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March 27, 1954 - June 1, 2018
He earned his bachelor’s of art in philosophy at the University of Santa Barbara before moving to the University of Oregon for his master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. Dishion started his academic career at Oregon in 1988 and moved to ASU in 2011. He was named an ASU Regents’ Professor of Psychology in February.
Dishion was a central figure advancing the field of prevention science, which brings techniques or interventions backed by research into the community. At Oregon, he founded the Child and Family Center, and at ASU, he re-envisioned prevention science by founding and directing the REACH institute in the Department of Psychology.
Dishion was described by his colleague Nicholas Ialongo, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath, as having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
This thirst led Dishion to study how deviant behavior can be reinforced among adolescent peers and can lead to substance abuse, violence and delinquency. In 1999, he published a paper in American Psychologist that examined how peer reinforcement of deviant behavior can occur in group therapy, thereby causing clinical interventions designed to help teenagers to instead backfire. This paper influenced federal guidelines for group therapy interventions for adolescents.
“Tom was not only an icon in prevention science; he was also a premier developmental psychopathologist. His research on the development of antisocial behavior and substance use over the early life course and into adulthood is among the most informative of its kind from both a theoretical and empirical standpoint,” Ialongo said.
Sharlene Wolchik, professor and co-Director of the REACH Institute, described Dishion as passionately believing that basic science research should form the foundation for interventions for at-risk youth. This conviction led Dishion to also focus on the parent-child relationship, specifically how interactions between a parent and child could unintentionally reinforce unhealthy behaviors that can then lead to problem behaviors in the future. To break the cycle of reinforcing unhealthy behaviors – in parent or child – Dishion took his research findings on group dynamics in adolescents beyond the university walls and developed the Family Check-Up program.
“Tom's developmental psychopathology research informed the development of the Family Checkup and numerous other prevention interventions targeting antisocial behavior and substance abuse,” Ialongo added.
The Family CheckUp program targets at-risk families with young children and teaches parenting skills that improve the interactions between parents and children. These simple parenting skills have wide-ranging effects and protect children against substance abuse and a range of mental health problems years later in life.
“The Family CheckUp represents a leap forward from behavior problem treatment to the prevention of the problem behaviors, in a context that affords universal implementation” said Kenneth Dodge, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “This approach has the potential to move the needle in population health, which is rare for psychological interventions.”
Dishion’s efforts developing and implementing the Family CheckUp program in the community earned him the 2010 Prevention Science Award from the Society for Prevention Science.
“Many, many families in the U.S. and four other countries are benefitting from Tom's careful research and passion for making life better for at-risk youth,” Wolchik said.
Daniel Shaw, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, collaborated with Dishion and described Dishion’s ability to translate basic science research into a successful intervention as unparalleled.
“Tom is up there as one of the most creative and free-thinking scientists I will ever meet,” Shaw said. “He has few equals in the field.”
Dishion was a prolific scholar who was passionate about using rigorous methods in his research that he then applied to his interventions. During his 30-year career, he published over 300 papers in peer-reviewed journals, was awarded more than $100 million in federal research grants and trained myriad scientists. His papers were heavily cited, which means his work widely influenced other scientists.
“Tom had a tremendous impact on research in developmental science. He introduced game-changing questions, theory, and methods on a broad range of topics such as bullying, the developmental course of antisocial behavior, and the neurobiology of young adult romantic relationships,” said Nancy Gonzales, incoming Dean of Natural Sciences, Foundation Professor of psychology, and co-director of the REACH Institute. “For this work, Tom received the 2019 Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society.”
The Bronfenbrenner award is presented by the American Psychological Association to scientists whose research has advanced developmental psychology but who also apply their research efforts to society. Dishion’s award will be presented posthumously at the 2019 annual meeting of the association.
“Tom was a special man in so many ways,” said Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology. “As a scholar, his scientific contributions were remarkable. As a contributor to our broader society, his creation of empirically sound, evidence-based interventions to enhance the well-being of at-risk children, adolescents, and families is nothing less than inspiring. And he was a good friend to so many. We will greatly miss him.”
Dishion strongly believed universities should be actively involved in the community, and his Family CheckUp program is used widely in the U.S. and also internationally. Through his efforts to offer research-based interventions to society, he exemplified the values and goals of the New American University.
Phillips, a professor of psychology throughout her academic career, had a tremendous impact as a higher-education administrator, creating in her leadership roles around the country student-centered universities that focused on the success of the undergraduates and graduates they served.
Dr. Elizabeth Capaldi Phillips & Arizona State University:
Elizabeth, Betty, Capaldi Phillips served as the University Provost and Executive Vice President of Arizona State University from 2006 to 2013. She was the first woman to hold the post and shepherded the university through an exciting period of transformation and growth. Always passionate about public education, Phillips provided leadership to all of the Arizona State University's campuses and academic programs, fostering excellence in teaching, research, and service to the community. Phillips' tenure at ASU was distinguished by an unflagging commitment to equality, access, inclusion, interdisciplinary, and technological innovation in the service of student-centered education. Phillips worked with President Michael Crow in transforming ASU into a "New American University," that aimed to challenge the standard definition of a research university by "measuring its academic success through the education that the graduates have received rather than the qualifications of the incoming freshman class."
Interviewed soon after she'd joined ASU as Provost, Phillips declared her priority to be "helping our students find majors that fit them, that allow them to succeed," which, she said, was "great fun." For ASU and for Phillips, the key was to treat each student as an individual.
