In Memory of Robert Fitzpatrick


by Robert Fitzpatrick

I’ve had an interesting life til now (January 03). Some things I’ve done:

I was born in August 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second and final child of John Joseph and Helen Collins Fitzpatrick.

My father had been born and raised in Philadelphia in an Irish Catholic family. He left the Roman Catholic religion in his teens, but most of the family remained in the church. I have had very little contact with the Fitzpatrick family, though my brother visited some of them in his adult years and found them friendly. My father graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in chemistry, winning the Phillips medal as the outstanding chemistry student for the year he graduated. (MV brother won the same award in 1944.) He became an Army officer at the time of WWI, was sent to France, but saw no combat. He then went to work for the Fries and Fries company, makers of fragrances and soaps and such.

My mother’s father was of Protestant Irish descent. He was, I believe, an engineer and supervisor of bridge and other construction projects. I saw little or nothing of him. My maternal grandmother and he were divorced before I was born. Neal, as she always wanted us to call her, tried marriage a second time with an alcoholic named Henry Paulson and a third time with a German immigrant named August Held, whose housekeeper she had been.

Held had founded a printing business with a partner named Herbick. The Herbick and Held company became one of the quality printing firms in the Pittsburgh area.

My mother was born in Castle Shannon, near Pittsburgh. I think she completed high school and then entered the nursing school of the Western Pennsylvania (West Penn) Hospital in Pittsburgh. She had not progressed very far in nurse training before my father met her and swept her away into mamiage. At the time of their marriage in March 1922, my mother was 18 and my father 26.

My brother John came along in February 1923 and I in August 1924. We lived in Cincinnati, where the main offices of Fries and Fries were located, until he was transferred to Chicago, in March 1927.

My father had an affair with a woman named Amy who also worked at Fries and Fries. In September I927, he apparently ran away with her to Canada. At some point, he expressed regret for his defection and asked my mother to take him back, but she refused. What he did then was never established with cerlainty. The best evidence indicates that, on 11 November, he walked into the Niagara River above the Falls, leaving a suicide note and some minor possessions on the shore. His body was never found. The manner of his disappearance was a continuing source of difficulty for us, since his life insurance company thought it likely that he had faked his suicide and made off with Amy. It was not until sometime in the late 30s that a compromise agreement was reached and my mother received some money from the insurance company.

After my father’s disappearance, my mother moved us back to the Pittsburgh area. She later told of working at a vanety of jobs, including door-to-door sales. For a time, she worked for August Held, helping out in various ways on his 100-acre farm in Mars, Pennsylvania. She mentioned driving a small truck into Pittsburgh to sell some of the farm produce. My brother and I occasionally stayed at the Held residence for a few days. I believe we never lived there (ostensibly because August Held didn’t want us, but I wonder if Neal didn’t want us and used August as an excuse).

In November 1930, my mother married William L. Hise. She later said little to indicate how this came about. It is tempting to guess that she felt her youth was going and she was not having much fun. Certainly, Bill Hise was at that time a fun-loving fancy-free devil-may-care fellow. He and his brother Bob were members of a crew of door-to-door soap salesmen who drove from town to town, spending only a few days in each place since the soap they sold was not likely to produce repeat sales and since they often couid not afford, and probably did not want, to get local licenses as peddlers.

Even before she married Bill Hise, my mother found it necessary to “board us out,” not an uncommon arrangement in those days. At some point, she was unable to pay the fee, so the proprietor of the boarding home tumed us over to the Allegheny County Juvenile Court. We spent a short time in their central facility in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh, and then a year or so in each of two foster homes. I don’t remember anything about the first except it was in the Lincoln Place district near Pittsburgh. The second was in Homestead Park, up and over the hill behind the Homestead steel works. The proprietor was a large woman of German extraction whose home also accommodated her 3 grown sons and two other foster children. I don’t remember being mistreated in either of these homes, but we didn’t get much in the way of love, either.

