HistoryPsychology at the University of Western Ontario has had a long and varied history. Records show that courses in what today we would call Psychology were first taught in 1898. Psychology was taught in Philosophy and subsequently in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology. Psychology split from Philosophy as an independent Department in 1948. So this celebration today is also somewhat of a 60th birthday party. Leola Neal and Mary Wright, in a history of the earlier days of the department, note that the birth of a separate department occurred only with some pain and the suspicion that the move, under the leadership of the University President of the day, G. Edward Hall, was to strengthen Philosophy by letting Psychology die on the vine. These suspicions were probably bolstered by the fact that the already-meager budget given to Psychology was further diminished after the split. And that the Chair of Psychology of the day, Gordon Turner, was instrumental in a public rebellion against the President with the creation of the Faculty Association, UWOFA, and was in fact its first President. As a former President of UWOFA myself, and current Chair of Psychology, I can assure all here today that those acrimonious days are far, far behind us. And of course, as we all know neither Psychology nor Philosophy withered away.
Some of you may note that Psychology is now physically separated, with most of the Department still located in Social Sciences Building. The Clinical and Developmental groups and the University Lab School are in these wonderful new quarters at the Westminster campus, with state of the art labs worthy of the top notch researchers and teachers now housed here. This move of two of the units was a reaction to the lack of the necessary and appropriate space in the Social Science Building which we in Psychology require to carry out our academic and scholarly responsibilities. But, for those interested in history, neither lack of appropriate space nor dismemberment is new to Psychology. These same needs were evident in the early 1960’s—with Psychology distributed in various buildings across what was, admittedly, a much smaller campus. In fact, at one time, there were two Departments of Psychology, one in Talbot College and one in Middlesex, and with labs in University College. The department was more-or-less re-integrated into one unit by the early 1960’s with Mary Wright as it’s Chair --and with most of the faculty, students and labs housed at Middlesex College, though some faculty and units were housed in the old Staging Building, down the hill from Middlesex. Mary Wright, of course, refers to the same Mary Wright who was instrumental in the creation of the University Lab School, which, in these quarters at Westminster, under the directorship of Mary Lou Vernon, is unquestionably the best such facility in the country.
By the latter years of the 1960’s there were plans to move Psychology into its own building—that didn’t happen unfortunately. But we did move as a complete unit to the Social Sciences Building where we grew in size and reputation until now we are recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the finest and most productive Psychology Departments in the country. So there is precedence on this campus of Psychology being expressed in multiple locations. Each time we have flourished, and eventually re-integrated. I look around today at these beautiful facilities in Westminster and in the quality of scholars assembled here, and at the land adjacent to this wonderful refurbished building and predict we will continue to flourish and will, in time, be re-integrated in one location, as has been the case in the past.
**Talk given Dr. Albert Katz on January 25, 2008, at the official re-opening ceremonies of Westminster College.