the Philippines with support from the Office of Naval Research


Northwestern University dropped its training program in clinical psychology; Awarded a grant to train psychologists in health services research


Awarded a grant for a summer training program in evaluation research

Sept. 1973

Assumed position of Professor in Department of Psychology, Florida State University. Appointed to scientific review panel of the National Center for Health Services Research

Sept. 1980

Appointed Director of the Center for Research on the Utilization of Scientific Knowledge in the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan


Appointed to National Advisory Panel for Health Services Research and Development Program of the Veterans Administration


Appointed Chair of the Scientific and Evaluation Review Board of the HSR&D Program of the Veterans Administration

Aug. 1984

Assumed position of Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona

Aug. 1989

Completed five-year term as Head of the Department of Psychology

June 2002

Became Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona


There is an old psychology professor who was one of Lee’s first graduate students at Northwestern. He, as Lee had, came from a background that hinted little of a future in academia and a long research career. Subjected to a remote rural upbringing and benighted k-12 education, as was Lee, at 18 the old professor stumbled into and bumbled his way through a small state university. But as did Lee, he got lucky and met a psychology professor who hired him as an undergraduate assistant, taught him to interview and test clinic patients, and told him to apply for a psychology Ph.D. This mentor got his Ph.D. at Northwestern. By extraordinary (in hindsight) coincidence the naive boy was prodded to apply for admission to Northwestern’s psychology department at the beginning of Lee’s 3rd year on the faculty. Again like Lee , an internship taught the boy how ill suited he was for clinical psychology. During that internship, the young man encountered a world of primitivism in which lives were altered and perhaps destroyed because of responses to the color cards of the Rorschach. In his old age, this refugee from early ‘60s clinical practice, reflected on his internship:

Two years of Sechrest and Northwestern turned me into a skeptic. No longer was I confident that an experienced clinical psychologist possessed powerful knowledge and insights I wanted to master. Before Sechrest’s course on projective testing, I had been looking forward to initiation into the secret knowledge that would distinguish me from mere mortals. After transformation by his scientific critique of the Rorschach, my response to the appeals to the authority of its devotees were the questions drilled into me by Professor Sechrest and his Northwestern colleagues Underwood and Taylor. How was the sample recruited? How many cases were observed? Was there a control group? Were the measurements objective, reliable, and valid? I had learned that authority appeals were marketing, not evidence.

A year of practical experience in a psychiatric hospital and two years of scientific psychology in graduate seminars produced an outcome that surprised me. I was headed back to Northwestern filled with vague ideas about a different direction — becoming a researcher who discovered new treatments that worked better than what I learned in a year of clinical practice. Whether any research I did the next 50 years added up to much is for others to say. But returning to a world in which Lee Sechrest remained a life-long teacher and mentor was a decision I never regretted.

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