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Obituary for Kenneth I. Howard
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Kenneth I. Howard, Psychological Researcher

Kenneth I. Howard, Ph.D., a prize-winning psychological researcher and internationally recognized leader in the study of psychotherapy, mental health services, and adolescence, died on October 19, 2000, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Howard, aged 68, was a professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois for 33 years.

Recognition of Dr. Howard’s achievements include the American Psychological Association’s 1995 award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge, the Illinois Psychological Association’s 1994 award for Outstanding Contribution to Professional Psychology, the 1990 Distinguished Research Career Award of the international Society for Psychotherapy Research, and a Senior Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (1991-96).

Co-editor of the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Howard was also the co-author of six books and the author or co-author of more than 150 book chapters and journals articles. His most recent contributions focused on introducing methods for evaluating the effectiveness of mental health services that truly reflect the individual patient’s progress, aiming to replace the arbitrary criteria often used by managed care companies and health insurance providers with professionally responsible, clinically meaningful measures.

A remarkably engaging man who combined deep empathy for others with a straightforward manner and distinctive sense of humor, Howard attracted many colleagues to become productive long-term collaborators and devoted friends.

His widely felt influences on the field of psychological research included cofounding the Society for Psychotherapy Research, which he served as its first president (1970-71) and its first executive officer (1986-1990). He also co-founded the Midwestern Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology, and served as its first president (1967-68). He served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Personality (1981-86) and as Consulting Editor of five other scientific journals. Howard participated for several years on grant review committees at the National Institute of Mental Health (1982-86 and 1994-96), where he was particularly concerned to support the work of younger colleagues.

Dr. Howard graduated from the University of California (Berkeley) in 1954 with a B.A. in Psychology, after which he served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army for two years. He earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Chicago in 1959, and received clinical training at local U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals. From 1957 through 1968 he lectured at universities in the Chicago area, and worked as Deputy Director of Research and Chief of the Measurement and Evaluation Program at the Illinois Institute for Juvenile Research (1964-68). In 1968 he was appointed associate professor, and in 1970 full professor, in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, where he taught several generations of graduate and undergraduate students. From 1984 on, Dr. Howard also served as Coordinator of Outpatient Research at the Institute of Psychiatry of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. In addition to his research and teaching, he maintained a private practice of psychotherapy for more than 20 years.
Born in Chicago in 1932 as the first child of Simon and Florence Howard, Howard spent most of his school years moving frequently between communities throughout the country. As the eldest son he was early thrust into positions of responsibility while his family followed the assignments of his father, a career officer in the U.S. Army during and after the Second World War. His successful adaptation to the rapid changes of these early years may have helped cope in adulthood with family discontinuities and losses that from time to time interrupted long periods of personal fulfillment.
Dr. Howard is survived by his wife, Sue Taylor Howard; his children, Matthew, Rebecca, David (Peggy), Lisa, Peter, Deborah (Robert St. John), and two stepchildren, Kevin Merritt and Paul Merritt; his father, Simon; his sister, Sharon Skolnik; his brother Robert (Marjorie); and three grandchildren.

Remembering Ken Howard

The Society for Psychotherapy Research has set up the SPR – Ken Howard Memorial Fund to support an enhanced student travel award program, the Ken Howard SPR Fellowship Awards. We believe that providing additional funds to allow young psychotherapy researchers to attend SPR is the most appropriate way to remember Ken’s many contributions to SPR and to the field of psychotherapy research.

The SPR Executive Committee suggests that those individuals wishing to contribute to the SPR - Ken Howard Memorial Fund can do so in the following ways: EU and UK members should send their donations (preferably in Euros) to the SPR Executive Officer:

Paulo P.P. Machado, Ph.D.
Departamento de Psicologia

Universidade do Minho
Campus de Gualtar
4700 Braga

North and South American members (and members from Asia, Australia etc.) should send their contributions in US Dollars to the North American Vice President:

Dr. Adam O. Horvath
Simon Fraser University
Faculty of Education
Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6

Please write checks to SPR - Ken Howard Memorial Fund, so that we can keep track of the donations and the final amount. If you need an account numbers for wiring money, please contact Paulo Machado.

In addition, we are planning a memorial panel for Ken at the SPR Meeting in Santa Barbara in June 2002 (followed by an open bar hour).

Robert Elliott & Karla Moras, for the SPR Executive Committee


In Memoriam: An Open Letter to Ken Howard

Dear Ken:

I’m here to speak the voice of psychotherapy research back to you, wherever you are now. It’s a voice you were the first to wear, as the first president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, and that you wore again, as its first executive officer. You spoke the voice of psychotherapy research and you helped to create a scientific culture of openness, a meeting place for its many tribes, and, most importantly, a source of support for its young researchers.
I know this from my own lived experience, for when I was a young, anxious psychotherapy researcher, I made the pilgrimage to Chicago to receive instruction in my art, but most importantly, to receive your blessing. And so, now, when I speak the voice of psychotherapy research, I hear your voice in mine, sometimes quite loudly, and that is a comfort.
But let us make no mistake; Yours was a large but cranky spirit. Such are your contradictions that we remember and celebrate today: You had a restless but generous heart, that valued honesty over pretense, but loved exaggeration and hyperbole. You teased us for our seriousness, with your acerbic wit and your sly asides. But you warmed us with your wide grin and your echoing laugh. Sometimes I had to keep myself from cringing, from feeling foolish, under your ironic eye, but I knew that you approved of what I did, and only wanted me to make it better. You were self-deprecating but grand, precise but general. One therapy was not enough for you nor ten, nor a hundred, but thousands, even "Nine million lives” you would say, with a mixture of glee and awe.
And we cheered you also for your quixotic vision: That data, not politics or profit, should guide our practice, that our touchstone should be the world that therapists practice in, not the insulated Pavlovian laboratory of the randomized clinical trial. Though some of us still squirm and cry foul at the caricature, we have watched in wonder as you tilted at this windmill... and we have learned to season our RCTs with the everyday salt of variable treatment lengths and multiple diagnoses.

Now, you are dead. But I think you’re still out there collecting data, wherever psychotherapy researchers are giving out questionnaires and punching them into the computer. And I think that you’re still plotting curves, wherever psychotherapy researchers are still trying to unwind the session-by-session labyrinth of the change process. And I’m sure that I still hear your voice among many voices, wherever psychotherapy research is spoken.

Robert Elliott, October 22, 2000

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