Finally, in the summer of 1934 (am I calculating correctly?), my mother collected us and took us to a lake in New Hampshire, where the soap sales crew were spending the summer. That was a beautiful time for us, but not for my mother and Mary, Bob Hise’s wife. They decided at the end of the summer to leave their husbands and relocate in Florida. The crew was planning to come to Florida later. How the wives were expecting to dodge the husbands, I do not know. At any rate, they needed financing from the husbands to make the journey. The husbands gave them some money, but not enough for the entire trip. By arrangement, we stopped in Raleigh, North Carolina, and waited near the telegraph office for money. But of course the money did not come, so my mother made the decision to go to Pittsburgh instead, I suppose on the assumption that she could find more help there than in Florida. She got help mainly from the government; we subsisted on welfare and on the federal employment programs (WPA, PWA) of the time. She also took in a boarder named W. Francis Kuhns, whom she married much later.

We lived in Pittsburgh from that time through my early adulthood, in a variety of places mostly in the East Liberty neighborhood. I majored in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, starting in the fall of 1941. I lived at home, had scholarships to pay for college tuition, and worked part-time jobs for books, clothing, and spending money. Almost by accident, I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, which in its wisdom did not call me to active duty until July of 1943. I was then ordered to report to Villanova College, where I continued as a college student, though with a required concentration in electrical engineering rather than psychology. This rather soft assignment ended in the fall of 1944, when I was sent to boot camp and after some interim training to platoon commanders school. Graduating as a second lieutenant in 1945, I was sent to fie1d artillery school. By the time that training was completed, the war was over. I was retained for a time, stationed at the Treasure Island naval base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay but often traveling as a troop train commander or in charge of classified freight coming back from the Pacific. I was finally mustered out in April 1946.

I graduated with a BS in psychology in February 1947 and started work on a masters degree. I became a research assistant for Lawrence Stolurow, who had a grant or contract from the Army Quarlermaster Corps to investigate ways of deterring rats from chewing through cardboard boxes. My masters research involved getting a group of rats hungry and observing how fast they chewed through various thicknesses of paper impregnated with several varieties of chemical compounds.

The research assistant job lasted only until the summer of 1947. I had by that time completed the first two of the three statistics courses offered by the Psychology Department, so I became the teacher of those courses for the academic year 47-48. However, I needed more money since I was by this time a major source of financial support for my mother with whom I continued to live. I asked for more teaching assignments in psychology; none were available but, since I had minored in mathematics and continued to take math courses, I applied to the Mathematics Department and was taken on to teach freshman math courses. (At that time, of course, the universities were struggling to accommodate the needs of veterans who were taking advantage of government subsidies for college level education. I was myself using the so-called GI Bill to finance my education, though I could probably have reinstated the scholarships I had started into college with.)

I completed my masters degree in the spring of 1948 and cast about for a way to go on for a PhD. I wrote to Princeton, which was known for its program in quantitative psychology, and to other schools. The schools were willing to accept me as a student but would not promise assistantships or any other source of financial aid.

By that time, I had taken the third statistics course, which was taught by John C. Flanagan, a recent addition to the psychology faculty. I had also consulted him briefly on a statistical problem I ran into in my masters research. He offered me a job in the organrzation which he had created to do contract research, the American Institute (later Institutes) for Research (AIR). After some hesitation, I accepted and thereby committed myself to completing my graduate work at Pitt under his direction.

My first assignment at AIR was to direct a project on simulated blind flying for the Special Devices Center of the Office of Naval Research. The project was an ambitious one to explore problems with and educate naval aviators about the methods used to limit vision outside the cockpit for an aviator practicing instrument flying, while maintaining good vision both inside and outside the cockpit for another pilot who acted as safety pilot.

