Compiled by Gina Ashmore
in the Spring of 2001
for Psychology 406.
With updates and excisions.
Thom Brown was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. His mother had been a high school teacher, and his father was a senior naval officer, having enlisted after being graduated from high school and working his way up to command positions. His older brother holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and works in Washington, D.C.
Brown was only 10 when his father retired from the Navy so the family did not move around as much as many families do. Brown did move a little, however, and was educated in Norfolk, Virginia, Grand Cane, Louisiana, Hutchinson, Kansas, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was graduated from Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach.
Upon completion of high school, Brown attended the University of Virginia where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. The choice of major wasn't difficult. He wanted to major in physics, but had failed to master calculus. That left English or psychology, and his brother had already staked out the English territory.
He had expected to be commissioned in the U.S. Navy upon graduation (through ROTC, the Navy had paid for his education at U.Va.), but in January of his senior year he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease which made him physically ineligible for the service.
Uncertain what to do next, he went on to Hollins College (now University) in Virginia, where he was graduated with a Masters of Arts in General Experimental Psychology and initiated into Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. He noted with pride that Hollins is a private women's college.
While in college, he studied under behaviorally oriented professors and acquired an avid interest in the fields of learning and motivation. It was with this focus that he enrolled at the University of Maine at Orono so that he could study under the mentorship of Stan Pliskoff.
Pliskoff was the editor of The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, the premier journal in the field of "Skinnerian" psychology and had also been the mentor of Randy Flory who supervised Brown's master's thesis at Hollins. Brown was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Psychology. While studying for his doctorate, Brown worked at UMO as an adjunct Instructor and Assistant Professor of Psychology.
Brown began his career at Utica College in 1975 as an Assistant Professor of Psychology. Over the next four decades, he took on many different roles. From 1979 to 1981, he held the position of Faculty Grants Coordinator. From 1979 to 1984, he served as an Associate Professor of Psychology, and from 1983 to 1988, he was the Chairman of the Division of Behavioral Studies. He figured that in his first decade at UC he probably served on almost every committee there was. He noted that he once told someone he thoroughly enjoyed committee work; his reaction was "so you're the one!"
In 1984, he was promoted to full Professor of Psychology. In March of 1988, he was named Vice-President and Dean of the College and proudly served in that position from 1988 to 1997 and from 1998 to 1999. He also held the position of interim President of the College from 1997 to 1998.
In 1991 he was named Presidenza Onoraria (Honorary President) of Centro Studi Casauriensi in Abruzzi, Italy.
From 1999 until 2014, he was honored as Utica College's first Distinguished Professor of the College. In March 2014, shortly after his death, he was named Professor of Psychology and Vice-President and Dean of Utica College Emeritus.
Brown authored 20 scientific articles, presentations, and grants and 15 articles, presentations and grants related to higher education. His basic research interests have focused on schedules of reinforcement and their behavioral by-products, i.e., adjunctive or schedule-induced activities (polydipsia, aggression, and escape). His most recent research, conducted in part by his daughters, explored the effects of different kinds of high-intensity sweeteners on schedule-induced polydipsia.
His applied research has focused on weight management and stress control. Always looking for a new direction, he is now beginning preliminary research in the history of psychology. His higher education work has centered on faculty development, freshman retention, and program review and planning.
Brown was also an active member of the community. He has served on the Board of Trustees for the Utica Zoological Society and the Board of Directors for the Mohawk Valley Ballet. He has been serving on the Board of Directors for the Resource Center for Independent Living since 1991 and has held the positions of treasurer, secretary, vice-president, and president. RCIL is a civil rights organization offering a wide range of independent living and advocacy services for and — most importantly — with individuals with disabilities. The Utica Center is the largest in New York State and one of the five largest in the country. Brown was very proud of his service and RCIL's successes.
Brown met his wife when a former faculty colleague introduced them. She is a native of Utica and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Utica College, where she teaches in the Psychology-Child Life program. They have two daughters and one grandson. The elder daughter is a pediatric physician specializing in hematology/oncology. The younger one is a clinical psychologist specializing in psychological testing.
Amy is Thom's older daughter. She began writing on To Gyre and Gambol after Thom passed away on February 9, 2014. She also attended the University of Virginia as an undergraduate and later received a medical degree from Emory University and master's degrees in medical anthropology from Oxford University and in clinical research from the University of Colorado. She trained as a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and at the University of Colorado, and as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Children's Hospital Colorado. She has lived in six countries and speaks five languages badly (plus Latin, courtesy of her dad). After five years living (and skiing and hiking and rock-climbing and rowing and sometimes missing humidity and green) in Denver, she is now an assistant professor of pediatrics, bioethics and humanities in upstate New York. She lives in the house that Thom built.
Amy's academic interests include family centered care, provider-family communication and medical decision making, especially at the end of life, and provision of pediatric cancer treatment and palliative care in resource-limited settings. She also teaches ethics, advocacy and social responsibility to medical students and residents. She is passionate about the importance of protecting the environment to improve human health and promoting girls' education as a means to improve child health and end violence against women and children. In her spare time, when she isn't feeling guilty about not having saved the world yet, she is an aspiring novelist, a mediocre pianist, and a talented but lazy chef.
She is the Mighty Finn's mom.
|Thom and Amy, September 1982|