By September, I was back at Ohio State, a sort of not-quite senior but with a course overload to make up for it. Paul Fitts had departed Ohio State for Michigan during my one-year absence, and my new adviser was Boyd McCandless, a developmental psychologist, who very shortly left Ohio State for Emory University. I did not have a lot of contact with McCandless, but I did end up in some excellent undergraduate courses taught by such fine psychologists as Delos Wickens, Julian Rotter, and Donald R. Meyer (a brand new assistant professor and Ohio State’s first physiological psychologist).
Most of my other undergraduate courses are a blur in my memory, but I did take a course in history from a very good professor named Paul Volk. In that course we read a book titled “The Red Prussian,” which was a biography of Karl Marx and my introduction to communist ideology and its proponents. We were required to write a paper for that course, and I elected, for reasons that escape me, to write on the “progressive movement” in America. I read a lot, but the paper I turned in consisted mostly, it seemed to me, of quotes from other people’s work. Nonetheless, Volk liked the paper and both encouraged and helped me to rewrite it for submission of some competition or other.
Later that spring, I learned that I had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, which was then a considerable honor, the announcement of which came from a neighbor of mine and as a complete surprise as I had been told that transfer students were not eligible for election. I then received an invitation to the awards ceremony for undergraduate students in Arts and Sciences. I supposed that the invitation had to do with Phi Beta Kappa, and it came as an even greater surprise to me when I was called to the podium to accept the “William Jennings Bryan Prize” for the best paper of the year in history, a competition open to undergraduates, graduate students, and alumnae of the university. The prize was real: $250, which in 1952 was a small fortune. We, the audience, were told that the prize had been established in 1904 (I think) by a bequest of $250 from Bryan, himself. The sum had grown over the years because the prize had often not been awarded because no paper was judged worthy of the award. Right then I learned about compound interest, and I later advised Ben Underwood, who wanted to establish a fund at Northwestern from alumnae donations, to emulate the Bryan prize and devote part of the income each year to growth of the principal. I believe that he did see the wisdom in that recommendation.
As luck would have it, and I have had a lot of luck during my career, an undergraduate research assistantship became available sometime in the fall of 1951 in John K. Hemphill’s projects within the Personnel Research Board. I do not recollect exactly how it came about, but I was recommended for and given the position. That, too, was a fateful event in my career. Hemphill’s projects involved contract work for the Air Force on issues related to leadership, which was John’s area of expertise. The PRB was directed by the eminent personnel/industrial psychologist, Carroll Shartle, and had other projects employing such persons as Carl Rush and Bill McAninch, both graduate students in industrial psychology, and Ben J. Winer, actually also an industrial psychologist but later to achieve fame as the author of what was for many years the best-selling statistics textbook in psychology, also making Winer the most cited psychologist, even exceeding Freud during one stretch of years. The work at PRB was my introduction to psychological research and to personnel/industrial psychology, which I found quite interesting.
The work involved analysis of, by the standards of the day, large data sets by state-of-the-art methods. I learned to use electrical (not electronic) calculators at a time when most calculators were still hand-cranked, and I learned how to manipulate numbers while doing calculations. I also came to understand numbers and calculations in an intuitive way that had a great influence on my later interests and on my career. By the time I got around to taking statistics classes in graduate school, I had the great advantage of being able to get right into the statistical issues without being impeded by mechanical problems in operating calculators and with good understanding of what was happening to the numbers while they were being ground through the calculator.
I made a serious blunder while working for John Hemphill. I do not remember exactly the nature of the blunder, but I had worked on the analysis of data for a paper that was submitted to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. I was already doing factor analyses and occasional ANOVAs and had a general understanding of the statistics involved, and John included me as co-author of the paper. Then he discovered that the paper had a serious statistical error stemming from my work; the paper had to be recalled from the editor, the data reanalyzed, and the paper rewritten. Fortunately, the error, although not trivial in a statistical sense, did not much affect the conclusions of the paper, and the paper was corrected and sent back to the editor, who accepted it for publication. That was my first publication. I learned something very important from that experience. John was upset at the error, but he was not obviously angry, and he was obviously patient and kind in dealing with me. That may have been the origin of my sense that there is rarely such thing as a true catastrophe, but it certainly was the origin of my sense of noblesse oblige in working with students. I have tried to be faithful to John Hemphill’s model.
During the spring of 1952, I realized that I wanted and needed to apply for admission to graduate training. I really liked Ohio State and wanted to stay there. I cannot exaggerate the great advantage that I had in having been substantially absorbed into the graduate school culture of the psychology department. Bill Lyle had made sure that I was acquainted with students in the clinical area, I had met quite a number of other students while working at PRB, and I met still others in learning and motivation while taking advanced classes that included both graduate and undergraduate students. I found all of psychology wonderfully stimulating and probably could have been happy in almost any area of study. I probably gave most serious consideration to the possibility of applying for admission into industrial psychology, but I had started out to become a clinical psychologist, and even though I scarcely knew what a clinical psychologist actually did, in the end, I stuck stubbornly to that choice.
Boyd McCandless, to whom I talked on one occasion, recommended that I consider applying to the program at Iowa, where he had graduated. I considered the possibility, but it seemed like a lot of trouble when I really wanted to continue at Ohio State. I had very good grades, a Phi Beta Kappa key, a prize in history, and a strong assumption that I would be admitted to Ohio State. Late that spring, I was walking down the street and encountered Paul Mussen, a developmental-clinical psychologist whom I knew slightly. He stopped me to tell me that the admissions committee had initially decided not to accept me because of a policy of not admitting Ohio State graduates to graduate training, but that he had interceded and that I was to be admitted after all, partly on the basis that I was a transfer student (a phony argument for sure since my education at KSTC was trivial). I was stunned to learn how narrowly I had avoided an outcome that would have been disastrous for me. That was how naïve I was. But, with the luck of the wannabe Irish, I had my way.