When that first project was completed, there was not another one available for me, so I helped John Nagay with projects involving the development and test of aircrew flight checks and air route traffic control procedures. I edited a report by Robert L. Thorndike on the status of research on accidents, thereby learning a lot about that topic. I also edited a report on Flybar (flying by auditory reference) and completed a small review of the potential of electronic flight simulators, which were just beginning to challenge the mechanical Link trainers. Finally, in June of 1950, I was named the project director of a study of Air Force fighter accidents. This was important to me for several reasons, not the least of which was that it served as the starling point of my PhD dissertation and a later article in the prestigious journal Biometrics. I also achieved a milestone of sorts in that a proposal which I originated for a study of aviation near-accidents was funded and I took on an assistant to help with that project.

However, the Korean police action (as Harry Truman called it) got under way at that time. The Marine Corps called up a number of reservists, including me. John Flanagan, without consulting me, applied for and got me a delay in reporting; but I finally was ordered to duty at Camp Pendelton, Californaa, in August 1951. The Marine Corps didn’t quite know what to do with me. I had the combat specialty of field artillery, but basic targeting and other methods had changed so that it would have been necessary to send me back to school in order to sele usefully in that specialty. But they told me the school had a waiting list and short-timers like me were not high on the priority list. So they made me the property officer, special services officer, and for a short time company commander of what was initially the Third Marine Brigade and later grew to become the Third Marine Division. I managed to get some work done on my dissertation and made a few suggestions about my two projects I had left behind. But mostly I did very little either as a military officer or as a civilian at heart. The two things that I found enjoyable were playing badminton with my sergeant and performing in radio dramas on the nationally distributed “Marines in Revew” program. Until August of 1952, that is.

When I went home on a short leave in the spring of 1952, I made a momentous decision to propose marriage to Joanne Gehring Knauss. To my delighted surprise, she accepted on the spot, and we soon set the date for August 12. I had known and dated her off and on since early graduate school days. She was a clinical psychology graduate student and something of an expert on the Rorschach. Her parents’ home was in Wheeling WV; she majored in psychology at the Pennsylvania College for Women (later Chatham College), graduating in 1944. She then joined the Navy as a psychological examiner at the final rank of Ltjg. She later took a job with the Veterans Administration in Denver, but was the victim of a reduction in force, whereupon she decided to change careers and became a stewardess for United Air Lines. This was fun for a while but she soon made another decision to return to Pittsburgh and complete her PhD studies. (She never did get the degree, though she completed all but the disserlation.) As I contemplated my lonely life at Camp Pendelton, I concluded that the main thing lacking was Joanne. I was right and I had a happy few months until February 1953 with her in the world’s smaliest free-standing house in Oceanside CA when I was released from active duty and we returned to Pittsburgh and AIR.

My career at AIR continued. My title changed from project director to program director and I took on more helpers. The work involved writing proposals to carry out contract research and development for various government agencies, foundations, and firms, and, when our bid was accepted, doing the work to a schedule and usually on a cost-reimbursable basis. I soon completed my PhD work, gaining that degree in 1953 and later in 1958 passing the exams for board certification in the specialty of industrial-organtzational psychology.

A son, John Robert, was born in 1955 and a daughter, Janet Ellen, in 1956. We had a happy family life, although I had to travel a lot in my job and although John was a highly assertive child who made life difficult at times for all of us, especially Janet.

As the 50s wore on, I began to realize that I was not entirely enjoying my job. Most of the projects were carried out with reasonable success, but they were separate items, with little or no carryover of subject matter or sponsor from one to the next. I wrote good proposals and brought in business that was to be had in that way, but I was not good at establishing personal and professional relations with potential sponsors. Try as I might, I developed no continuing program of research and no theory or methodology that could become the basis for such a program. And I was not enjoying my work a good deal of the time. So I began to cast about for a different job and finally settled on a position at the Aerospace Division of the Boeing Company in Seattle.

We moved to Seattle in 1959 and Jean Anne was born there in very early 1961. I was put in charge of a group of people — psychologists, a physician, engineers, technicians, and clerks — some whom advised engineers on the various missile and space system contracts Boeing was working on, and some of whom did research in general support of aerospace programs. In spite of the fact that I have not much interest in or facility with engineering sorts of things, I managed pretty well in this atmosphere. However, the human factors people, primarily psychologists, lost a political battle with the bioastronautics people, primarily physiologists. The human factors group was disbanded and became a part of the bioastronautics group. In a way, this was to my advantage, since I became the senior human factors person, in charge of the entire human factors operation. However, I found my new boss, a physician, to be very hard to live with and I was apprehensive of more political battles to come.

