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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Raymond Kirby, Who Played a Key Role in Transforming the Psychology Department, Dies at 88

By Joe Garvey

Raymond H. Kirby was a transformational figure during his tenures as chair of Old Dominion University's Department of Psychology.

But he brought about change with a human touch.

"He was warm, welcoming and created a collegial atmosphere in the department," Professor Robin J. Lewis recalled. "He had a calm demeanor and displayed the utmost integrity."

"He was an exceptional colleague and a strategic administrator," added Janis Sanchez, Professor Emerita of psychology.

Kirby, who brought an emphasis on research to the department, established its first doctoral program and championed diversity among faculty and students, died on March 22. He was 88.

Kirby, who came to ODU in 1968, served two stints as chair, from 1969 to 1973 and 1979 to 1985. He earned the A. Rufus Tonelson Faculty Award, which is given annually and recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, research and service to the University, in 1985. His research interests included experimental areas of psychology. He retired in 1998.

Kirby set about transforming the department's focus through the professors he hired.

"I think only Joe Adkins was a research-oriented faculty member before Ray arrived," said Professor Emeritus Valerian Derlega. "Ray went about, almost single-handedly, hiring Pete Mikulka, Fred Freeman and the group I came with," which included Alan Chaikin, Steve Klein, Bill McVaugh and Perry Duncan, and others who came later.

Kirby also hired Earl Alluisi, an internationally recognized scholar in the perceptual and human factors areas, to lead the industrial psychology area, which became the department's first Ph.D. program.

"Then he pushed for the PsyD program in clinical," Derlega added. "Remember that way back when, in Virginia, no school could start a doctoral program in an area if there was already such a program in existence elsewhere in the state? Hence, the unique focus early on for a Ph.D. in industrial psychology and a PsyD in clinical psychology."

"He had a lot to do with building a research-focused, doctoral degree-granting department," Professor Emerita Barbara A. Winstead said. "But in his final years, he focused on strengthening our undergraduate program."

On diversity issues, Sanchez said she "always saw Dr. Kirby as being ahead of his time."

"He told me in 1979 (the year he hired her) that he expected the minority enrollment to increase in psychology and he wanted to have role models and advisors for these students," Sanchez added. "Dr. Kirby called me to his office on several occasions 'just to chat' and ensure that all was moving along as expected."

Lewis, whom Kirby hired in 1984, recalled Kirby's devotion and support to faculty and students.

"He cared deeply about the profession of psychology, Old Dominion University, the Psychology Department, and the students and faculty," she said. "As chair, he served as a wonderful mentor to many junior faculty who came to the department in an expansion in the 1980s. These faculty went on to have long and productive academic careers."

He also had a signature classroom tradition, said Peggy Kinard, graduate program assistant in the department.

"On the first day of class, he would take a picture of his entire class," said Kinard, who worked with him for about five years. "By the next class period, he would have all of his students' names memorized."

Outside the classroom Kirby served on the Virginia Beach Community Services Board and with the Sunrise Optimist Club of Norfolk.

"He served as president, as well as many other positions and loved having a positive effect on the lives of young people," Clarence E. Perry, a past president of the Optimist Club, wrote in a memorial post. "We have lost a true champion of youth and a beloved friend."

Kirby, who earned degrees from the College of William & Mary and Princeton University, was predeceased by his parents, Lorean Snider and Charles C. Kirby Sr.; his wife, Martha C. Kirby; and brothers, Charles C. "Mickey" Kirby Jr. and David E. Kirby. He is survived by his daughters, Ann Lorean Hartness and husband Stephen of Miami, Oklahoma, and Susan Frances Kaufman of Norfolk; son, Raymond "Mark" Kirby of Virginia Beach; grandchildren, Thomas Charles Elliott of Joplin, Missouri, Krystal Lynn Vazquez and husband Franklin of Miami, Oklahoma, and Charles Francis Kaufman of Virginia Beach; and two great-grandchildren, Mariano and Autumn.

To plant trees in his memory, visit the Sympathy Store.

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