A fine token of Phillips' remarkable talents can be found in a recent initiative: Eating Psychology with Betty, a TV production sponsored on PBS by Arizona State University. In thirteen full episodes from March to October 2016, Betty took a lifetime of scientific research, writing, and teaching on nutrition, eating, and obesity, and applied it to how we should think about food, diet, and cooking. Throughout the thirteen episodes, we can see her expertise, her charm, and her skillful ability to capture both research-validated substance and human interest and engagement.
At ASU and throughout her career, Phillips led by empowering others, modeling a spirit of transparency, trust, entrepreneurship and collaboration with faculty across the university who shared her vision, resulting in campus-wide innovations in online education and ground-breaking interdisciplinary in both research and teaching. She was always a mentor to women and personally invested in increasing their representation in the administrative ranks.
Research and Passion:
Phillips' passion for research fueled her life-long commitment to higher education and distinguished administrative career. Phillips' long and productive career as a research scientist was particularly focused on the psychology of eating, a subject on which she edited two books, including Why We Eat What We Eat: The Psychology of Eating and Taste, Experience and Feeding with T. L. Powley. She contributed over 80 chapters and articles to the scientific literature, and co-authored three editions of an introductory psychology textbook. She was a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science (serving as its president in 1999-2000), and the Midwestern Psychological Association (serving as its president in 1991-92). A member of numerous national research review committees, Phillips served from 1987-1989 as Chair of the Psychobiology and Behavior Research Review Committee of the National Institute of Mental Health.
1945 – September 23, 2017
Authors (in order):
John Reich PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University
Laurence A. Bradley PhD, Professor of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Mary C. Davis PhD, Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University
In the late 1970s, I sent a copy of the now-classic Brickman and Campbell paper, Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society, down the hall to ASU’s newly-hired Clinical Psychologist, Alex Zautra. His specialty was Community Psychology, and as a Social Psychologist I thought that he represented exactly what all psychologists should be doing (and I still do, incidentally), making all work relevant to the real world. I thought that he’d be impressed with the brilliance of the thinking. To my utter disbelief, he sent back a note claiming that the paper was wrong, given that for some things you never adapt to zero, as adaptation level theory would predict. “Think how good you still feel about your first publication…that still feels good, right?” In true psychologist fashion, our disagreement led us to develop an experimental manipulation to study the hedonic impact of self-caused vs. externally-caused daily events. Our data confirmed our predictions and ended-up as our first joint publication in 1980.
Well, 36 years later, our most recent study of that issue is now in preparation for submission. During the past 36 years, I never had a meeting with Alex Zautra that did not spark ideas and projects. We were joined in those activities by extraordinary colleagues and outstanding graduate and undergraduate collaborators. I am one of the luckiest academics anywhere; I got to know well, and to work productively with, Alex Zautra. And we must have been correct in our investigation and rethinking of the Brickman and Campbell paper: That first publication still feels good.
I first met Alex in the early 1990s when we both began to publish papers on factors that influence pain among persons with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia. I soon realized that Alex was a very special person who had no fear of sharing his thoughts about his research and who really liked persons who shared with him. Indeed, Alex had an enormous desire for sharing and he was certainly kind enough to invite one of my graduate student trainees to spend a week with his team to learn the daily processing method that he had helped develop that she wished to employ in her dissertation. More recently, Alex and Mary Davis welcomed one of my former post-doctoral fellows who had just become a faculty member at the Arizona State College of Nursing. And, of course, they recently published a paper together. I knew that all would be well for my former fellow and for Alex and his colleagues in Psychology and Medicine.
Although Alex and I did not write any papers together, I knew I could always count on him and our friendship at any time. Just a few weeks before he passed, Alex asked if I would friend him on Facebook. Of course, I did so right away. Alex sent me some posts and some beautiful photos of the outdoors. He seemed to be beginning to lighten his academic load which I thought was great. I’m very sorry I never saw him during this last period of his life. But, I’m also very proud and happy that we were good friends and colleagues.
From the beginning of our collaboration in the late 1990s, I was struck by Alex’s talent for bringing people together. He was a veritable hub of social connections, both professional and personal. Need to tap into expertise on resilience in public policy or urban planning? Alex knew just the people to bring onto the team. Need a plumber or a dog groomer? Alex knew those folks, too. It was a source of some amusement: Is there anyone Alex doesn’t know? Maybe it stemmed from his early training as a community psychologist, this penchant for acting as a catalyst for potential relationships. Nothing seemed to bring him more deep satisfaction than watching the alchemy between people he introduced to one another as they shared ideas, common purpose, and fun. Sometimes that alchemy resulted in sustained collaborations between local organizations, like prisons and retirement centers, and research teams at the university, translating research into practice in the community. Often it resulted in his students making connections with other colleagues across the country, helping to launch them into their professional lives. And occasionally, that alchemy resulted in marriage, as it did between two of Alex’s friends who met playing a game of pool at a happy hour he organized. And he was thrilled just as much by the personal as by the professional bonds he helped to foster. His master plan, it seems, was to create opportunities for people to mingle, and through these exchanges to generate insights and even friendships.
In each ecosystem, there are “keystone” species that exert profound influences on other organisms within that system. Alex was that sort of keystone among his family, friends, and colleagues, and the social bonds he helped to create are perhaps his most enduring and important legacy.