As it happened, I was just at that time recruited by some old acquaintances to join the System Development Corporation. So I went to work in 1961 at SDC, not at the headquarters in Santa Monica as I had expected, but in Lexington, Massachusetts. I was initially assigned to a small unit which dealt with esoteric issues of simulation and such. About all I did was to write a short piece on simulation which I presented at a meeting of the Human Factors Society and which I later used in the chapter I wrote for Education Measurement. After a few months, I was reassigned to a position as supervisor of two groups responsible for designing jobs in the headquarters and the communicatibns group of NORAD. The emphasis was on meeting deadlines and I found it unrewarding work. After a year or so, I was ready to move on again, even though our family was happily housed. We lived in a hundred year old house on a 100 acre plot mostly devoted to horses and riding trails. We adopted a nine year old golden retriever named Pandora, who immediately marked out an acre or so to be her territory. We were isolated but the older children had a variety of social and educational activities. I starled to play badminton with the local group once a week and we had a good arrangement with a snow plower to clear out the driveway when necessary.

Just then, an old friend from AIR days, George Murphy, offered me a job as manager of the psychology department of Humetrics, a subsidiary of Thiokol Chemical Company. So we left Pandy with the riding school operators and migrated again, this time to Los Angeles. I supervised research and tried to make Thiokol some money, but in a couple of years Thiokol decided we were a drag on their economy and closed us down. I took an interim job with Douglas, putting together descriptions of experiments that might be done in space; I was there only a couple of months and don’t even list Douglas on my resume.

Again, a coincidence: Bob Krug was leaving AIR to become Director of Selection for the Peace Corps. John Flanagan learned I was dickering with Joan Guilford about joining the LA office of AIR, and called to offer me Krug’s job as Director of Measurement and Evaluation in Pittsburgh. Somehow that seemed right to us, even though I knew the drawbacks, so we moved back to Pittsburgh in 1964. The projects and staff I inherited from Krug were good and things went along well for a time.

Then, not so wel1. My work seemed to provide no continuity and I was not able to develop and find support for a continuing program of research. John Flanagan moved west and I found working under other bosses at AIR to be uninspiring. It was a time of turmoil in the society and my kids were experiencing problems in school. Most important, Joanne became ill. The symptoms of her illness appeared gradually and, as I later concluded, she hid them from me with some success. Finally, though, in 1967 I concluded that she had a brain tumor and convinced her internist to consider that diagnosis. Soon, she was in surgery but it was too late and the entire tumor could not be removed. With palliative radiation, she lived for three more years but finally died in March 1970. My mother was a great help, but I felt overburdened.

I gradually loosened my ties with AIR and sought independent consulting work, with mediocre success. I decided to try acting in theater and other performing work. I was successful in landing a series of roles in theater, at what might be described as a semi-professional level. I tried radio, both as a perforrner in commercials and as a disc jockey or program host. These, along with television commercials, industrial films, photographic modeling, a movie, etc., provided some supplementary income. So I survived with a combination of psychological consulting and performing, always keeping the 2 careers separate. (This was not difficult, except during the 6 months or so that my performance in a television commercial was seen almost daily on channel 2.)

In I975, my mother died. Janet had moved into her own apartment. John was old enough to do so, but chose not to. And Dorothy came back into my life. I had met her at her first wedding in 1948 or thereabouts and seen her socially for several years thereafter but had completely lost touch. Her husband died in March I97I, leaving her with their adopted son Matthew Kail, about 6 months younger than Jean Anne. We dated for a few months and then were married in January 1976.

In the spring, I was offered and accepted a job as Director of Research at Psychological Service of Pittsburgh. The previous incumbent had left some half-completed research which nobody understood. I completed the work as best I could, but the results that I was able to tease out were not very exciting. Also, Mary Cole had started a project to compare women and men managers on various test and inventory results; I completed that, after some difficulty in getting companies to cooperate. I was also frequently called on to help out with the basic business of PSP: evaluating candidates for employment or promotion who came in to the office for a day of testing or doing quick interviews in the field of candidates for first level supervisory positions. I soon became unhappy with the management style at PSP and especially with some practices I believe to be less than perfectly ethical. Specifically, they claimed to predict success of their procedures on basis of statistics which could theoretically have been achieved if they had used the best possible cutoff points but which they did not achieve since they used different cutoff points in practice.

Although I was unhappy at PSP, I would have stayed on for a while, since we needed the income. However, PSP’s business had a downturn and management decided to downsize. I was not bringing in any new research money, so I was one of those downsized, leaving PSP in Febnrary 1978.

While I was still at PSP, I was invited to serve on a panel advising the University of Pittsburgh group developing a degree program which could theoretically be completed without ever setting foot in a classroom. It was called the University External Studies Program (UESP). I was soon invited to develop, with the help of an educational specialist, what turned out to be three courses in the field of industrial-organizational psychology. I then taught these courses until 1989, both in the UESP and in classrooms at the Oakland campus and other locations where Pitt offered evening classes.

I looked around for consulting opporfunities and for other teaching jobs. I taught Psychology for Business and Educational Psychology at LaRoche College and introductory psychology at St. Vincent College. In answer to a newspaper want ad, I taught a course for St. Francis College and then accepted a full-time position as the Pittsburgh representative of St. Francis College masters degree program in labor relations and personnel administration. Half of my time was reserved for teaching- courses such as personnel administration, industrial psychology, research methods, and supervision of the required thesis project. The other half was administrative, counseling students, registering them for classes, making sure the various part-time faculty members were happy and provided with chalk. Of course, I continued teaching at Pitt, consulting, and acting in the occasional play or television commercial. The pay was poor for all these activities separately but the income from the combination was ok.

In 1984, St. Francis responded to increasing competition (especially from LaRoche) by cutting costs at the Pittsburgh center. Just then, Dorothy noticed an advertisement in a psychological journal for the University of Maryland program in Europe. UM had a contract with the Department of Defense to offer college courses all over the world. I applied for a one-year assignment in Europe and was appointed to teach mainly graduate courses for the academic year 1985-86. We went initially to Heidelberg for orientation for two weeks. Then, having bought a used Volvo, we drove to Woodbridge in England where I taught at the combined Woodbridge/Bentwaters military facility. We lived in the old town of Woodbridge by the tidal river Deben and traveled extensively in England and environs, since classes seldom met over weekends. Then, in January, we were reassigned to Wiesbaden in Germany. Some of my teaching assignments were in Wiesbaden but others involved substantial driving, mainly on the German autobahns. Our sightseeing travel was mainly by bus, on trips sponsored by the military. We went to Paris, Rome, Venice, and a variety of other places in westem Europe. After our contracted time was completed, we spent August 1986 traveling by train to Sweden to pick up our newly purchased Volvo, which we drove across Sweden and extensively in Finland. We went as far as Kilpisjarvi in the northwest corner of Finland (and from there further north to Tromss in Norway). We also visited with Dorothy’s relatives at Kauhava, Lake Paijanne, Tampere, and Helsinki.

In 1987, Janet gave birth to Allison and Joanna Asbury. After the European experience, I continued teaching only until 1989 but still maintain a small consulting practice. In 1990, we moved to the continuing care retirement community of Sherwood Oaks where we get assurance of nursing care when it is needed, relatively good air quality, and the companionship of our dog Annie, who has somehow managed to replace our perfect Percy. In the early 90s, we did some interesting traveling, to Brittany, England, Scotland, and various places in the US and Canada and Dorothy did some marvelous paintings. Lately, we’ve just been trying to get organized. When we get there, watch out!